Quite a long time ago, Popeye asked me what I’d like to do for my birthday.
He knew I was feeling quite depressed so he came up with a few very interesting ideas: Venice? Firenze? Egypt? (He was kidding, wasn’t he?)
Since I’m lucky enough to share my birthday with Belgium’ s national day, it meant a very long week-end starting on a Thursday.
So I answered: «What about Southern France and Arfons?».
Last time we were there was 23 years ago.
I kind of missed my village especially since I started writing about my ancestors. Well, it was not really a longing though. I’ve become too much of a Breton now. And the people I used to love so much have been dead for quite a long time.
But I did ask to go back to Arfons. And then I forgot about it.
Popeye didn’t talk much about his plans for my birthday and I did not talk about them either. My birthday is not my favorite day of the year even though I sure enjoy becoming older now.
I knew that we’d go out to a good restaurant, probably in Brittany! Popeye loves to eat well and I’m a rotten cook! And we both love Brittany.
On Sunday, I was told that reservations had be made in... Carcassonne. We would be flying to Toulouse on Thursday morning. We’d drive to the hotel in Carcassonne and go back to Arfons and any place I cared to go to!
It was such a surprise that my first reaction was totally negative. I definitely could not go back there after all. Too many extremely wonderful memories. It’s not easy to go back to places where you’ve been so happy... with ghosts around.
«Nevermore» said Poe’s raven.
Obviously, the raven never met Popeye. Because Popeye never says: «Nevermore.»
On Wednesday, the weather was really bad in Paris. Hard to believe that I had to pack summer clothes to go down south.
On Thursday morning, we took a cab to Orly to catch our plane to Toulouse. It was cold and rainy and I still didn’t know what to expect from this trip.
We landed in Toulouse 50 mns after take off. Incredible. It used to last a full 10 hours by train. Worth waiting 23 years after all.
Popeye loves to get things just right. In Marrakesh, we lived in a ryad, avoiding the big international hotels. In Carcassonne, he thought it’d be interesting to stay in a very beautiful family estate instead of checking in a traditional hotel.
|Le Domaine d'Auriac|
And off we went... to Carcassonne which actually was less than one mile away.
Hundreds of people around of course but we decided to take a walk around the «Cité de Carcassonne».
A lot of restoration had been done since my last time there. They are mainly changing the rooftops which had been covered with slates where there should have been red curved tiles. Viollet-le-Duc, you were so wrong!
|Entering the Cité|
The City walls (part of them anyway):
Once you've been around on the ramparts, you get to enter the Viscount's Castle. Quite impressive.
Carcassonne is real. People still live inside the Middle Ages walls.
|From the Middle Ages!|
|No gutters. The rain falls directly from the tiles into the street below.|
|The Parisian (British?), etc. idea of a garden in the Middle Ages...|
|Right close to the Castle walls|
Carcassonne is a very enchanting place to be.
We walked and walked around on top of the city walls. And from time to time, I’d look away and there there it was... my beloved «Montagne Noire» (its southern slopes anyway).
My heart was beating very fast. I started feeling at home so much that before the end of the day, to Popeye’s merriment, I had gone back to my Southern accent and expressions.
The first time I uttered «Hé Bé», therefore expressing my delight and totally forgetting to use the French «Eh bien», he burst out laughing. But it was nice. I didn’t know I still remembered the expression which came back to me naturally like so many others.
I guess Southern French or Southern «langue d’oc» is part of my genetic heritage.
I was totally "fluent" by the time we flew back to Paris. And I got really mad at Popeye everytime he tried to mimic my accent.
«This is NOT your native tongue. This is NOT your native accent,» I’d say.
Do I need to tell you that as soon as I hit Paris, I lost my accent?
When in Rome...
Do I also need to tell you that besides being a very charming place, «our family estate» boasted an extremely good restaurant?
Such a perfect birthday.
(To be continued)
*Good Luck, and Good Night*