Last night we walked down the lane from out gite (French guest house) to a restaurant that had been recommended by our host for Richard's birthday dinner. The food was truly the amazing French cuisine we have always heard about. Richard and I both ordered a filet of duck breast with red berry sauce served over a bed of polenta. Richard said the French always cook meet extremely rare so when I was asked how I wished the duck to be cooked I ordered medium. I was sure glad I did as it was quite rare but very tasty.
Our meal began with toasted cheese straws that accompanied the appertif Richard and Cecelia ordered. I had my usual Coca Cola Classic since I do not care for wine. Then they brought pate de foie gras (goose liver paste) and thin slices of toasted bread. I have never liked liver but the pate did not even taste like liver and was really good.
Cecelia ordered rabbit salad instead of pate and it arrived skewered on a kabob on a bed of lettuce. She said it was quite good too.
Then they brought out the duck and it was so good. The polenta was really tasty too.
Richard and Cecelia had the cheese course next but I passed on it as I haven't sampled any French cheese yet that didn't have the texture of Velveeta and didn't want to spend the 7 euros for it. Then, of course, it was time for dessert! I ordered white chocolate mousse with fresh strawberries. The mousse was encased in a crust made of crushed nuts. Richard ordered walnut pie and Cecelia ordered ice cream with meringue and red fruit coulis. We all enjoyed every bite!
Mediterranean strawberries are so ripe they are red all the way through - not white in the center like those we get shipped in from California or Mexico. In fact, as I write this I am eating a bowl of them topped with fresh cream. Cecelia picked some up today when we went in to Sauve.
We drove in to Sauve today because Richard and Cecelia wanted to climb back up the hillside to the ruin of a castle on the summit of Sauve. As my back was bothering me all night I chose to stay down at the foot of the hillside where I could photograph more of the medieval architecture, old mill, bridge and a bronze Christ on the cross that was erected near the roadway. Afterwards we went shopping at the supermarket then returned home where Cecelia made a delicious lunch of scrambled eggs and vegetables.
While Cecelia was cooking lunch I was researching things to do when we get to Carcasonne tomorrow. I came across a reference to an archaeological excavation of an elaborate Roman villa in the little town of Loupian. Richard looked it up on the map and said it was closer to us now than when we are in Carcasonne so we struck out after lunch to find it.
The Loupian villa was originally a modest farmstead built a few kilometres south of the Via Domitia, on the hillside overlooking the Bassin de Thau. During the early Empire, in the 1st and 2nd centuries, the villa was a large patrician residence with thermal springs. The main agricultural activity was viticulture, for which a storehouse capable of holding 1,500 hl of wine was constructed. This period also saw the building of a small port on the northern shore of the Bassin de Thau, as well as pottery workshops producing amphorae for the transportation of wine.
In the 5th century, the villa was completely rebuilt and the owner's home turned into a small mansion. The thirteen ground floor rooms were covered in multicoloured mosaics featuring leaves, flowers, birds and personifications of the seasons. The villa produced not only amphorae by then but household pottery as well.
The French have built a building over the site to protect it and have constructed elevated walkways so you can see the mosaics better. Although there were no english-speaking guides available while we were there, we were given booklets that described the villa and the excavations in english. It was very interesting and made for a relaxing afternoon for our last day in this area.
Leaving the villa, we drove along the coast of the Mediterranean for a while before turning inland again. Mare Nostrum as the Romans used to call it which means "Our Sea" was a beautiful sapphire blue today. No wonder they call the southern French coast the Cote d'Azur! We saw flocks of flamingos fishing in the shallows. Richard says this is the only place in Europe where you see wild flamingos. Apparently they migrate here from North Africa.
Tonight I repacked my suitcase because tomorrow we leave for a week in Carcasonne. I won't have regular internet access there so I'm afraid my updates won't be as regular as they have been. I'll try to upload something every couple of days from an internet cafe or something though.