Our agreement here, at bare bones, is five hours of work, six days a week. We had been planning to use our day off a couple of days ago, on January 10, my 25th birthday. The night before, I received a comment on this blog that had a link to an 8Tracks playlist (an online music compilation-creating cite que j’aime beaucoup). I was super excited to listen to her selections. Then, I received a really great birthday email from Grant. I went to bed excited for the day, and with the knowledge that Chris would let me sleep in, bring me breakfast in bed, and then we would spend the day exploring Olargues– a town that promised beauty, and a few nice restaurants.
On the 10th, I awoke, and hurried downstairs to find Chris preparing my breakfast. As I had requested, it consisted of coffee, and the last pieces of our Gallete du Rois. We had not yet found the ceramic piece hidden inside, and so we were quite excited to see who would find it. This morning, Chris warmed it up in the oven (we had been eating it cold previously), and it was more delicious than ever– flaky buttery layers of pastry sandwiching warm fluffy almond filling, and then, I found it! I grilled Chris, and he maintains that he did not check to see which piece had the figurine, so I was ecstatic that I won!
The previous night, I had a long hot bath, shaved my legs for the first time in weeks, and painted my nails in anticipation. After breakfast, I spend at least an hour getting ready– applying the full treatment of makeup, primping my hair, and trying on a couple of outfits. I really wanted to wear a dress, and so I tried it on, and I looked great! I wore nylons so as not to be mistaken for a streetwalker ( a family joke attributed to my beloved grandmother, with whom I share a birthday, though she is now departed). However, it was very windy and a bit cold outside, so I thought it better to change into something warmer.
Chris and I switched bikes, so that he had the mountain bike, and I had the road bike. This ride seemed as though it would be much easier. I fit better with the new bike, which was much faster, and on the voi verte (Greenway) between cities, the wind was negligible. The scenery was exquisite, as we approached magnificent mountain peaks, and the quaint village. Upon entering Olargues, we locked our bikes by a bibliotheque that described a “giant kaleidoscope” and other fun things. The building appeared to be open, and so we entered. There was no one else inside, however, and the woman attendant asked us if we were looking for anything. We had an uncomfortable exchange where it became clear that we were missing something, so we quickly stepped back outside into the brisk sunshine, a little dazed at the encounter. The woman told us that the tourist office was in the post office, and so we walked through town, looking in at some cute shops, and regaining our excitement for the day
Olargues has two main architectural attractions: le Pont du Diable, and some ruins of a church that was built in the 12th Century. We meandered through the adorable, winding streets, houses situated shoulder to shoulder, and with their toes on the road. Up we went, and found ourselves alone among the ruins. “Is this as good as Ankor Wat?” I asked Chris. “Better” he returned. I was surprised at his appreciation, but he went on to mention how nice it was to be alone, taking our time, really soaking up the elements, the stone, the wear patterns, the awesome connection to the past. Ankor Wat was teaming with tourists, and we felt rushed there. Here, we felt ourselves returning to peace, glad that we had come here on our day off. Chris mentioned that we should have brought a lunch to picnic upon at the top. It would have been magnificent, but I was excited for our next plan, to find the nice restaurant in town, and have a pricey meal that I was sure would blow our minds.
We walked back down to the main street, and saw the Post Office. Thinking we might find a tourist map or information. We reached the Post Office shortly before they closed for lunch, and the attendant there looked at me like I was crazy, and gave me directions to the real tourist office. Once there, we found a beautiful display of Sontons, and the office closed for lunch. Turning this way, and that, we noticed that in fact, the entire town had closed while we were wandering around. Feeling chilled and quite hungry, we walked down toward the restaurant we had researched online. As we approached, we noticed its magnificent location. It was right on the river, which sparkled in the sunshine, and looked directly upon the bridge, and up to the Church tower. Outside of the terrace with outdoor seating, we looked at the menu, making our choices. Coming closer, we noticed fabulous picture windows looking in to an impeccably clean, and completely empty kitchen. We felt empty.
As we were biking into town that morning, I had noticed a sign for a restaurant that said “Ouvert” 100m. Again, in our dejected state, we noticed a sign for the same restaurant/bar pointing out of town, and resigned, we biked in that direction. The next sign for the restaurant said 100m, so we continued biking down the highway, past a parked semi, and some men repairing the stone wall separating the road from the valley. We continued on, for much more than 100m, and desperate, turned back. passing the workmen once again, we noticed a small arrow on the sign, pointing up the hill. So, we biked up the hill for much more than 100m, and found nothing. Approaching rock-bottom, we turned around once again, and returned to town, Chris not really believing that I had seen a sign for the place while we were on the bike path earlier that morning.
By this point, we were a little frustrated, and I was silently entertaining thoughts about what a terrible birthday this was becoming. We took another lap around town, hoping to at least snag a baguette from the bakery. Everything was closed between 12:15 and 2:30 at the earliest, 6:00 at the latest. We sat in the park, I lay back and stared though my sunglasses at the bright blue sky, with flocks of pigeons sweeping across the sky, plunging, and landing on rooftops again and again. I was silent. Chris thought I was sleeping. It is probably a good thing that he didn’t know what I was really thinking. I felt helpless to my anger.
In our pre-marriage couples group counseling class, Wendy Shesby (a fun name to say out loud), mentioned once that if you are feeling like you can’t properly handle a conversation, you should do something different for 20 minutes, before returning to the discussion. During this time, I sulked, and Chris went off to the now open Tourist office. By the time he came back, I had regained my composure, and he let me know, that although the time posted had passed, the office was still closed, as was everything else. My sweet husband somehow communicated with a workman, who let us know that we were right, there was absolutely nothing to eat in this town.
We got back on our bikes, cursing Olargues, and headed back toward Premian. Far out of town, we saw the sign for the restaurant again, and I raised my fists into the air as Chris acknowledged my win. The sign did indeed say, “Ouvert,” but the band advertised had played on November 23, and the parking lot looked desolate. Fast-Metabolism-Chris was pale faced, and pedaling much slower on the return trip. By this point, we had regained our good-natured attitudes, and while Chris was dragging along, I passed into a level of hysterics. We reached Premian at 3:30, and knowing that the bakery opens again at 4, didn’t even consider waiting, instead, we pushed our bikes up, up, uphill toward Les Seilhols. We calculated a total of 20 miles including our back and forths on the bicycles that day.
Once home, we didn’t even bother to light the fire again. We let Muttley out, and tore into our remaining baguette. I nearly drowned in the ecstasy provided by the peanut butter+nutella+toasted baguette I indulged in, and Chris went even further, adding chevre, and saucisson sec. We lulled into a stupor, and fell back onto the daybed with a blanket over our laps, and hands full of treats. I don’t know how long we lay there in silence.
At 3:55 we noticed that it had started to rain outside. A friend of our hosts stopped over, and we jumped into action, letting him in the house, and re-engaging our brains. It was really great to chat with someone, and we chatted for a good amount of time, learning about the Nobel Prize in Biochemistry his father won while working at UW-Madison, and the woman near here who owns the Vermont Crepe company. We chatted about TV shows, and it felt like we were really connected with a human being in such an easy way, it was wonderful. He told us, “People around here are weird. They are quite active in the summer– it is actually a very lively place, but it is like they sleep the whole winter.” He left, and we took Muttley into town for a stop at the bakery.
Once we reached the bakery (our home away from home away from home), we told the wonderful woman who works there all about what happened. She wished me a happy birthday, and gave us some sympathy as we collected our goods: two bottles of wine, butter, a frozen pizza, one baguette, one festillue (round loaf), two butter croissants for breakfast, and then we asked her advice about dessert. She mentioned that she wished that she had a small cake for us, but that actually her favorite treats are chocolates. So, I asked her to pick out her six favorite chocolates for us. She walked in front the counter, and smiled as she put on gloves, and opened the glass case. She asked what I like and I said, “everything.” She smiled, and loaded the treats into a crisp clear bag, and taped it closed. We bought the goods, thanked her, untied Muttley, and walked upward home.
Once home we cut up some saucisson sec and onions to add to the pizza. With a fabulous bottle of red-wine, it was a spectacular meal. I told Chris that for my 26th birthday, everyone is coming to me, and I am ordering food to be delivered. I then split the chocolates in half so that we could each have a taste, we brought the wine bottle over to the daybed which I had loaded with pillows and blankets, and we watched “Emotionals Anonymous,” an adorable French romantic comedy about two dysfunctional people in the chocolate business. It was great, and wonderful, and we fully indulged in the chocolates and wine. I ate each half-piece in three separate rounds with one bit each, arranging them in order of deliciousness.
I was so close to tears many times throughout the day, just totally emotionally spent, but I decided that now that I am 25, I had to soldier on, and it did turn out to be a lovely evening. I received a completely heart-warming video from some of the best friends I have ever had, and several sweet emails.
Since then, it has been back to work. We found out that Muttley has fleas, which explains why Emilie has fleas. After this, we hope to experience a successful drive into St. Pons in a charming English Taxi owned by our hosts, and to replenish our food supply.