Saturday, July 26. 2014
(note: yes, Friday’s blog has not yet been posted. Patience, grasshopper… We will let you know when you can find it)
My morning view:
Breakfast at our Mas is scheduled for 9:00 am – a civilized hour. It is nice and quiet around here, and I find it difficult to arise and drag myself out even at that late hour. But I do.
As a side note: our proprietor (Charles) explained to us that a Mas is a farmhouse which differs from a Bastide which is a “manor house and/or a Chateau which is a country house of nobility. Some of the buildings at our stone Mas were built in the 17th century! Charles and Andree have lovingly kept in in top condition without sacrificing any of the charm. We love our Mas. (great pics on their website: Mas du Clos de l’Escarrat)
The garden at the Mas is absolutely beautiful especially in the morning sunlight. I can’t put my finger on why, but it definitely has a “French” feel. This is just the place you want to stay at while in Provence.
Some pre-breakfast swinging is in order.
Breakfast is a delightful ordeal. We are offered fresh coffee, croissants with home made jams, orange juice, fruit salad and an unbelievable soft, white cheese – fromage blanc (sort of like yogurt) with which we immediately fall in love.
The basic plan for the day is to hit up the market in Uzes to procure picnic items and then rent kayaks to paddle to the Pont du Gard (what? More on the Pont later). Sounds like a full day.
We easily reach Uzes with some expert navigation and fine driving. Parking, however, is not so simple. The Saturday market in Uzes appears to be quite popular. We manage to squeeze into a space that is a bit of a trek to the center and set out on foot.
The market looks amazing and we don’t get very far in before a stall with fresh oysters, mussels and shrimp beckons us to stop. Dario stays to make the transaction while Janel and I scoot across the street to a sidewalk restaurant in order to snag a table.
When Dario joins us he tells us that he has just made a huge faux pas (haha – I can say that in French!) and is completely embarrassed. (his French is wonderful and he has been our guide and translator for the past several days) He relates to us that he asked the proprietor for the oysters without a problem. Then when he wanted some mussels as well, he asked for the “moules.” Apparently, the “ou” sound in French is very tricky. Too much “oo” and he was no longer asking for “moules” (mussels), but “mules” (mules)! He kept requesting a plate of “mules” and created quite a stir among some of the French customers… Janel and I loved his story and it is obvious that this will now become one of the highlights of the day! (I can relate totally; especially after asking for “tea ice cream in Barcelona”)
While waiting for our “plate of mules,” we decide that we are actually generally hungry and that Dario needs his protein fix. Fortunately, just next door is a Charcuterie booth and a Boulangerie. Janel is sent off on a mission and successfully returns with bounty.
We finish our “snack” and continue on with the task at hand of procuring items for our picnic. There are so many choices, but we finally settle on a couple of terrine-type items (salmon, tuna) and a terrine de campagne made with liver/kidney/who knows what else which we dub the “big boy.” A couple of side items like fresh and sun-dried tomatoes, a piece of Quiche Lorraine, and a baguette are purchased and stashed in the backpack.
The market is bid farewell and the three musketteers set off to find the village of Collias where I have read you can rent kayaks. I have a specific company in mind – “Canoe Collias” – that gets great reviews online. However, there are no shortage of kayak rental places in Collias.
We rely again on Dario’s French to get us what we want. The folks at Canoes Collias are super friendly and customer-oriented. They have this down pat and know exactly what you need for an afternoon on the river. Yay!
We have chosen to paddle the 1.5k trip to the Pont du Gard. The Pont du Gard is an ancient Roman acqueduct spanning the Gardon gorge that was built to bring water from Uzes to Nimes. It is an amazing structure (no cement!) that was built in the 1st Century AD, y’all!! It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and well deserves the honor. I am looking forward to getting an up close and personal view.
The river is busy with paddlers, bathers, picnickers and such all along the 1.5 km route to the acquaduct. The sun is brutal and we take several “shade stops” along the way. A nice, shady secluded shore is spotted that would be perfect for our picnic spread. We lay out all our goodies and watch people float past.
Dario is in charge of opening each item for our picnic. He takes great care in opening them one at a time and offering them to each of us. The salmon and tuna terrines make their entrance followed by the tomatoes. When I suggest that I want to try our “big boy” Dario says that we must first finish the two fish dishes. That comment prompts the retort of “You are not the boss of me!” and the big boy terrine is promptly retrieved and opened. In retaliation Dario quips “Well, fine then. I am going to have the quiche!” Another set of quotes are immediately embedded in our history.
The picnic is demolished by three hungry paddlers – this kayaking thing is a lot of work! Time to continue down the river towards the Pont du Gard.
This stretch seems longer than the first probably because I am bringing up the rear and the sun is bearing down. Finally the Pont comes into view and makes it all worthwhile. It is simply stunning and actually mind blowing to think that it was constructed in the first century! Those crazy Romans…
I catch up with Dario and Janel on the other side of the Pont.
Canoes Collias is there waiting for us. They are efficiently packing kayaks onto the trailer and bus us back to where we started. We all agreed that this was an awesome activity and are so glad we did it. I think it qualifies as a “must do” when in the area.
On our way back home, Janel asks Dario what his last name (Pescador “fisherman”) would be in French. He tells us that it would be pêcheur which is French for fish. It is also very similar to pêche “peach.” Oh and also close to s’épuiser “sin.” We decide those words are a fitting description for Dario: Fish, Peaches and Sin.
Back to our Mas for a dip in the refreshing pool and some down time on the deck. This is a perfect time to drag out that great bottle of white wine we purchased yesterday. After all, we are only taking carry-on luggage back to Barcelona and won’t be able to take the wine. Too bad. We have to drink it right NOW.
The wine is just as great (if not better) than we remember from the tasting. I doubt that I will be able to match it at home, but I plan to try. The grape is Viognier. We all love it.
Late afternoon by the pool is perfect and we linger for quite a while. We have nowhere to be until our 8:30 dinner reservation and are in no hurry to leave.
Charles has made a reservation for us tonight at a place that is nearby. I had written to him asking him for a recommendation and he suggested Couteaux & Fourchettes. For navigation we used Dario’s iPhone with Google Maps and ended up going the “cool way” through some great backroads.
The evening is beautiful and we are seated on the patio. The menu looks wonderful and we each chose different selections from the 3-course menu knowing that we would all taste each dish. A glass of Tattinger Rose Champagne for each is chosen to begin the evening.
The champagne takes us through our starters:
We each taste a bit and plates are rotated clockwise…
A bottle of white Cote du Rhone from this village(Cairraine) is suggested for our main courses. It is perfect and carries us well into dessert/fromage.
All of the dishes are excellent and we linger long after we are finished.
At some point in tonight’s conversation we all agree to meet at 8:30am for a workout. Who’s crazy idea was that?