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Tidying up and moving on [Feb. 6th, 2016|10:50 pm]
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I've been posting about last summer's holiday in France all out of order, as it suited me. Time to pick up the threads, and progress a little. Where were we?

We spent two very happy days in Bordeaux, Sunday and Monday. On Tuesday we set off to our rendezvous with Helen, and ran into the transhumance in Saint Justin en route. Wednesday was the day we spent as guests of the Producteurs de Plaimont, learning about the wines of southwest France.

Thursday morning was fresh, bright and clear, and we could see the Pyrenees in the distance as we set off from the Relais du Bastidou. We weren't going that way, yet. Our schedule had brought us further south faster than we would otherwise have travelled; now we wanted to double back, to visit the wines of the Côtes de Brulhois, and maybe of Cahors, too. But first, we wanted to shop for some of the wines we had tasted the previous day. The Cave de Plaisance didn't stock Moonseng, but they did have, newly arrived, partly fermented grape juice from the current harvest ('bourrel?', say my notes, but I can't verify that name), pale and slightly cloudy, sweet but not cloying.

We drove along a ridge road between two green valleys, seeing no vines - but as we rose higher, so did the distant mountains. A signpost pointed to Bassoues reminded us that we had passed this way several times the previous day, so we detoured up to the hilltop village and admired its timber market hall, its quince trees, its 'donjon':


At the time it was a delightful morning's break, one last pleasure offered by a region we were about to leave. In retrospect, it was only the first of a series of beautiful old villages, any one of which would have been an extraordinary survival.

After the previous day's excesses, I wasn't expecting to want much for lunch, but the Routard guide recommended a restaurant, Le Florida in Verduzan, which was pretty much on our way. That recommendation alone was worth the price of the guide book.

The interior of the restaurant was hyper-stylish, all whites and cool grey and clear plastic chairs, and I was hesitant at first, but the service was entirely warm and friendly (a bowl of water was produced without fuss for the dog of the diners at the table across the way). We ordered a half bottle of Jurançon Domaine Cauhapé Chant des Vignes, feeling a little mischievous: the Jurançon appellation had apparently blotted its copybook, and Helen had been told that this was the one area she was not to promote to us. I hope they have been reconciled, because it was a delicious wine, dry and structured with a touch of pear - and I realised when I saw the label that it is something we have bought from the Wine Society in the past. With it we were served tiny amuse-bouches, a fragment of toast with duck, a lick of beetroot cream.

durham_rambler opted for the three-course menu; I really wasn't hungry enough for that, and decided I would just have a starter and dessert (well, cheese). But when durham_rambler's soup arrived, there was a mini helping for me, a centimetre of white bean cream in the bottom of a glass, just to keep him company. My 'main' course was foie gras, the actual liver, pink and melting on its disc of pastry with figs, surrounded by a rich sauce. I asked, as I always do, for an introduction to the cheeses on my plate, and Baptiste reappeared to do the honours: Bienheureux (really? I can't find any trace of it on the web) from Savoie, Ossau Iraty, a pale disc of Rocamadour and a fig and orange conserve - to be eaten in that order (though it is permitted to eat the jam with the Ossau Iraty). Finally, one last amuse-bouche arrived with the coffee, a tiny almond cake and a miniature cannellé de Bordeaux, a dark crunchy caramelised exterior and tender within.

And onwards, through the sunflower aftermath, the single plants self-seeded after the harvest, multiple flowers branching exuberant from the stalk, unconstrained by whatever limits the main crop to a single flat disk per tall stem. A brief stop at the Cave de Donzac, and on to La Borde Grande for the night.