Wednesday, 16 December 2009

France - part seven - the last day! :-(

And so it came - day seven, our last day :-(

All good things come to an end, but there was still time for a super walk before we set off back to England. We decided to visit Fort Liberia, as Sue had seen the outside of it, but not seen inside it. First, however, Mannes told us that today was special, as it was the 'carnival of the animals' at Olette. This meant that we could buy what is reputed to be the BEST veal in the world. It's free range, feeds on milk and herbs, and is supposed to be superb to eat. You can't get it all the time, but Mannes said he knew it would be on sale today at the fayre, so off we went.
This was the fayre - not a huge event, very low key, and with some real characters selling all sorts of stuff.

Veg' and home made pastries featured quite a lot.

Also, pickles of all descriptions.

This happy chappy was selling only one thing - can you guess by his mode of transport?

COW BELLS (of all shapes and sizes).

WHO would want to buy this stuff though?
Everything on this woman's stall was made from old bottle tops!



...even chairs (just HOW could that be comfortable????)

There were some impressive horns on show too.

But THIS was what we were looking for - the Rosee de Pyrenees.
Veal from the Catalan region of the Pyrenees - grazed on the mountain grass and herbs,
to produce the sweetest meat imaginable.

Amongst all the bells, bottle top furniture, and other paraphernalia was
this little stall, selling the prize meat we sought.
We chose the three, thick pieces of veal we wanted, paid our twenty six Euros, and then she asked if we'd like to try some. Of course, we said yes. There was a small griddle plate to the right of the stall, and she threw three small pieces onto it, for literally SECONDS each side, before passing them to each of us in turn.
Sorry if you're a veggie here, but that was the most exquisite taste I've ever had.
We just couldn't WAIT to get home tonight to eat what we'd bought.

After the fayre, Mannes dropped us off at Villefranche, the village below Fort Liberia.
The sun was now hot and strong, and we started to peel layers of clothing off as soon
as we left the car and started walking up to the fort.

There it was - perched high above us, the sentinel of the mountains,
watching over Villefranche.

As the path rose, we got some great views up the valley to the town Mannes lives, Vernet le Bains.

The magnificent Canigou. This mountain is the reason Mannes will NOT move house.
He can see it from his garden, and loves the view with a passion.
Can't say we blame him!

Soon we reached the fort.
Here's Sue, in the courtyard before our breezy tour of the ramparts.
We did try a coffee in the shop - big mistake - it was AWFUL.

Again, super views from the walk around the walls.

A soldiers-eye view.

Inside, there were many steps and stairways. This looks like a long one doesn't it?
Sue thought so too, but I knew what was to come.

You can see the old bakehouse chimney.

This is a model of how they think it would have looked.
I love the wooden board to protect the baker from the heat of the oven (IF that's what it was for???)

The inner walls - a sort of beauty in this light, we thought.

Looking down to Villefranche.
The Grottes de Grand Canellettes is just up that valley, and we'd be visiting them later.

Now this is what you CALL a staircase - over eight HUNDRED steps in all.
It's mostly under the bedrock, and what a task it must have been to build it, and hollow the rock out.
It was done so the soldiers could move into and out of the fort in safety.

This has been done for the tourists (hello Sue).
A viewing station halfway down the steps.

At the bottom, two huge doors let us out and into the village.
A look back sees the fort perched above us.

We decided we were hungry, and when I saw this sign 'creperie', I knew I had found a suitable place, as Sue is VERY partial to crepes. We walked in, and were IMMEDIATELY taken by the atmosphere. It was friendly, VERY French, and extremely inviting. Everyone there seemed to be having a good time.
P'arlais vous Anglais? - NON!
Oh well, time to check just how good (or bad) my French is.

Once we got inside, we were told there'd be a wait for food - of COURSE there would, it was a popular place. No problem - we'd have a glass of the 'vin rouge de maison'.

We asked for 'un picher', thinking it would be smaller than a bottle......WRONG!

Looks like my French is good enough to get a great feed!
This was Sue's 'plat de jour'

And this was my duck, with a fabulous courgette bake
(and, of course, lots of French bread).

Happy man.

Then, after the meal, I asked a guy on the next table if he knew how big (or small) the crepes were.
He wasn't sure, so we decided to order one between us (bear in mind we had the veal to eat later).

When it came, it was ENORMOUS, with peaches, calvados and a great dollop of ice cream!
We just halved it - and went straight to food heaven :-)

After eating, and feeling VERY satisfied, we made for the in the next posting, but as a taster.......

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