Monday, November 29, 2010

Magical Languedoc

I had never traveled to the south of France, but when my friend Jennifer offered me the use of her tiny house in tiny St. Nazaire de Ladarez, I knew I had to go. My friend Yoshiko was available to come, too. Much of the trip was about miracles--me, who was nervous even about catching a cab in New York, would manage to drive a rental car from the Barcelona airport at rush hour (or maybe they're always rushing in Barcelona), handle a stick shift (which I hadn't done for decades except for a quick brush-up session in my friend Janet's car--I do have such brave friends), and find my way  to our destination--a four-hour drive. And what a beautiful drive--the snow-capped Pyrenees on one side and the Mediterranean on the other for much of the way. And there's nothing like getting lost for meeting lovely, helpful people. I met a lot of lovely, helpful people.

St. Nazaire (we're on a first-name basis now) is nestled up in the mountains ("at the end of the line," someone remarked). Here's a bird's-eye view.

It feels exactly as it should--as if you'd suddenly dropped into the 13th century. The stone houses cling to each other up and down the narrow, winding streets.

Maybe I lived in medieval times in a former life. I felt completely at home there.

Jennifer's friend Julie was staying in St. Nazaire and generously made us feel welcome and showed us around. She even took us to a jazz concert held in a neighboring village--real French jazz! Meeting her was another miracle.

With Julie's hand-drawn maps in hand, we visited several nearby villages, driving through beautiful autumn-colored vineyards on the way.

The best way to bond with place, we found, is to enjoy it while sipping a petite cafe at a table in the main square.

Of course, markets are another good way.

But my favorite part was always wandering the narrow streets. I told Yoshiko that I'd heard in the old times you had to be careful walking in the streets, because someone was likely to empty a pan of wash water (or worse) out of the window onto your head.

As I was locking our door on our last morning, I heard a splash and saw a torrent of soapy water come spilling down the street. Just a last little miracle.

If you'd like to see more pictures of our trip, click here.


  1. Old France has storybook magic. So glad it touched your life with a longed for little miracle of water spilling down the street.

  2. Thanks, Clara. It felt like a secret message.

  3. This sounds like an amazing trip, Marileta! I hope all is well.

  4. Oh what a beautiful post about a beautiful trip, spilling water and all! Thank you for sharing it with us.