Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Armagnac -- 4th Day

I got up early, disdained dejeuner and sprinted off to Guinlet, via Eauze . . . we had seen it on the map at the town square but I wanted to put the crossroads from the map into the TomTom, to avoid the problem I’d had the day before. I’d already driven to Eauze and thru Eauze 4 or 5 times by now, so I knew exactly where to go . . .

I found a machine for the Eurocash to buy the Armagnac from yesterday, then went to the town square to the map, but without my coffee I had to carry the TomTom to the map sign to remember what to type in . . . but the course wasn’t where it looked like it was on the map . . . after hunting around for awhile, I just kept heading out that road till I gave up, 3 km out of town . . . I pulled over into a driveway to turnaround – but that was it . . . 8^D . . . so bien!


There was an amazing amount of activity around Guinlet, construction I mean. Someone has a vision where this golf course is surrounded by dozens and dozens of Gites (visitor’s houses) that they are just now constructing. They have a beautiful swimming pool complex and a nice restaurant . . . but not the assemblage yet to utilize it all. . . it could be it’s just past the season, I dunno. Uvidime.

Unfortunately, the counter woman spoke not a word of English and could not comprehend my pidgin French. . . they had me down for a twosome at 8:30, instead of a single which was the main problem . . .

Shot an 88 with one birdie. . . now I have the same number of birdies in France as I do in the Czech Republic . . . 8^D . . .

On the way back I, on the tiny roads selected by TomTom, I saw this chapel set hard against the vineyard . . . there's millions of 'em in France . . . everyone just so . . . je ne sais quoi . . .

I stopped by Lafontan on the way back to Cabuzon, but they were closed . . . it was after noon, but, jeebus . . . so I went back, picked Mrs up, paid the bill, said our au revoirs, and headed back to Lafontan, just to be sure . . . yep, they were closed for lunch, so we went too . . . this time to a brasserie in Eauze next door to where I’d held up the bank . . . we were a little late for the lunch rush, we sat down at a dirty table and waited patiently . . . apparently, the waitress decided she would wait on us eventually, but gave us the emphatic wipe-off with her hand along with the verbal “Non, C’est Fin!” when we inquired about the menu du jour, so we raced thru the menu desperately looking for words we recognized while she tapped her pencil on her pad . . . . Mrs picked Salad Gasconne and I picked steak hache’ ouef, and we asked also for vin rouge (tho’ I’d tried to ask for rose’) and eau mineralle naturalle gasseus. We had both seen other people with dishes that resembled what we’d ordered, is how we chose.

So we had a leisurely wait while the restaurant cleared out, sipping our water and wine, me mindful of drink-driving cautionaries I’d read of france, till at last our food came. Mrs’ dish was a salad garnished with pieces of bacon, ham, and goose (as far as we could tell – we’d wondered what happened to the rest of the goose after they made foie gras, and so I told her, “there you go!”) . . . she’d rather have no meat at all sometimes, but she ate most of it, anyway, funny how that continental brekky sets you up for a big lunch. My hamburger & egg with fries was indeed what I’d seen two young strapping flat-bellies order earlier. It was good in a way I hadn’t had in a while . . . not in the Czech republic, anyway.

But instead of a siesta, we needed to drive to Chateau Pallane, our next stop, so we needed to go, but I wanted to stop back by Lafontan one more time . . . it was 2:30 by then, so . . . . and sure enough they were open . . . they were as glad and surprised to see us as we were to find them open . . . but we were bearing EuroCash so . . . our order was still sitting where we’d left it on the table, and my golf cap that I’d taken off in heat and disgust when the charges wouldn’t go thru, so it was a simple matter to complete the transaction, give the patroness an air-kiss, pack up the car, and light out for Tillac.

Now, we are dedicated to the principle of mass transit, but it was just not possible to do this trip the way we wanted to do it by mass transit . . . the train from Prague to Toulouse took 24 hours, instead of the 14 by car, then getting from Toulouse to Eauze, and Agen and Auch and Condom, never mind all the littler towns like Cabuzon was even more uncertain, if not outright impossible, not to mention humping around 4 cases of Armagnac & wine, golf clubs, luggage, and our picnic basket . . . .but the roads the TomTom took us on sometimes, amazingly small, one-lane roads shrouded by trees on both sides, with grass growing in the pavement – roads Mrs said needed to be mowed – unnamed roads – we had to have a car, and a TomTom . . . .even if it did “rob” us of that feeling of being primal explorers by having such goat-trails already mapped by TomTom, it was a great comfort . . . and gives rise to a tho’t I am going to use when my contract comes up for re-newal . . .

My company needs me the same way I needed a TomTom . . . for 95% of the driving on this trip, it was autobahn, with no unexpected re-routings . . . but to get where the goodies are (I mean Armagnac distillers, literally, and something else metaphorically, if you see what I mean), to navigate the unexpected and unknowable short cuts, I needed the TomTom, and my company needs me.

We drove thru the vast, rolling fields of corn, sunflowers, and grapevines in the incipient autumn haze with great delight, in no particular hurry. We wondered about the huge groves of trees planted like orchards, but that they were not fruit or nut trees we recognized – they are being grown for the lumber? Are they oak trees for barrels? They’re awfully tall and straight, and make a pretty picture en masse. We were please to find a sign as we went thru Marciac pointing to our destination Golf du Chateau de Pallane.

I could see the entrance lane from a couple klics away, as we swerved around a bend in the highway, by the line of trees lining the driveway, all the way up the hill to the grand Chateau that presides over the landscape like minor royalty. A very impressive introduction. We drove thru the golf course to get to the Chateau, between the 3rd and 4th holes. I missed my gear at one point and the car stalled out . . . man, horses pulling some fat nobleman up that hill would have been exhausted at the top!

We drove on a pea gravel past a huge practice area with sand traps below the giant terrace in the back of the great house, and around the sides, thru the old stable areas where the greenskeeping equipment is now kept and cars of the staff are parked . . . thru the first courtyard, where now a restaurant is, and the pro shop/clubhouse, on into the inner courtyard in front of the Chateau itself.

A woman sedately came out of the proshop walking towards us, she checked us in, by greeting us, and showed us to our room. I asked her, “Did a king live here?” It was so posh. Sure the parquet floors creaked and the plumbing looked 18th century, tho’ it worked just fine, but everything was so tres elegant and so tres chic, it was boggling . . . I think the two rooms (bed & bath) were as big as our apartment in Prague . . . what I mean, is that Chateau Bellvue had been very nice, but not very pretentious, rather shabby, concentrating on service . . . this place was posh . . . did I say that already?

This room was so big it was full of that big furniture you see in the antique stores and wonder what kind of room would you put this in? Lamps 6 ft tall. Big couches. Wardrobes 9 ft tall. In the chateau itself, there was, aside from le grande marble foyer, with two spiral, marble staircases, a breakfast room upstairs, a game room downstairs, with a snooker table, a library/tv room, some formal dining area that nobody uses, overlooking the terrace, that overlooked the practice green on one side, that overlooked the golf course, and the pool on the other, not to mention the 20 bedroom-suites like ours.

So we turned around twice and then set out for dinner, using a list of places recommended by our hostess . . . the first place looked really nice, over in Tillac, but it was closed . . . we walked around the area it was in, that looked like an old monastery converted into condos or something . . . there was an old church at the end of the lane, but nothing for us.

We drove further, over to Mielan, looking for another restaurant, but before we saw anything we saw a grocer, so we stopped there and bought picnic supplies: water, fruit, tapenade, cheese, bread, enough for a couple of days, and our plan was this: eat a huge lunch and snack at night . . . that grocer was a jolly, friendly man, we hope he does well, all his regulars seemed to like him, too.

We drove home, and made do with our simple peasants feast. Very satisfactory.

Mrs went to sleep and I attacked her book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, written by Stieg Larson, a swede who died under mysterious circumstances after writing and publishing all at once 3 crime novels, a so-called Millennium Trilogy, couldn’t put it down -- until I fell asleep – if you see what I mean.

No comments:

Post a Comment