In the seat next to mine, a charming lady who’s crossing two-thirds of France to see her son. She’s been traveling since 7 a.m. and this is her second train, but not the last. I’m lucky; my trip is direct to Montauban, no changes.
My sandwich is dispatched before we clear the suburbs, it being well past noon by then. I manage to stay awake until Tours, then fall asleep and only wake up when we slow down for the narrow gorge of Poitiers. Then it’s Angoulême and finally our first stop: Bordeaux. After that, I’m on my own for the final two-ish hours.
My old friend Daniel comes to meet me at the station in Montauban. In spite of a beard I’ve never seen, I recognize him at once by his pipe. What a shock when he tells me it’s been 25 years since we last saw each other! Twenty-five years since he moved out of the Montmartre apartment next to mine. (Thank you, Internet, for locating him for me.)
He guides me down some medieval streets and into a newly-restored square where we sit at a table outside and enjoy a drink. Dogs come sniff our ankles and a father is teaching his son to kick a soccer ball. All this while we catch up with the past 25 years as best we can.
Once safely home, we drop his car off at the Renault garage conveniently located across the street. Given that it’s Monday (see above), our food choices are extremely limited and we end up at a Basque restaurant. We could do without the music but the food is tasty and the owners cheerful. Then off to bed.
Today the restaurant is open but we’re already invited to a duck confit lunch shortly, so we walk around the village a bit. Daniel sends me off to admire the fortress at the very top of the town, up where all respectable fortresses are built. I’ve always found it hard not to go to the end of a road or an island or to the top of a hill... too curious for my own good. So I decide to scrabble up to the very top and enjoy a magnificent view out over the valley, now that the fog has finally lifted. My leg muscles won’t thank me tomorrow but the view is well worth every ache I’ll get.
|Château de Cas with pigeonnier on far left|
|City hall of St.-Antonin-Noble-Val, built in 1125|
There’s so much peacefulness now in this region once torn by bloody religious wars stretching over centuries. And Albi was one of the centers. But that’s tomorrow.
|Pigeonnier of Château de Cas|