06 October 2013

67!! — Day 4

From Mende, in the Lozère, back home to Laroque des Albères, Pyrénées Orientales, via the Tarn and Aveyron départements.

Our first stop on the way to the Gorges du Tarn was a disappointment. The village of Sainte-Enimie is quite pretty with its old stone houses but decidedly touristy. What was memorable is the grim legend behind the town's name. Enimie was a princess who, wishing to dedicate herself to Christ, prayed to be rescued from marriage to a suitor chosen by her father. The answer to her prayers was unusual: she contracted horribly disfiguring leprosy. Marriage pressure gone, she was then cured by the waters of a local spring and went on to found a convent.

The canyon formed by the Tarn River, flanked on either side with crags topped by causses (verdant limestone plateaus) and villages clustered near the shore, offers the sort of magnificent scenery that's difficult, for us anyway, to capture with a camera.


Detail from photo above.

A sad memorial like this is found in most French villages. So many names for such a tiny place.

A chausse.

How anyone gets to this hamlet of well-maintained stone houses on the other side of the river we haven't a clue. There were no roads visible, no bridge, and a sign on this cable prohibited use for anything but goods. Could the residents really do all their to-ing and fro-ing by canoe?

 Another chausse.

 We had our lunchtime picnic in the Gorges de la Jonte, a favorite destination of J-F's father.

Hardly worth doing, but if you look very closely here or enlarge the photo, you can see two dots in the sky that are the soaring eagles who watched us eat. There wasn't a sea like the one in Tennyson's poem, but his words certainly fit this setting.

From spectacles of nature to a marvel that's manmade. A few years ago we crossed the Millau Viaduct with Alan Smith on our way to the volcanic region of the Auvergne. In fact, despite our Garmin on this trip, I did find occasion to quote Alan's Yoda-like pronouncement that "There are many roads" when my navigational skills were once again shown to be deficient. Michael decided that the bridge would be even more impressive viewed from below. He was right. This 4-part Megastructures video shows what an amazing engineering feat building Norman Foster's design was: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4ZNMEpsocYhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWrmelbagLAhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FXtQf9M88o; .http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPM79xM5mIY. [Despite the pronunciation of Millau here, our neighbors in France say "mee-yoh."] A minute or two is missing at the end of part 4, but the dramatic union of the two sides has already been celebrated.

It was cutting edge to traditional as we next toured a Roquefort factory in the cheese-making town of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, our last stop before getting on the motorway to head home. The romantic though no doubt apocryphal story behind the discovery of the blue cheese process has a young shepherd accidentally leaving his cheese and rye bread in a cave where he had rendezvous-ed with his sweetheart (or abandoned his lunch when he spied her in a distant field, depending on which variation of the tale you prefer). When he eventually returned to retrieve the food, voilà! — the distinctive blue veining had transformed his ordinary cheese into something very special. Michael, however, would think that delicious ewe's milk cheese was spoiled by the invasion of Penicillium roqueforti. Blue cheese is not his favorite.

Fractures in the rock like this (fleurines), open to the outside, provide the unique air circulation in the damp, cool caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon.

Our guide through the 150-year-old caves of RoquefortSociété. Her enunciation was so precise that even I could understand more than my usual "blahblah maintenant blahblahblah on doit blah" etc.

More photos of photos from the old days.

The dégustation following the tour.

A rond-point (roundabout, traffic circle) honoring the sheep whose milk is the basis for the livelihood of most local residents.

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