Tuesday, July 9, 2013

France Part 12: Cahors and Grenade

We loved our little house in Tremolat, but it dawned on us about a day before we left France that we had a 10 AM flight to catch in Toulouse on Saturday morning and Toulouse was a 3 hour drive.  To make things easier for ourselves, we booked a room for Friday night in a cute boutique hotel in the town of Grenade which is about 30 minutes from the Toulouse airport.

We said goodbye to the kind people we rented from in Tremolat and left a day early.  It was hard to drive out of that place knowing it would be a very long time, if ever, that we return.  We had fallen in love with Tremolat.

Driving to Grenade was a fun adventure, though.  There was no time pressure and no agenda.  We could stop in any town we liked or shop if we found a place to do it.  It was a pleasant way to travel a couple hundred miles through parts of France that were new to us.  We still had to buy souvenirs for the kids so we stopped at a mall in one of the larger cities.  That's where we found a scarf for Ava, a Where's Waldo book (in French) for Nate, and an adorable umbrella for Lucas.

I don't know why his name is Charlie in the French version.

We also drove through Cahors which is famous for their fortified Medieval bridge.  Built in the 14th Century, Pont Valentre has become a symbol of this city.  Many similar bridges were ruined in wars, so it's nice that this one remains and is in great condition.

As we were walking to take a closer look at the bridge, Cody spotted this street sign.  I was surprised to find my friend Greta's name on a street sign in France.  A little blurry, but right there it says G.R.E.T.A.
I didn't know what it meant, and would have never known had Greta not googled it and told me it stands for a network of adult education centers.  There is at least one GRETA branch in each county.  Mystery solved.

We finally rolled into Grenade around 8 PM to find a cramped city with tiny streets.  The streets we needed to drive on to reach our hotel near the city square were strangely barricaded.  Every parking spot along every tiny street was taken.  We finally found a tiny space and squeezed in with some impressive parallel parking by Cody.  Several bands were playing loud music and the streets were packed with people as we made our way to our hotel.  The manager greeted us warmly and apologized for the crowds.  Apparently it was the first day of summer, and it is a major celebration in Grenade and from what I gathered many other towns in France.  Families and partiers parade the streets while local bands and musicians play well into the early hours of the morning.  And our hotel was in the middle of the party.  

Usually when this sort of thing happens, I'm slightly ticked at the universe.  But I found it impossible to be upset.  Our hotel was gorgeous.  Our room was comfortable.  The air was cool and calm.  The music and people were happy and festive.  I didn't have to get a good night's sleep for any reason so it didn't matter that music was going until 2 AM.  I was perfectly content.  I almost convinced myself France was celebrating our last night there instead of Summer.

The Villa Leopoldine

our private balcony

We walked to dinner at a nearby restaurant and had some delicious things.

Our entrees were yellow tomatoes with fish and an eggplant mozzarella salad.  By the way, in a French meal the entree means the appetizer, not the main dish.  It took me a while to figure that out since we use the word differently here.  The main dish is called the plat.  A common phrase is plat du jour, or plate of the day.

We walked back through the city square to our hotel, packed and repacked our suitcases (trying to defy the laws of physics and come in under the weight limit on each bag...somehow, we managed to bring back 9 bottles of wine!), and drifted asleep to the sounds of music and joyful celebration.

Speaking of bringing back wine...I purchased these great things from amazon called Wine Diapers.  They are cushioned bags that seal with a ziplock style closure.  The claim is, and many reviewers back this up, that if the bottle of wine breaks, the special material inside the bag will soak up every drop so none will be in your suitcase to ruin your clothes.  Thankfully, none of our bottles broke in transit, so I can't verify it.  Now we have these bags tucked away for the next time we want to carry wine while traveling.  They are very handy.

One more tip...when I knew I wanted to buy these wine diapers, I entered them into camelcamelcamel. I've blogged about that website before.  It's the best way to get the lowest price on Amazon.  The website watches the product and sends an email alert when the price reaches what you're wanting.  Any item I want to buy from Amazon but don't need right away goes into my camelcamelcamel account, and I have literally saved hundreds of dollars that way.  It's crazy how the prices fluctuate on Amazon.  Read more about camelcamelcamel here.

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