Farewell To The Farm

by Johnny

Today is our last day of our first farmstay, and while I’d be lying if I said we enjoyed every second of pulling out weeds and stacking firewood, overall it was a great experience.  Being here for almost three weeks allowed us to really connect with a place and our hosts on a personal level, and it was the first time it felt like we were traveling as opposed to just being on a vacation (which was kinda the reason for this whole trip in the first place).  We learned some new things, made some new friends, got our hands dirty and gave our wallets a much needed breather.  It was experience we’ll remember forever.  Here’s what we’ve been up to for the past week or so…

Courgettes, or zucchinis as you Americans like to call them, have been growing like crazy on the farm, and Yvonne has been finding all sorts of ways to feed us with them.  Besides steaming them with some other veggies and some S&P (still delicious), she’s put some in Russell’s famous curry, made some courgette and brie cheese soup, threw them in a quiche, and stuffed them with some ground beef, onions and corn.  She’s even sending us off with a couple in our bags for our next stop!

Bountiful harvest Yvonne stuffing a giant courgette
Courgette quiche Courgette and brie soup (my lunch three days straight)

Ever heard of Andorra?  I always thought it was a town in Spain, but it’s actually its own principality on the border of Spain and France.  It has duty-free status, so every once in a while Russell makes the trek there to stock up on booze and cigarettes.  He took us on one such trip, and even though we felt a little bit like drug mules, the scenic drive more than made up for it.  For two hours we drove through the Pyrenees, stopping to stretch our legs at small ski resort towns like Ax-les-Thermes.  The route is actually one of the stages in the Tour de France.  We were happy to have Russell navigating the windy mountain roads so we could gaze out the windows at the view.

Andorra’s mountain ranges Ax-les-Thermes
Checking out the view

One day last week it was over 30°C (trust me, that’s hot), so we went over to Russell’s friends house to clean his pool and go for a swim.  Being that we’re on a farm, I was expecting to pull back the pool cover to find sewage water and a dead animal or two, but the pool was actually stunning.  Anna hosed down and changed the filters while I went with Russell to check the attic for dead rats (thank goodness their weren’t any).  We had a great swim, which also counted as my weekly shower.

Not a bad spot for a dip Did somebody order a pool boy?

On our last free day we wandered up to Rennes-le-Chateau, a hilltop village whose church is shrouded in Da Vinci Code-esque mystery.  The once sleepy little town now gets tens of thousands conspiracy theorists visiting it each year.  To make matters more interesting, the town offers a great view of the mountain of Bugarach, which apparently has aliens living beneath it waiting to take people to the promised land in December 2012.  Funky place, this region of France.  Anna and I didn’t find the Holy Grail, and we didn’t score any tickets to the end-of-the-world party, but we did take in Rennes-le-Chateau’s gorgeous views and the peaceful beauty of its mysterious, tiny church.

Rennes-le-Chateau Bugarach…it’s the end of the world as we know it
The calming church at Rennes-le-Chateau

After our looong walk down from Rennes-le-Chateau we decided to try and find Domaine St. Jacques, a vineyard we stare in awe at everyday from our farm.  We navigated a couple side streets, crossed the railroad tracks and finally found some signs that pointed us in the right direction.  After walking for what seemed like hours (wait, I thought kilometers were less than miles?), we made it to the vineyard.  I must say, going to taste wine in France is just the best.  You basically show up uninvited to a chateau or vineyard, which is usually the winemaker’s house, and taste as much wine as you’d like with the premise that you may buy a bottle or two.  The tasting at Domaine St. Jacques was no different.  We made it to the top of the long, tree-lined driveway and admired the garden until out came Monsieur Torregrosa in his slippers.  It seriously looked liked we just interrupted his post-lunch nap.  We tried communicating what we were doing at his place until I finally just said the word, “Vin!”  He nodded and let us into his tiny tasting room.  Monsieur Torregrosa is from Spain but has been in France for 20+ years, so whatever Anna couldn’t communicate in French I could try to say in Spanish.  He filled us up full glasses on Chardonnay and Blanquette de Limoux, the region’s sparkling wine, which hit the spot after our long walk.  After a great conversation (him talking and us nodding our understanding of every tenth word) he sent us off with a bottle of each for a total of €10.  That’s what I call a wine tasting experience.

Anna with our bounty View of Domaine St. Jacques from our farm

Our 4th of July started out just like any other…filling up water tanks from the Aude River and chopping down wild bamboo.  But seriously, Russell and Yvonne did their best to humor us on Anna’s favorite holiday.  We got a surprise American flag in our sandwiches for lunch and indulged in some good ol’ BBQ chicken and potato salad for dinner (and polished off our new bottle of Chardonnay).

USA! USA! USA!

So our first farmstay has come to an end and it’s off to Sète tomorrow for the Worldwide Festival.  One of the best things about being here for almost three weeks is that it allowed us to recharge our batteries and get re-energized about the next leg of our travels.  It seriously feels like we’re starting a brand new trip tomorrow, and we’re pumped to finally be heading to the sea!  However, we’ll miss this beautiful farm and our hosts, though we come away with great memories of this experience.  Thanks Yvonne and Russell (and Whiskey, Remi, Pernod and Ouzo)!

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One Comment to “Farewell To The Farm”

  1. Most excellent post, sounds like you were wine tasting with the World’s Most Interesting Man. Looks like you guys are having a great time, looking forward to more stories!

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