Carcasonne, Les Cammazes & Toulouse, France

Carcassone is a small town which is famous its fairytale-like medieval castle. But possibly the most memorable part of our brief visit was lingering over coffee in a cafe listening to what sounded like the entire Music Box album by Mariah Carey, playing a card game that Michael’s Lithuanian cousins had taught him called durnus (“idiot”).

Michael had connections in this part of the world in the form of Claude and Chantal who live in a beautiful house in a village not too far from Carcassone called Les Cammazes.

It hasn’t happened very often where I’m in a situation where I’m the only one who doesn’t speak the same language as everyone else present. But I discovered that if I listened really hard, I could get the gist of a conversation and understand about 30% of the words being said. Which was not too bad considering how little I’ve studied French. It was also nice to be a listener rather a talker for once (!) though it can be quite confusing when you don’t understand key words in a sentence.

Over a delicious home-cooked dinner which included a dessert of stewed pears with chocolate sauce and coconut ice cream, Chantal talked about her brother being in the newspaper and people putting up welcome signs when he came to visit – and I was completely mystified. But as Michael later explained, Chantal was telling him the story of how her brother went to visit a town in Montana in the USA (I thought she had said “Montaigne” or something in France which was where I missed my footing) which was founded by one of their ancestors and that’s why they gave him a bit of a hero’s welcome.

Michael saying au revoir the French way.

We were only in Toulouse for a few hours in transit to Lourdes though I was pretty well pleased that we stumbled across what seemed to be an informal flea market outside the Basilique St-Sernin. All kinds of random people brought their old stuff and junk to sell on rugs on the footpath or if they were more organised, on tables. How cool is that?

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