Weâ€™ve settled in at the writerâ€™s retreat, La Muse, in southwest France near Carcassonne. Been here since June 7 and staying until the 26th. The trip from the States included three days in the Azores, which I think is the most beautiful place in the world: Hawaii without tourists and calmer volcanoes. After the Azores, we took the foolhardy step of flying to Toulouse and attempting to drive a rental car from the airport to La Muse. Strangely, our GPS device declared that there was no navigation satellite in the French sky, so we tried navigating by map and headed off in the wrong direction. French highways are as randomly marked as those back home on the East coast. California is really the only place I know of where road signage is not under the control of directionally impaired idiots. After an hour of driving aimlessly through the suburbs of Toulouse, the GPS suddenly switched itself on with the news that there was a French navigational satellite after all. It took us to within 5 miles of La Muse before its valiant little battery died.
The rental car itself is a pain in the ass. The last car I owned was a 1999 Subaru. In those days cars still had keys and didnâ€™t have video cameras; radar, and computers that tell you when the tire pressure is not optimal and threaten to shut the engine off. Still, having the pain in the ass car means we can drive to the local Carrefour grocery store whenever we want. Carrefour, I am told, is a big multi-national corporation, but all I know for sure is they run an amazing grocery store near the Midi Canal on the fringes of Carcassonne. Itâ€™s an enormous place, like one of those discount monstrosities we have in the US, but unlike them our Carrefour is not stacked full of 20-roll packs of toilet paper and jumbo size bags of Doritos. The Carrefour store is big in order to have room for all 200 (my estimate) kinds of cheese, access to which is a French personâ€™s birthright. It also has to accommodate maybe 100 kinds of sausage, and offer a tastefully huge selection of duck products located in a sub-region of the store named Duck City (â€œVille de Canardâ€ my translation). I donâ€™t have time or space to describe all the nooks and by-ways of the Carrefour with their wines and spirits, where Jack Daniels sits peaceably between Calvados and Armagnac; precious olive oils; artichokes; mustards; pastries; and phalanx of butchers.
Now that weâ€™re over the drive from the airport and the grocery store no longer provokes a shopping frenzy, weâ€™re settling into our writersâ€™ mode. Iâ€™ll need to save that for another posting.