We don’t have a car and I can honestly say that after having had a driver’s license for nearly 50 years, and an automobile to go with it for most of that time, I don’t miss it at all. That probably goes double for Bill who’s typically been the one behind the wheel. The costs alone including substantial monthly lease or purchase payments, license fees, insurance, fuel, and upkeep are enough to make us grateful that we no longer have to budget for any of that. Add in the hassles of navigating narrow Medieval streets laid out 800 years ago, trying to avoid solid stone buildings inches from you on one side of the street and rearview mirrors sticking out from parked cars on the other plus attempting to squeeze into a pocket-sized parking spot, should you be lucky enough to find that, and the advantage of being on foot becomes even more apparent. Having said all of that, the instant that a friend with wheels invites us on a day trip outside of the city, we’re on it!
Thanks to the generosity of several of our new friends here in Carcassonne, we’ve not been solely dependent upon walking or bus rides to visit the countryside. Because of the extensive public transit system here we can certainly get to almost any place we might want to see, all for the tiny price of 1 euro per ride, but naturally you have to adhere to the bus/train schedules. No such restrictions apply when someone else is driving their own car, or a rental, so we’ve been at an early morning market in a remote picturesque village, enjoyed the color of acres of sunflowers in full bloom under the noonday sun, sampled wines steps from the vineyards where the grapes had been harvested, and attended late-night concerts that ended long after the final bus departure for the day.
When friends Sally and Larry emailed us that they had an extra day of car rental left with nothing planned, we readily accepted their invitation to be “kidnapped” for a lunch somewhere out of town that would remain a surprise until we got there. Living in the middle of what we call “wine country”, it didn’t take long for the road signs to point to vineyards with the highly sought word degustation displayed meaning that tastings were available. About 30 minutes from our front door in the region called Corbieres Boutenac is Chateau La Voulte Gasparets where they produce the wine that was first described to us as the Rolls Royce of this area and has become our favorite. Owner and 7th generation winemaker Patrick greeted us at the door of his beautiful wine tasting room and then opened all 7 of the wines in his repertoire for us to try. As you can see in the photo, we came away with a case or two of that favorite plus several bottles of its white and rosé siblings.
Additional stops were tempting and easy because of the abundance and proximity of other Chateaux but the trunk of the car was now full of our purchases and we had a noon lunch reservation at Bourdasso Cucina Italiana. A short ride through pretty villages separated by winding, hilly roads bordered by rocky outcrops, streams, and waterfalls brought us to the former winery where our table awaited. Our delicious meal matched the beautiful surroundings and in less than half an hour after finishing a dessert of crostata à la ricotta we were back at home trying to figure out where all of those bottles of wine were going to fit. This June there is an all-day wine walking tour through the countryside we drove through today with stops at several wineries for refreshment. Looks like we need to start training for that event!