Lots of thyme

Village of Aragon, France

When our neighbors suggested that they pick us up on Sunday to take a trip to Aragon, instantly visions of courtly love, chivalry, and Camelot sprang to mind. After all, it was Catherine of Aragon who was King Henry VIII’s first queen and in her eyes maintained that position despite the rise and fall of others after her. While our destination shared that Queen’s name, we were only traveling about 20 minutes north of Carcassonne instead of 2 hours south into Spain where the Kingdom of Aragon was located and to where Catherine could trace her family roots.

Although Aragon, France got its start during the Bronze Age around 2000 BC, the town’s tourist office notes that its present name probably began in the early 1100’s when the lords of Aragon were granted property rights in the area. While the lords shared their last name with the Kingdom in Spain 500 kilometers (310 miles) south across the border, that was apparently their only connection.

Only 2 more kilometers to go

The drive up from Carcassonne took us through rolling fields of grapevines soaking in the sunshine on one of the 300 days each year that “sunny” is in the forecast. As we approached Aragon, Francis stopped the car so that I could take the photo you see at the beginning of this post. It has that picturesque charm long associated with small French villages: sandstone cottages with terracotta roofs circling round in a spiral that culminates with the church at the top. But that was not our initial destination.

We had come on this short journey with a serious goal: to pick thyme and maybe some wild asparagus while we were at it. Since Francis and Isabelle had raised their boys in the area, they knew exactly where to search for this Mediterranean herb. As soon as we opened the car doors after parking in a field of short shrubs and taller pines the smell confirmed that we were surrounded by a sea of thyme. Armed with gloves and scissors along with instructions to cut just those branches in bloom and to take only a few from each plant, off we went. With such an abundant supply it didn’t take long to fill the boxes you see here in the photo.

Boxes full

The reward for our hard work, which really wasn’t difficult, was to take one of the numerous pathways through the forest over to the village, about 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) away. Our eagle-eyed friends spotted the occasional wild asparagus along the way so we had a bonus of tender green tips to add to an omelet the next day. After exploring Aragon on foot, we walked back to the car talking about our next village excursion and what we were going to do with all of that thyme!

Village wall

5 thoughts on “Lots of thyme

    1. Why would anyone let wine go bad to make vinegar? Anyway we don’t have any extra space so we will just share them with friends. Great with olive oil and a little balsamic over grape tomatoes.

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  1. This brings back so many memories! The first time I ever went to France, I was working with a group preserving a medieval castle. One night a few of us went up to the castle to sleep under the stars…on a bed of thyme (unavoidable, since it was everywhere) Every time I moved, the scent would hit me. Now one of my favorite things to do is go out into the garrigue to collect herbs to bring home. My suitcase always smells amazing, and after all these years, I have never been stopped! I still have some thyme left from last year… (also….last year we spent some time on the Albion plateau near Mt. Ventoux. I was looking for rosemary out in the garrigue but could not find any. My neighbor told me that rosemary did not grow at such high altitudes. I did not know that! So I came home without any rosemary…but with a LOT of lavender since their field was cut while we were there, and we were invited to join them in gleaning after the harvester did it’s job. Another great memory!)

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