There are many advantages to not having a car. The most obvious ones revolve around money. If you haven’t already paid for the vehicle then there are monthly loan or lease payments plus your insurance bill to go with that. In the US, although we didn’t have to take our 2 Hondas in for service very often, each time we did it always seemed to average 400 dollars. Parking fees for us are now nonexistent. I once paid 40 dollars to park for an hour and a half in midtown Manhattan one evening. There are no repair bills to consider for minor dents and scratches that aren’t worth turning into your insurance company. No tokens to buy to feed into the meter at the automatic car wash. And of course, no gasoline. The average cost of essence in France is 1.37 euro per liter which equates to 4.35 dollars per gallon, but that still doesn’t mean that we don’t get to say fill-er-up!
When friends or family come to Carcassonne for a few days, one of our favorite day trips to make is down to Limoux, only about 30 minutes south of here. They are well-known for their sparkling wines and we have our favorite producers, also known as caves, who consistently offer generous tastings of their quality wines. We can take the train for only 1 euro but on this most recent trip, friends and neighbors Sally and Larry had rented a car which gave us the advantage of a trunk to fill with cases of heavy boxes that we didn’t have to try to bring back on the train.
On the way back home we drove through the village of St. Hilaire and made a stop at the abbey that has been there since 780 AD. Despite the serene appearance of this beautiful building, something was bubbling up, literally, in its underground caves. It is here, in 1531, that the monks created the world’s first sparkling wine that we know in this region as Blanquette that became a little better know when it moved north to another area of France called Champagne. Given that we pay, at most, 8 euros for a bottle of top quality blanquette (based on the Mauzac grape) or crémant (Chardonnay and Chenin grapes), we have an added incentive to shop locally.
We still had one more stop to make before we could unload those cases of bubbly bottles. Within sight of the walls surrounding the fortress of Carcassonne is a wine cooperative where 90 vintners pool their resources to produce a wide range of products that this spring won 6 medals—1 gold, 4 silver, and 1 bronze—at the tastings in Paris. Although the store is officially called Vignobles de Carsac, we think of it as the filling station of wine because inside they have pumps, not unlike those at a gasoline station, where you fill your own container with your choice of red, white, or rosé. At a price of around 1.20 euros per liter, which converts to about 1 dollar per bottle, this isn’t their award-winning wine but for everyday sipping with dinner or around a neighbor’s pool on a hot summer day, we’ll gladly say “fill-er-up”!
Notes: Our favorite Crément de Limoux is produced by Antech http://www.antech-limoux.com/ where we especially like Eugenie. Our filling station of wine is Carsac http://www.carsac.fr/ where their flagship Rouge won the gold for its ripe fruit flavors and its long finish.