Earlier this month we began our third year of living in France. The most frequent comment we heard about that blog post revolved around how fast time goes and we agree completely. In Carcassonne that is especially true on weekends, even in the winter, when there are so many choices of activities that we must decide what not to do rather than searching for something to fill the days. During the summer vacation months of July and August, millions of tourists arrive to visit the massive fortress here, parts of which are still standing from the days that Romans picked grapes in the nearby vineyards 2000 years ago. While I would expect there to be plenty to do during the summer, it was a pleasant surprise to find out how much the city has to offer off-season and last weekend was no exception.
When you think of France, the long and proud history of wine probably comes to mind and to ensure that place of quality remains in the forefront, there are agricultural high schools (we think of them as “Wine High Schools”) where students are taught all aspects of the business from planting and tending the vines to harvesting the grapes and producing the blanc, rosé, and rouge that we all know and love. Every year those schools showcase the wines, ciders, beers, and other local products produced by the students in all the regions around the country. Last Saturday we were treated to tastings from Champagne, the Loire Valley, Bordeaux, Burgundy, and many others included in the more than 30 bottles we sampled.
With the morning and into lunchtime already covered it was time to move on to an afternoon gâteau party organized by some of the students who are improving their English in a class where Sally and I volunteer. Numerous homemade cakes and tartes plus a few glasses of the local sparking wine put us all in the mood to join fellow student Virgile on the keyboards for songs in French and English. Walking home from there we still had time to stop into the annual Salon du Chocolat where dozens of artisans had piled their tables and display stands high with every sort of chocolate creation you could imagine. Somehow we managed to get out of there having purchased “only” 3 boxes of chocolates.
For the evening we had our choice of a ballet at the municipal theater, a flamenco guitarist at a nightclub-style venue also owned by the city, and a rugby match by the city’s team that appears to be on its way to the national championship that they won last year as well. Given that it was St. Patrick’s Day we could have also gone to Irish music presentations at a few cafés/bars including the two pubs in town.
This blog post’s title, that shares its name with a Johann Strauss waltz seemed appropriate since Bill, Larry, and I were accompanied by Sally and Shell as we sampled wine and sang a few songs. I think that we probably all stayed home the next day but we could have gone to a football game, a 10 kilometer race, an art exhibit, the Springtime Fair, the second day of the chocolate salon….