Tuesday, August 26, 2008

St. Antonin and the Gorgeous Aveyron Gorges



When I last left off of my travelogue describing my trip to France I was in the village of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val. I had mentioned its origins dating back to the time of the Romans and included the ruins of a monastery said to have been chartered by Pepin le Bref, better known as the father of Charlemagne. I had not finished covering all that I wanted about Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, but when Blogger started acting up again, I began worrying that I might have another eaten post so rather than risk losing everything and I promised to finish it on another day.

Today is that day.

First off, I'd like to go back to the village. Michelin Green Guide to Languedoc Rousillon Tarn Gorges there was a mention of two houses of note on Rue Droite due to their keystones.

The late - 15C Maison de l'Amour (House of Love) where a man and woman are depicted chastely touching lips, and the Maison du Repentir (House of Repentance) where, in contrast, two faces are shown turned away from one another.


Here are pictures of those keystones.



Here is a picture of one of the oldest houses with a plaque denoting it dates back to the 15th century.



I love seeing how old buildings have been retrofitted for different purposes. Here you can see how archways have been bricked up to create a wall.


The steeple of the main church can be seen before you even cross the bridge over the Aveyron River.



According to the literature from the Tourist Office, the church is "19th Century neo-gothic, begun in 1862 from the plans of Theodore Olivier and consecrated in 1872."

It has a beautiful façade with gargoyles.




Inside are lovely stained glass windows.



Here you can see the pointed neo-gothic arches dappled with colored light from the stained glass. Look closely you will see an Occitan cross.

Here it is close up. We did not realize the significance of this symbol until later in our trip. It had been the standard of the Counts of Toulouse and you see the Occitan Cross everywhere in the Midi-Pyrenees and in Provence as well.


What would a church in France be without a statue to Jeanne d'Arc?


The town was named Nobilis Valis during the time of the Romans due to the confluence of the Aveyron and Bonnette rivers. Here you can see the peaceful Bonnette that a woman is climbing down to test the waters.

Now come the Aveyron gorges that we saw on our way back to our rental cottage in Montclar-de-Query. Just note in the following pictures how the color in the stone changes from being stark white to gray to streaked with orange. Those colors will show up in the stones used for construction.



One of the roads we traveled was what I consider to be a one lane road. As you can see it has no lines denoting any lanes, and it had two way traffic. This would have been a "C" road that my husband and I began referring to as paved goat paths and we felt that the letter C rather than signifying that it was a county road was instead chosen for chevre or goat.



That Sunday after we attended the farmers market in Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, we came home for a nice leisurely lunch utilizing the fine fresh produce we had acquired.

I am blessed with a husband who is an excellent cook and he spoiled me on this trip. Here was our luncheon table.


And a close up a plate of fruit, cheese, olives, and freshly made bruschetta.


We then relaxed, had a nice afternoon nap and began pouring over guide books to plan the adventures of the coming days.

For an appetizer we noshed on the local favorite Chasselas grapes as well as a plate of heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, fresh basil and a reduction sauce of balsalmic vinegar.

Here I am ready to enjoy a fine dinner that will be accompanied by a bottle of champagne from Canard Duchêne.




Then for dinner he made roasted herb and garlic chicken.

Here is a quick recipe he gave me to share with you:

Mix olive oil, mashed garlic and herbs such as basil, rosemary and oregano, then pull up the skin and push the mixture under the skin.

Rub any remaining herb/garlic/oil mixture on the outside the the chicken. Grill with indirect heat.

(A note about how to do that:

You get the coals very hot, then push to the sides. There shouldn't be a large amount of red hot coals DIRECTLY under the chicken, hence indirect heat. The reason is the outside of the chicken will cook too fast yielding burned outside and under cooked middle.)

This is the outdoor cooker he used. The bag of charcoal was incredibly light because it is made with a different process than that in the United States.






Here is his roasted herb and garlic chicken accompanied by fingerling potatoes with garlic as well as haricots verts.


It was a wonderful end to our first full day in the Midi-Pyrenees.

Next up on my travelogue is the medieval walled city of Carcassonne.
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