Driving from Toulouse to Lisle-sur-Tarn. Driving an unfamiliar car is always a bit nerve-wracking for me, so when a rainstorm started while I was on the shuttle bus to collect the hire car, I was a little worried. Fortunately the rain stopped, leaving the gift of a cold wind in its stead, just as I reached the airport, and I found the car hire place with not too much difficulty. A Fiat Panda was mine for the next three days.
I had plenty of time before I needed to be at my chambre d’hôtes/B and B, so I went the long way round, to places just picked off the map as having some tourist interest. When I got to Lavaur, I found that some of the stallholders at a flea market were starting to pack up, but there was still plenty to see, and with permission I took a few photos, before wandering around the town for a short while. Its church was unprepossessing from outside. I stepped inside to find almost complete darkness, and total silence. I felt cushioned by the silence. No traffic noise, no resonance, not a rustle, no sacred muzak, no electric hum. Absolute, total silence. Lovely – a tiny bit spooky even.
In these photos, the camera lightens the view I saw, though I have photoshopped the first to indicate how my eyes first perceived the interior. The only other thing of interest I noticed in the small town was this Halle aux Grains. Whereas the concert hall in Toulouse had been hexagonal, this one had twelve sides. (OK, it was dodecagonal.) I moved on to the next village highlighted on my map, Giroussens. A great viewpoint, with an interesting field shaped by the bend in the River Agout, but it was beginning to blow hard now, presaging rain, I feared. I walked a little way on to the church, (many in the area have a semi-fortified look, recalling the bastides built in the times when village life was not as tranquil as it is now, what with the Albigensian Crusade and the Hundred Years War). And then I went briefly down a little road just to have a quick look at the chateau, now a porcelain centre. Not a soul around anywhere!It was good to get back to the car, and make for my final destination, Lisle-sur-Tarn, the arcaded town square of which I had a brief and very sunny memory from 1990.
When I found my lodging, it was slightly outside the town, a former hotel of some 12 rooms, now having chambre d’hôte status, with only four rooms in use. (My host told me in due course that it had been going to cost him far too much to bring it up to approved hotel norms.) I turned out to be the only guest for the entire stay. No respectable French person was going to take an impulsive break in such weather! David, the host, who ran the place on his own, was an excellent trained cook, who used much produce from his own garden. I appreciated all this greatly as I took my evening meals there for the three nights, He was very garrulous (which tested my French quite hard, as his rapid musings were expressed in a delightful, but sometimes difficult to understand, Midi accent!) But he was kind and attentive. It wasn’t his fault that the weather was worse, for the time of year he, or, he said, his father could ever remember.
This area, Languedoc, was the reason for my trip, based on my 1990 souvenirs of wonderful sunshine and fields full of wild flowers. I had been intending just to relax and wander around in the countryside, with few plans other than taking the occasional coffee on hilltop village café terrace. Clearly, given that the weather was now forecast to be much worse than it had been before I set off two days previously, I was going to have to rethink how I was going to spend my time.