The mission for me of going across France was to see the Pyrenees. If there’s one thread I’ve noticed it’s that I like being near the water and near the mountains, you can’t always have it all but it would be ideal. Sure I lived in the flat lands of Langley for some measure of time, but lets remember it was never a “go-to” for me. So my aim was to see the other famed mountain range in France, to see how beautiful it might be.

My dad’s one request was to see Carcassonne. Is it wrong to admit that I didn’t even realize it was more than a board game? So it turns out it is, in fact, a real fortified city not far from the Mediterranean and heading toward the mountains! Mom sat in the backseat spouting off facts from her Rick Steves guide so we could all be prepared for our little self guided walks and trying to find the right location for dinner. This little medieval town was small but charming and definitely a more simplified architecture that resembled more like something you’d make of toy blocks than many of the other major sights in this country. If you asked mom one of the things she really wanted out of this trip, it was to see France at night. We were warned ahead of time that daily naps might be necessary to make this happen so we could all have a little reserved energy to see the country all lit up. It’s true, France is stunning at night, I’ve determined that I much prefer Paris after dark and in historic places I think it makes it easier to imagine it’s former presence in a more ancient world because the modern shops are generally closed and it’s got a second life.

In any case, here we saw it, both night and day. After finding a location for dinner I ordered a cassoulet, a famous dish I was unfamiliar with and with very little in the way of an explanation I told the waiter it’s what I wanted. I think if I’d known too much I’d have left it in the kitchen BUT to my surprise it was phenomenal. This rustic dish is complete with white beans, confit de canard, pork leg, shoulder and sausage, white wine, pancetta, vegetables and topped with bread crumbs. Please no one look up the caloric value of this dish because I don’t want to know! It came in a lovely piece of stoneware known as a cassole and it bubbling from the intense heat of the oven when it arrives. I must learn to make this, again, blocking the caloric content from my mind.

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