The first time I saw this place, I was on honeymoon three years ago (or thereabouts). The place my husband had chosen for this special moment is owned by the most delightful of men.
A self-proclaimed Royalist, he is married to a psychiatrist who practices her head shrinking in Marseilles some 5 hours south-east of his bijou chateau in Aurillac. They speak every day, and lovingly, by phone and sometimes he goes to see her and sometimes she comes to see him. At the time we had no concept that the next 2 ½ years would see us in the same tub. The mere notion would have seemed absurd.
A man of short stature and with magnificent, almost Dali-esque, waxed moustachios he is quite clearly Hercules Poirot’s long-lost, should be discovered twin, separated at birth. He is positively a mine of information, a historian and a trawler of knowledge with that sponge-like ability to soak up every last teeny drop. Rather like a human hoover, he vacuums up all the specks of material in his path, then assimilates them, files them according to relevance in the boggling laberynth that is a mind and brings them forth at the precise moment of crowning relevance. And with quiet aplomb. Like nurturing a perfect fruit to pluck and present it at it’s precise moment of optimum ripeness. His great joy, therefore, apart from providing an impeccable interlude for his guests, cooking delicious local recipes from local ingredients and sharing, free of charge the contents of his not insignificant cellar, is to impart tips and advice and to guide his guests to even greater enjoyment of what is already a perfect break. Never to debate or undermine, he coaxes your holiday spirit out of hiding, assesses it with the expert eye of the head of a great household assessing the crystal and silver and porcelain laid for a banquet and only then makes suggestions which are as carefully and thoughtfully shared as a glorious vintage from a gleaming decanter and your breath baits as you wait for the treasure to be revealed. For treasure it will surely be. He is quite one of the finest souls I have ever encountered in a lifetime studded with fine souls. The most absurd thing, or perhaps the most sensible, is that he does not advertise his wares at all on the interweb … like the wild mushrooms he served to us in a perfectly executed sauce, you have to know where to seek him and sometimes I wonder if we dreamed him into being in our collective-romantic.
On our second morning he suggested we visit Rocamadour. It is just over the border in the Lot departement. Although it attracts tourists like a swarm of bees to a pollen filled flower-garden I would recommend anyone in the faintest locale to go. It quite literally is built onto the rock and cleaves and clings to it with majestic defiance. That it is medieval and that they managed to believe and then achieve this is beyond my puny imagination ….
Since that entrancing start to our married life, I have been back to Rocamadour just once with my eldest daughter on a blistering hot July day when even the rocks seemed to be clammy with salt perspiration rather than the usual cooling dampness of vast stones. I took this picture that day and it seems to fit the weekly photo challenge this week titled ‘Look Up’ and as ever you will find all the other laudable entries here.
The staircase screams to me of Escher and so I snipped him for my title:
‘Only those who attempt the absurd will achieve the impossible. I think it’s in my basement – I’ll go upstairs and check’ – M.C Escher
PS: Last year we revisited the chateau we had stayed in for those first enchanted days of our marriage, armed with a book. It was a copy of my late and always lamented father-in-laws opus‘The French Cheese Book’ because our host had lit up at the unimagined absurdity of an Englishman taking the time to journey throughout France discovering well in excess of 700 cheeses, but more than that to have spoken to multitudes of makers, farmers, dairy owners, researched the history of the terroirs, their people and their production and produced a work of such magnitude about FRENCH cheese one of which, by the way is a delectable little chêvre disc made in Rocamadour. These two men come in many ways of a common mold and it seemed entirely reasonable to give him a copy of the book, inscribed with our thanks for making the first days of our married journey so magical. He regarded it with the exact same reverence with which I look upon him.