Vive la France!

Vive la France!

Welcome to my blog -- follow us as we travel around France.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Languedoc - Day 12: Grotte des Demoiselles

We started the day at the market in Paulhan, which is the next good-sized town north of us.  Much bigger than Lezignan, but smaller than Pezenas. It is a nice market -- not as busy as Pezenas' or Clermont's, but has all the goodies.  Since we are moving on Saturday, we didn't buy a lot, just some bananas & a shallot.  I bought a scarf for 6 euros -- I guess I want to attempt to be French-chic.  French women (& even some men) all seem to have scarves wrapped around their necks.

After the market we drove maybe 40-50 km north to the Grotte des Demoisselles.  When we got there at about 12:45, we found it was closed until 2:00 (the information I had said it was open 10:00 - 6:00), so we went back down to the village to find some lunch.  Nothing looked very promising, but we did find a boulangerie open, so got something to eat & drink.  Just after we sat down at the table outside, they closed up, so we didn't get there a minute too soon!

After lunch we went back up to the Grotte and parked up in the bus area, so Mom  could sit in the cafe -- we knew it wasn't something she would be able to manage.  The Grotte is an underground cavern that was discovered in 1770.  It has several huge rooms with concretions.  One room is 394 feet long, 262 feet wide, and 164 feet high.  We started out in a funicular, which took us up a 38% grade.  Once up there, we started to climb and descend stairs:  561 one of them!  Each turn in the pathway was an eye-ful of beautiful formations lit with flood lights.  The stairs were very good -- concrete -- and some had handrails of steel pipe and some had cement railings.  In places the stairs and railings were wet and slippery.  Some of the passages were very narrow.  Of course the guide spoke only in French, but it was the first guided tour in French we've been on that I didn't think was too long because there was so much to look at.  The guide also spoke very conversationally rather than as though reading from a script.  All of the other people were French, and were all were very nice and friendly.  This was truly an awesome experience and well worth the trip up there, and each step, too.  While Jan & I were in the cavern, Mom was in the cafe reading her Kindle and conversing with one of the men who works there.  He had been to caves in the US and speaks English.

After we got home, Jan & I fixed dinner.  I fixed duck breast with a sauce made from Muscat, orange juice, butter, S & P, shallots, and figs -- there is a fig tree behind the house, so we managed to harvest a few of them.  The duck was vacuum sealed and the skin had been removed, but the fat left on.  I scored the fat, and put it in a hot skillet to sear.  After turning, I put it in the oven for 20-30 minutes to finish.  The fat rendered out, leaving a crispy crust on top.  With potatoes, green beans & carrots, and a salad, it was a pretty good dinner.

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