Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Day 114: Rouquefort sur Soulzon to Fontpedrouse - Wed 27 Aug

Day 114: Rouquefort sur Soulzon to Fontpedrouse - Wed 27 Aug
Happy Birthday son Daniel, and sister Judy! Ready by 8.45am for 2km walk to Roquefort Societe so we were sure to be included in first 1.5hr guided tour of day into cheese caves (sadly only in French!) multimedia show, starting with land movements creating the caves, growth of towns, agriculture, ewe’s milk, film on cheese production, not pasteurised, introduce penicillin, mature in caves at 8° (couldn’t figure out, in old movies shown and advertisements displayed, what was relationship of sheep cheese to expressed human breast milk??). Ended in free tasting, and of course, purchase! 

And the relationship to cheese is...?????
Intensive drinking!


French towns and countryside more laissez-faire than the "manicured" views of Germany and Austria (in fact charmingly dĂ©shabillĂ©!) Perhaps this is the heart of the famous French cest-la-vie attitude… Stopped to look at view over Roquefort valley from the old concrete cross on top of hill, containing a rock altar for outdoor mass. Peaceful standing in the quiet with the lizards, bees and butterflies.


Rejoined highway at sign pointing to circuit containing L'Hospitalet du Larzac. Two religious orders were created following the Crusades: (1) the Hospitallers of Saint John of Jerusalem (1113), whose initial mission was to lodge and look after the pilgrims, and (2) the Order of the Temple (1120), whose mission was to ensure the security of the pilgrims in the Holy Land. Templars were abolished in France in 1312 (one of cheese varieties was Templar). 

Rich red volcanic soils soon gave way to dry yellow sandy/clay soils 50kms down coast, with grass tussocks. Weather has suddenly heated up - feels and looks like we are back in Oz!! Grapes and sugar growing, no irrigation, dry creeks, must rely on rainfall. Reached Mediterranean Sea at Besieres, one of France's oldest towns. Yay, another milestone! Crossed Canal de Midi, houses starting to look very Spanish. Traces of bushfires through forest. Passed Fort de Salses with Pyrenees as backdrop. Temperature rising too quickly for comfort. Stopped at fruit stall also selling escargot (not appealing sitting out in heat). 

Moorish architecture

Due to late hour, reluctantly passed by UNESCO Villefranche de Conflent and Fort Liberia at junction of three valleys, fortified since 1098 due to ongoing argy-baggy between France and Spain. Heat dropped slightly as went through mountain gap and started climbing, but became humid as we hit a recent rain patch. Travelling narrow windy road edged with low rock wall, through Olette "most beautiful village in France"... Getting late in day, turned off at camping sign driving down steep road into valley floor to camping grounds near bubbling river. Shop-truck drove through beeping to potential customers. Had pesto pasta and sat out reading as temperature thankfully cooled. Guess we'll get a real summer now we are entering Southern Europe. 

Very civilised - bringing shop to you!

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