Our first night at this lovely hotel passed very well, with the children dead to the world from 7pm and the rest of us dining on a terrace directly below their room. I ate fish for the first time in living memory, so it was a bit of a landmark occasion. We’re staying at the kind of place where the husband-and-wife owners do absolutely everything, including making amazing dinners, and in the interests of being fed at all I had to go with the flow and eat what I was given (and it wasn’t too bad at all). And my spirit of culinary adventure must be catching: Hattie, the most reticent of eaters, has tried several new things over the past few days.
Now listen: I don’t want you to think that I’m flaky, but the village we visited for lunch a couple of hours ago has resulted in poor Villeréal’s reign as Jacq’s Favourite Place in France being limited to just one day. The current champion is now Monflanquin (‘mon-flon-can’), largely because it’s built on the top of a hill, around a square, with gorgeous deep arcades that provide much-needed shade against the ferocious French sun. The square was lined with lovely trees and the kind of low wall that no pre-schooler in their right mind can resist balancing upon:
All of the streets and buildings were stunning. A really cool added feature of the streets of both Monflanquin and Villeréal is the use of large historical photos mounted on the sides of buildings, to show you how everything looked on the olden days (and in most cases there’s very little difference, which just shows how well French villages are preserved):
Before we went to Monflanquin today we returned to Villeréal to check out the Wednesday morning market. At Hattie’s urging we also revisited the church and, once again, the Lord worked in mysterious ways and Joe needed a poo.
We drove to Monflanquin (after dealing with Joe’s request, obviously – we’re not crazy enough to ignore that kind of information from a recently-toilet trained child), and marvelled at how beautiful everything is. Seriously, isn’t there a way for me to move here? Look at this lovely street!
We visited the local church, and I’ve got to say that you can’t even imagine how beautiful these places are: Monflanquin’s parish church is grander and more gorgeous than literally any church in New Zealand, and it’s been there since the 13th century. We’d been there for a couple of minutes when – yes, you guessed it – the spirit of St Joan of Arc galvanised Joe’s bowels and he needed a poo.
The one other exciting thing today was a moment of retail madness: I bought a new bag from a Monflanquin artisan, and I love it so much:
My amateur photography doesn’t do it justice: it’s a beautiful deep coral colour, and it’s made from the most fabulous squishy supple leather. And it cost me less than NZ$300, which would only buy me a mass-produced and fairly unexciting bag back home. It was very cool to be able to buy a one-of-a-kind piece from the woman who’d actually made it (and who gave me a spirited lecture about how best to care for the leather, despite knowing full well that I didn’t understand a word she was saying).
Hattie and Joe had a much-needed nap during the drive back to our hotels, and are now watching some kids’ TV inside, while we wait for the hottest part of the day to pass before going for a swim. It’s safe to say that our love affair with rural France shows no sign of abating – really, if you come to France and don’t travel further than Paris you have seen nothing!
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