Old Buildings, Old Grapes

It is blissful to drive through the countryside of France and see old farmhouses dotting the hills. And then to walk through the many small villages and appreciate the stone houses and landscapes beyond them! It has been a wonderful change of pace to be here. I’ve enjoyed solitary morning walks on beautiful frosty mornings, trips to a few close villages, and a lot of reading, writing, and relaxing evenings. Today we ventured a bit further to visit a 14th century commune and then to a nearby château for an armagnac tasting.

La Romieu is a village that houses the gothic Saint Pierre church and cloister that were originally erected between 1913 and 1918. Though the day was a bit drizzly, the view after climbing the narrow winding stone staircase was beautiful. At first, the many figures and statues of cats in the village were perplexing, but later we discovered that they came about because of Angéline and the legend of her cats. As a girl, Angéline managed to keep a couple of her cats throughout a period of famine, during which the villagers were running around searching for her cats so that they had something to eat. Though the crop situation improved, rats began to take over the harvest because there were no longer any cats to drive them away. So Angéline was able to set the cats she had kept free, therefore saving the villagers from another famine. The many symbols of cats around the village pay homage to this legend (http://la-romieui.wix.com/uk-tourisme-l#!chats-uk/ckra).

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After so much stair climbing we were ready to wet our swabs (dad – can you tell what book I’m reading??), so we made a visit to Château de Cassaigne. The château was built in 1247 and is surrounded by lovely vineyards that produce the grapes for their armagnac and wine. After walking through some of the old rooms and smelling different puffer boxes to become acquainted with tasting notes, we entered the room where the armagnac is aged in the oak barrels. After three years of aging, the eau-de-vie can then be called armagnac, but at this point it is only used for cooking. The Château de Cassaigne has different vintages and blends, and during our tasting I discovered that I was most drawn to the blend of the 12 and 18-year-old armagnacs. You could certainly taste the differences; the young ones had a lot of kick and had a strong alcohol flavour but I couldn’t detect much else, whereas different notes from the wood started to come out as they got older and some had a definite sweetness like that of prunes and vanilla. I liked the balance of the 12 and 18-year-old together…who knew! I’ll leave you with a last little tidbit that I learned, and which I think nicely symbolizes the appreciation that surrounds armagnac distilling: during the period of aging, some of the alcohol evaporates, and this is known as the “angels’ share”.

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5 thoughts on “Old Buildings, Old Grapes”

  1. Sounds great! I love the cat story. We played lots Bananagram and Apples to Apples. Today maybe some archery. There is no snow on the ground.

  2. Sounds lovely! I love the cat story. Sue and I just looked at the link you sent too with all the cat statues around the village. Sweet!

  3. Love the photos and update of your adventures! We’re going to see your old kindergarten teacher and walk in the bird sanctuary. Then meet up with Joyce. Happy adventures and Happy Relaxing too.

  4. Just saw the link to the cat statues. Great! Nice to see you on Skype even if it was hard to hear with all the noise going on here. Have a happy New Year!

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