There is a place in France, north of the Pyrenees. This area of the world has more beautiful villages clusters closely together then any other place in the world. Which is not too dissimilar to how boyfriend and I found ourselves this one weekend in October.
We arrived Thursday. Lateish. Greeted by Herve who owns the hotel that we're staying in with his wife Sophie. Supper is ham, thick chewy Serano ham.
I sit on the sofa eating this salty ham, thinking of pigs as I eat. I think of an article I read once that stated these animals have the intelligence of a 5 year old child. I hold the ham in both hands, silent and eating - my taste buds are weeping because it tastes so damn good. I'm starving. Famished. I eat slice after slice. Inwardly I'm rejoicing and apologising simultaneously. Not in shame but perhaps minor conflict. But it's not enough to detract from the great joy that comes with eating this incredible slice of meat.
I've a hippy mind perhaps, but a carnivores body. And as I eat a warmth rises and spreads through my body. It's the moment a friend of a friend described in her blog "and then we ate bread, just so we could eat butter." I fell in love with that line when I read it. What a line. What a wonderful wonderful quotable, tweetable, repeatable line...
We ate bread so we could eat butter....
Reminds me of a rose is a rose is a rose.
Part of the same sentence perhaps.
Now in France I sit eating this pink flamed ham. Thank you pig, I'm so sorry. I know you're intelligent but I'm so hungry and you taste so good. I'm surprised by how my body rejoices.
Where is this ham from I ask. Is it local?
It's Sereno ham. Herve replies. It's not even the best.
Not even the best...
I sit again and boyfriend leaves the room. I look at the plate. They're 2 pieces left. A small stringy piece, mostly tendrils of fat and a larger, more succulent piece. I take the later.
(My writing of this, is my admission...)
Later, I'm still ravenous. So eat some segments of apple from the garden whilst lying under a white duvet. The apple is a little fuzzy. This is followed by cornflakes piled up high to the rim of the bowl. Milk. A small spoon. When the bowl is empty, I glug the rest of the milk from the glass jug. Thick creamy full fat milk. A vegan no more.
During the night we both wake. It's below freezing outside. I have 6 blankets and duvets piled on top of me. But they've slipped. My back, exposed, chills. Fall asleep again. Wake again. And so on. Then it's morning and we get out of bed and meditate. I provide the sound effects: sneezing and sniffling the whole way through.
Boyfriend looks at me, with kindness, not irritation. As a result something melts and for the final 8 minutes or so, the sneezes go away.
Breakfast - coffee. Black coffee, not pink! Black black black. The cornflakes again. Apple juice from the garden, chilled by the fridge. Taste buds still dancing...
Boyfriend is then on the phone with the restaurant where we're having lunch. They don't have our booking. He speaks in tounges. I do not.
Herve shows me around. I'm drawn to these black and white photographs of recognisable cities around the world. They light up.
Who's the artist, I ask, and then read the name that's written at the bottom of the photograph.
Herve shows me more. Then the light dawns: he is the artist.
We drive to lunch. Say nav says we'll arrive around 12.37pm. But every time I look the time is getting later, not earlier. 12.42pm. 12.53pm...
We keep stopping.
First to say hello to a lone horse in a wide field. We walk over, coo, stroke his face and pat his whithers, breathing into his nostrils.
Then on. On and up. Ice turns to snow, green to white. Similar to the moors of Devon. This is a wilderness where there are, we're told later, 2 inhabitants for every 1 hectare. As we drive another car comes in the opposite direction. She's waving her arms up and down, the sign to slow down. As we turn the corner we understand why: cows, and their young are walking down the road. We stop and I take photos. A little further behind them we see more, beside which walks a man. He's extraordinary looking. He neither smiles, nor frowns. Simply stares a penetrating stare. I sense I've been rude; taking photos of his cows without asking. This is his land, not ours.
In some places, on this planet, some people in some communities and tribes believe that when you take a photograph you steal a part of their soul. I do not mean to say that the gentleman we passed thought this. But in our iPhone snappy world we can forget our basic courtesies.
We arrive at the restaurant, Bras. Nose red, nostrils cold, we visit the kitchen and I watch a man slicing knives. Sharpening them. Not aggressively or hurriedly but simply there sharpening the blade, occupied and yet not lost. A zen master could not have asked for more.
We eat. 9 courses over 3 and a half hours. I meet a pear confit that rivals last nights Serrano ham for sheer incandescent joy. Blue skies bloom outside. And those trees, oranges and burnt coppers surround us. Autumn sets the world alight.
Lfraser is a blog in sprouting phase - please share with all those you love to explore the world with - thank you! x