Being locked up for the past two months has us reminiscing about some of our travel experiences from the recent past. Here’s one of our favourites from a trip to southwest France.
It was one of those magical days that, if you are lucky, happens maybe one time in every 10 trips. It started when our gîte in Figeac was cancelled with only a week’s notice. The only place that replied to my email when searching for a replacement gîte was an AirBnB with no reviews and very little description, in a town we had never heard of called Montgesty, about an hour west of Figeac, and 45 minutes south of where we were staying in Cenac-et-Saint Julien. I didn’t take it as a good sign that AirBnB had the name of the proprietor listed, in its entirety, as “Mr”, but we took a leap of faith, and booked for 4 nights, hoping for the best.
The day before our arrival, we received an email from the proprietor inviting us to join him and his wife for lunch the next day. Well, we certainly weren’t going to pass that up!
We arrived a bit before the appointed time to Montgesty, a pristine little town in the Bouriane region of the north-west Lot department of France. The house was built just after the 100 Years War had decimated the region, and it is a classic example of a local-stone constructed, two-story home complete with cornflower blue shutters. The inside is just as full of character. The upper floor is a single room, adorned with high, wooden-beamed ceilings, a large stone fireplace and undulating wood plank floors. This contains the living area, dining table, corner kitchen, armoire and bed, as well as the bathroom in a separate room. The downstairs contains an outdoor ‘summer kitchen’ in a private courtyard, and a bedroom and bathroom inside. The owners explained that when the house was built, the downstairs was only used for the animals, which explains the low doorways, upon which we both repeatedly bonked our heads during our 4 night stay.
Pierre and his wife, Agnes, were an adorable couple in their 60’s who live in Toulouse and use the house for themselves on weekends and holidays. They spoke little to no English, and their French had a sweet accent, where “vin” and “pain” came out sounding like “vang” and “pang”. They said that we were their first guests in two years, and they went all out on lunch.
To start we had a delicious Caprese Salad, with tomatoes from their garden and fresh buffalo mozzarella. Next, standing at the cooker of the outdoor kitchen, Pierre seared some fresh local foie gras, obtained that morning from a producer just down the road. This was followed by grilled sausages, mashed potatoes and some of the best ratatouille I’ve ever tasted. Next was the obligatory cheese course, followed by the most amazingly sweet fresh peaches and coffee.
If the day had ended at that moment, it already would have been one of the best days of the trip, but then Pierre said he had a surprise for us. Opening his garage, he revealed a 1950’s American military issued Jeep, and offered to take us out to show us the area. From host, to cook, to chauffeur and guide – the hospitality gods were smiling upon us today.
As he drove us up and down the dirt back roads, he explained that he grew up in the area. We drove through several beautiful stone hamlets, past chateaux, fields lined with mortarless stone walls and even to the farm where he had purchased the foie gras.
We finally ended up in a small town called Lherm, where the entire population was engaged in a pétanque contest, with multiple games happening simultaneously, covering almost every square inch of town. Of course, he knew everyone in town, and we relaxed at an outdoor table in the main place, drinking Orangina, and watching the games.
When we got back, Pierre and Agnes packed up for their 90 minute trip back to Toulouse, but not before letting us know that they had “reserved” for us two croissants and a baguette for tomorrow’s breakfast at the local boulangerie. They left the rest of the foie gras and ratatouille for us in the fridge. The next morning when we picked up our bread and croissants, we discovered that not only were they already packed up and ready to go, but that they had been paid for too! They may only be a few years older than us, but we are ready to let Pierre and Agnes adopt us, if they’ll have us.