15 March 2010

Cujo, Django and le Mistral

The 'Mistral', a wind that blows southward through the Rhone valley with such ferocity that even Mother Nature bows to it, equalizes everything, penetrating even the marrow of the soul.  Against all good advice I jogged into the rising sun this morning down the hill outside our Rasteau redoubt.  With the Mistral at your back, the sensation of speed becomes a function of your ability to remain upright and slow your body's natural tendency to jog at Chuck Yeager speeds.  Now, things can get complicated when the wind strikes your flanks, as it did when I first heard Cujo, the hairy black Satan dog, bark at me from a chateau's fence line across the road.  As his loaf turned into trot, and trot into sprint, my legs' compulsion to respond in kind were met with somewhat fierce opposition from le Mistral.  Long story short, I was Usain Bolt for a good 150 yards, rounding the bend towards the St. Didier cathedral full of fake energy, adrenalized only so far as the first one meter worth of incline.  Fortunately, I'd ditched the dog; or Cujo, me.

This was a day of joy, of things beyond the scope of explanation and comprehension, and I wasn't about to let Cujo interrupt my enjoyment of it.  Within an hour or so of my arrival back at the house, we were on the road again toward Avignon and its Palais des Papes and the Pont du Gard further west.  What a ride!  And how the wind owned us!

I can't say enough about the old walled city of Avignon as it progresses deeper toward the Palais.  We couldn't help but stop and peek inside la Vache a Carreaux, a restaurant that at first glance demanded we retreat into its colorful Noveau warmth with a now-ness.  We passed it by en-route to the Palais, but I harbored a secret dream to return to the restaurant one day.  Well, this was a day for dreams to come true, damn the Mistral.

After scouting every inch of beautiful scenery and outcrop of the Palais and its gardens, we returned to la Vache and had the Meal of a Lifetime.  There's no justice in describing just what arrived on my plate this Sunday afternoon.  All I can do is provide the address and pray with an almighty vigor that you do what's required of you to visit this place:  Centre historique: 14, rue de la Peyrolerie.  I washed my farmer's salad down with a VdP Vaucluse blanc from Roger Sabon.  It was spot-on, letting the salad speak for itself.

Yes, not enough can be said of the area around the Palais, so let me detail the rest of the day with a stab at brevity.  The Pont du Gard is a must-see.  It's a nature hike of the highest order, but don't pay the 15 Euro to park in the designated lot.  Park further down past the traffic circle where the locals do.  Oh, I almost forgot: les Halles near the center of Avignon's walled city, an closed-air market open on Sunday.  What a clutch encounter.  With the myriad streets available to us to reach the Palais, how we stumbled on this treasure is beyond me.  Again, this was a day of unspoken yet answered prayers, of dreams come true.  We made our compulsory wine purchases and opted for a plethora of fruits, pasta and plenty of Mediterranean fare.

Needless to say, dinner was special.  But something elevated it, brought it to another galaxy of enjoyment...  Django Reinhardt.  Discovering the music of Django Reinhardt has made the feeling of being in Rasteau and Chateauneuf-du-Pape--exploring their riveting landscape, soaking in the stories and vins of old and new generations alike--singular and celestial.

Soooo, I'm writing this on Monday night when I should be talking about what happened today, not yesterday.  Perhaps the bottle of d'Aqueria's 2006 l'Heritage Lirac, Trio Infernal's 2007 Priorat 'Riu', and Bosquet des Papes' 2000 Chateauneuf-du-Pape got to me.  I got a little sleepy and gave up.  So I'm giving up again with this post, cutting things short, and planning to get to ramming speed on today's events on another post.  And what a day this was...

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