August 15, 2005

August 7 -- Domaine du Viala, Paraza France

The villa is in a word, WONDERFUL. It is several hundred years old and built from the stones of a fortress that was here from several hundred years before that. It sits atop a vineyard covered hill about a kilometer outside of Paraza. The views are spectacular! Distant hills and mountains are like the layers of stage scenery. To the south you look across a very wide valley to the Pyrenees. To the north are the hills of the Minervois. It is a beautiful location.

When they purchased the house it had been abandoned for about 50 years. They showed us a picture of what it looked like--falling down walls and no roof. Being artists, they were able to envision what it could and what they could make it. Lots of money, hard work, and vision created what they have today. We felt very lucky to be able to live in it for a week.

Brian and Julie got up early and went down to the village to pick up our bread for the day. Everyone thought that we were nuts when we came back with two dozen croissants and pain au chocolats, as well as 8 baguettes. Everyone thought that we bought way too much, but there is something about the croissants in France. By the end of our week EVERYONE was eating at least two pastries every morning.

The women volunteered to go to supermarket to do shopping. Thalia gave them directions to St Nazaire which was only about 10 minutes away--IF you didn't get lost. Eventually they made it there and parked in the FULL parking lot. Once inside the store they realized that the store closed at 12:30, giving them about 30 minutes to buy a weeks worth of groceries for 12 people. They started off taking their time looking and talking about each piece of produce. Then the lights started flashing which meant the store was closing soon. The each went into a shopping frenzy. Finally they checked out of the store and walked into an empty parking lot--the last out of the store.

On their way home they saw a sign for "fresh produce" and they stopped. Across the street there was a sign for wine tasting, and the ladies being who they are, thought that they should check it out. There was no sign of people at the building, just a door and darkened room. As they turned to leave, a family poked its head out of a window. Julie's french was no help. Finally a 3 year old boy comes out of the building and rings a hanging bell.

A couple of Irish brothers come out to sell their wine. Evidently there was a problem with the bottling and 1/3 of the wine went bad. Their solution? A buy two, get one free sale. So they bought three bottles-all of which turned out to be good.

We actually decided to cook dinner at the villa. Nothing fancy, Pat made some pasta with a fresh pomodoro sauce and Brian grilled some chicken. Damian put together a great salad. Face it, the women got a pretty good deal. The kids spent much of the day swimming in the pool, which was very cold.

The day ended up being the relaxing day that we needed to recharge our batteries after a week of cities. The company was great, the villa spectacular, and France was what it usually is--WONDERFUL!


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