An Easter weekend in Grauhlet with great-grandparents now in their 90s promised good company and even better fare. The great-grandmother could have easily written a cookbook for old-style French cooking. However, for her and others like her, recipes were not written nor needed. The ingredients and methods were simply encoded into their DNA Easter Weekend.
We left home Saturday morning, trying to get ahead of the weekend traffic. A direct trip from Montpellier to Grauhlet would take a little over three hours. But of course, a quick trip is impossible when you are traveling with a dog, two teenagers, a grandmother (me), and two parents.
We stopped at the halfway point, Saint-Chinian, to stretch our legs, take the dog for a walk, find a restroom, and buy some local wine for our hosts. By chance, the town square was hosting an Easter egg hunt. Consequently, we were privy to a delightful scene as dozens of small children searched for and found hidden chocolate eggs among the green shrubbery Easter Weekend.
Attenderella’s parents had arrived in Grauhlet a few days earlier and had tended to much of the preparatory work involved in feeding a group of nine over an extended weekend. When we sat down for a late lunch, the table was beautifully set for our first meal, one of many we would enjoy while visiting.
After lunch, the teenagers planned to see a movie while I went with Expresso, Attenderella, and Attenderella’s parents, l’Artiste (her father) and la Infirmiere (her mother), to Albi, an amazing tourist destination about 30 minutes away.
Albi sits on the Tarn River and is known, along with Toulouse and Montauban, for its Languedoc-style red brick architecture, The Palais de la Berbie is the largest surviving brick-built complex in France—perhaps anywhere.
But before we could visit the palace, we had to find a place to park—never an easy task in France. We eventually succeeded in finding a spot, but it was quite a hike back to the palace grounds. However, much to my delight, the street was filled with incredible shops that had all sorts of stylish clothes.
As background, you need to know that when I lived in Nevada City, we had a serious deficit when it came to shopping. Periodic trips to Roseville, usually a month or so apart, included visits to Costco, Walmart, Target, and maybe Ross, if time permitted. Consequently, a leisurely stroll through some of the most incredible and stylish shops I’d ever seen was at least as delicious as the food I’d eat over the Easter weekend.
Attenderella, her mother, and I ended up finding treasures that we refused to part with even as Expresso and l’Artiste stood outside the stores, eager to show us the more important (from their vantage point) sights at the castle. When we could delay our male companions no longer, we visited the palace and grounds, which were impressive in their size and grandeur. The gardens, which had started to bloom, were lovely.
When we returned later than planned on Saturday night, we were unpleasantly surprised to discover that vandals had spray-painted a portion of the front of the great-grandparents’ house. The great-grandparents reported the incident to the police but expected nothing from doing so. It was just a formality.
All of us grabbed sponges and rags and returned the house to its former state in an hour or so. Still, the incident was upsetting to the great-grandparents.
Before we left, we enjoyed incredible meals, each entrée a work of art, including an Easter Sunday leg of lamb. Just writing about these memories makes me hungry. And I regret I did not take more pictures.
Even so, Easter dessert was special even by French standards. The many layers and fillings melted in my mouth.
My visit to the palace of Albi on an Easter weekend, one of the holiest of occasions, while enjoying family, food, and shopping, is an experience I’ll never forget.