Cezac 3, Amber leaves

Cezac Travel Blog

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We took Amber to Le Capoul in Toulouse for dinner the Saturday night before she was to fly out.  I had really liked it when we ate there our first night in France, and wanted to see what it was like a second time.  At best, a risky business.  It started out with a bang. We arrived shortly after 10 PM.  The place was nearly packed, but no line.  A group in front of us got a good table in the back corner of the terrace, and I noticed that the last remaining table had two gentlemen sitting next to it smoking cigars. Maybe one cigar, or two cigarettes, but two cigars was going to be more than I could handle.  I don’t really have any ability to speak French more than to respond to questions or to accompany many gestures and body language with a word or two, so it was necessary to tell Dawn our problem and have her alert the maitre d’.  He didn’t miss a beat.  His response was a danse d’hôtel. He found an empty table for two, pulled a table section from another table over to it, spied an extra chair at the other end of the restaurant, held it over his head to lift it over to the other side of the table and moved the Carte de menu away from us but turned it so we could read it. All with an attitude of being pleased that we had given him the opportunity to be virtuosic but without showing it.  In scant seconds it was over and we were seated.

Dawn had the curried moules this time.  I had some pink lamb that was great.  Amber had a salad.  We all shared some spectacular desserts.  Mine was four kinds of chocolate dessert named something that probably translated as decline by chocolate, Amber’s was eight kinds of Sherbet in a pastry shell.  Dawn helped out.

I got a chance to watch the maitre d’ during the meal.  He was a young handsome blond.  He had eyes like a hawk.  He watched everything that was going on, in his restaurant and out on the street as well. But he jumped in when necessary.  He cleaned tables, parked cars and everything else that it took to keep his restaurant at the level it should be.

When we wanted to have the same dessert of the people next to had had, we explained it to our waited, but were not able to quite figure it out, so we ordered what we thought it was.  Our waiter found that table’s waiter and sent him over to us so he could verify what we had ordered was what we wanted.  All in a restaurant that was really just a brasserie, a lively, energetic place to have dinner.

The last surprise of the evening came as we were leaving and the restaurant was closing.  They were pulling the table cloths off the tables and lifting off the square table tops to reveal, voila, the classic small round French café table which seems to have only room for two small coffees or aperitifs.  We didn’t know which as we didn’t know whether they were preparing for late night drinkers or early morning breakfasters. We ourselves fitted in between, leaving for the airport the next morning at 5:30 AM, serenaded by a group of young men wandering home .

Things got off to a slow start at the airport, but things eventually did what they were supposed to and we waved Amber through the security gate and headed back for Cézac via Moissac which was another lesson in the timing for the tourist.

We arrived at some god awful hour in the morning just looking for a cup of coffee, the famous tympanum and the cloister.  Sunday morning it was another abandoned town.  No one on the streets no café to be seen.  We had been here our first Sunday in Lot in the afternoon when we were looking for some food.  It had been the same then.

After getting bamboozled by one way streets we were an emotional inch from leaving the town and heading home when I decided to park the car and find the church on foot.  Since the tympanum is on the outside of the church, I reasoned that we could see it even if everyone in the town was sleeping.  We found it fronting a small plaza with a man just beginning to open his café (and his eyes).  He said he wasn’t really opened but he could certainly serve us some coffee. So we sat at a table and trained our binoculars on the church.  And slowly the square continued to come to life.  An old man opened the church doors, soon music wafted from the interior. We went inside. A strange combination of styles with a paint job that looked like wallpaper. We wandered over to the cloister which was just opening and had only to share it with one other couple.  We were both amazed at yet another magical space.  Dawn took pictures, I just walked.  We climbed the bell tower and from a place on the roof just below them listened to morning chimes.

When we came down the tour buses had arrived.  There were thirty people in the cloister getting a lecture from their guide.  But we had had enough of this wonderful place.  We headed back into the plaza from where we followed the crowds to the Sunday morning market. Again food, wonderful food, everywhere, but in fact we didn’t have enough energy to buy much and shortly after we headed home.


Getting back to the lost and found issue, I find that the longer I am on this voyage, the more questions I have. The “answers” seem as elusive as ever. It’s not that I haven’t experienced, observed, processed, and learned a great deal in the last five and a half months that has greatly enhanced my consciousness; it’s just that this experience in itself does not create clarity.

Recently though, I had another illuminating moment, similar in spirit to two conversations we had in Costa Rica with rural people who impressed me with their wisdom.  This time I had decided to take a challenging uphill bike ride to a town I hadn’t visited yet, Pechpeyroux. With not quite fully inflated tires, I managed to do all the uphill without walking once...although I did stand on the pedals a few times. After the long, luxurious downhill run, I crossed the road to Cahors and started heading up again towards Pechpeyroux. The tiny stone church and graveyard sat on a curve, on yet another incline. I decided to get off and walk the bike a few yards up to see the valley view before going down again to head home the long, but flat way, through Lascabannes. As I came around the bend, a lady of about seventy appeared, walking downhill and carrying a pot of flowers.

We exchanged “Bonjours” and then I somehow felt it necessary to tell her that this was the first moment I was walking my bike on the whole route from Cézac; apparently my macho vanity has not died. We discussed bikes and tires and various routes back. “Vous etes francaise?” she asked, totally flattering me that my French could be anywhere near good enough to be mistaken for a French person. I told her I was American and staying in Cézac at the Maheus. We established that I had already met her “belle fille” (daughter-in-law) who does some caretaking for the Maheus. She called herself Mme. Pern, “la vielle” and her daughter-in-law Mme. Pern, “la jeune.” I said, “Oh, you mean, Mme. Pern the young and the younger.” She laughed, but made it clear that she thought she was old, and perhaps that she deserved to be old now. I told her my children’s ages as well as my own, and she said, “If you can ride that bike to here, you are still young!”

It seems that she was going to the cemetery to put flowers on the grave of her husband, dead four years now. She said, “I talk to him, but I don’t know if he hears me.” I told her that my mom does the same and that sometimes she gets angry at my father for having left her. Mme. Pern said, “La pauvre” (poor thing). She continued, “It’s sad, but it’s life. We’re all going that way sometime; it does no good to think about it too much. We go, then God decides. Then I will get to find out if my husband hears me.” I found myself saying to her, “Yes, you’re right, we should think about living.”

It felt as if we both reluctantly took leave of each other. Coasting downhill, then through the quiet town of Lascabannes and past the perfect poplars with their shadows, I hoped I would see her again. I said aloud, “A la prochaine” and found tears in my eyes once again.


Sometimes the big event of the day is watching the pool cleaner.  It is a small wheeled machine that rolls around the bottom of the pool between 8 and 10 in the morning and vacuums up dead bugs.  Every couple of minutes, a jet propulsion device on the hose itself pulls the machine backwards to some other part of the pool.  I found it fascinating.  Could one choreograph a pool full of them?

The rest of the day went by with lunch and nibbling around the edge of the huge nine foot tall armoir filled with books in many languages: Freud’s book on Moses,  the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Persian Empire, to go along with my own books on Joan of Arc and Alan Turing and “Was Einstein Right?” I wrote also, but to write about writing would confuse me.

June 18

We bought wine. We went to a small building on the outskirts of Cahors and tasted the products of the Domain Lagrezette.  We were led through this exercise by a charming young woman named Annie.  In the United States most of the wine experts in liquor stores are men, the one exception that we remember was a young woman in a store in West Roxbury who seemed to have much knowledge about wines, but we never got the feeling that she drank any of them.  This woman was different, she had much enthusiasm. Her face totally lit up when telling us how wonderful this wine would be with Roquefort cheese.

We also heard the most charming explanation of Dawn’s accent.  When we told Annie that we were from the United States (it came up in the discussion about taking wine home), she was surprised.  She said that she thought that Dawn had been born in France, but had gone away for a long time and now was back trying to relearn the language.  I wonder what other explanations she thought of before she settled on this one.  I wonder what she thought of me who could mostly understand her explanations of the wine but couldn’t speak a word.  At some point, she probably rejected the idea that we were both from Outer Space.


Actually Annie said that I did not have an accent, but obviously I don’t speak the language perfectly which is why she came up with the idea that I must have spoken the language as a child in France, moved away, and am now trying to retrieve the grammar and vocabulary...which is exactly what my mother did...Are we in the Twilight Zone yet?

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photo by: jsbuck1