Ventenac and Paraza (June 13, 2013)

Day 13: A beautiful graveyard, some stunning art, and a bunch of lazing about. Also, cheese hats.

An extremely slow morning. Ben went to the next town to hit an ATM. Eric hit the epicerie to get the bread and croissant we ordered the day before. Eventually we got underway and headed to Chateau Ventenac (a winery we remembered from our last trip on the canal).


Black swans, hanging out at the canal.

Unfortunately we got there just as they closed for lunch. We declined to eat at the restaurant we had a poor lunch at the last time we were here, and ate leftover pizza on the top deck instead. Then some folks napped while the rest of us wrote postcards in the salon.

When the winery was open again, we went in for a tasting. Sadly the wine didn’t live up to our memory, but we did buy a liter each of the white and the red from the wall taps. (Have I discussed the wall taps? A lot of the wineries have taps of their vin de table available for a very low price per-liter, and will fill whatever bottles you bring them. It’s not great wine, but it’s better than you’d expect for 2E a liter, and there’s something very entertaining about bringing them plastic water jugs and filling them with wine.) Then we went and found LaPoste and mailed our postcards.

  
The canal makes a funny pass over another body of water…

Then we were somewhat at loose ends, but decided to try heading to Paraza. We got glacé at the local cafe, and then wandered about. We followed signs, but failed to find the chateau or the library, but when looking for the pre-Christian burial ground, we found a very nice cemetery.


“A man of many ideas.” (Mike says he wants this on his tombstone.)


I love the contrast of the real ivy and the carved.


Perpetual concessions!

Heading back towards the boat, Carolyn agitated to find the local art gallery. We mocked her slightly, but when we went in, we were incredibly glad she’d insisted on it.

The gallery had a single-artist exhibition going. Much of the work was on a single theme: the plane trees of the canal. As I mentioned a few entries ago, the trees lining the canal are dying of some horrible fungus, which is killing thousands of them a year. They’re replacing them slowly with trees of a different variety that are resistant, but in the meantime the canal is being decimated.

The artwork was completely gut wrenching. The gallery owner spoke very little english, so my understanding of the artist was unfortunately limited. I think we understood him to say that she had worked as an arborist on the canal, though that might have been a misunderstanding. But she certainly has a deep understanding and empathy for the trees. Eric and I, and Carolyn and Aatish, ended up buying some of her watercolors, many of which were also of the trees of the canal. I also spent quite a while looking through a couple of books of past exhibits of her art, which I also fell in love with (unfortunately, the books were not for sale).

Here is the artist’s facebook page, and here is another website with a book of some of her work, and this appaears to be her main website. Anyone with more French than me (which is to say anyone with any french at all) who wants to tell me more about her, I would love to know more.

Outside the gallery, there was a painting which Tish and Carolyn found strangely compelling and familiar.

 

We got back on the boat and headed for the lock outside Sallèles-d’Aude. I cooked up the onions in duck fat, boiled the potatoes, and fried them in the onions and made hash. We excavated the duck from the rest of the can and crisped it up, cut up the amazing tomatoes…


Amazing tomato!

…reheated the couscous, and got all the rest of the leftovers up on deck and had an amazing dinner.

At dinner on the top deck, we brought up le fromage chapeau, but it turned out there were not so many insects as to merit needing them.
Silliness ensued.


Carolyn, of course, looks good in any hat.


Tish is having None Of This Nonsense.


Mike is a good sport.


Ben tries out French nonchalance…


Eric is dubious…


…but soon discovers that with immense powers of concentration, he can make it rotate like a propeller beanie! (NB: concentration may not have had anything to do with it.)


Kendra thinks it makes a better hat…


…than a veil.

The sky was doing pretty amazing things by this point. I went for a walk and took a bunch of pictures…


Carolyn communed with the ducks…


…and Ben apparently didn’t appreciate me checking out his ass. Hrmph.

Then I made pain perdue. The end.