Europe Day 9 : Limoges – Aurillac – Auvergne

The friends we were staying with in Limoges had some personal responsibilities over the next few days and so we had Friday morning to wander on our own in the city of Limoges before another friend picked us up in the afternoon for a two day adventure in the mountains of Auvergne which is in the Massif Centrale.

There is no doubt that we had been eating well thus far in our travels, but what we had lacked was variety.  Don’t get me wrong, the food was delicious and we enjoyed it, but it became a bit too much meat, butter, cheese and bread after more than a week of it.  I can’t even believe I just wrote that considering I’ve always said that I could live on bread, cheese & wine; clearly it’s not true. So, after a lazy morning, we made our way into the town to shop for some souvenirs and then stopped for an espresso at the Fabrique du Café where we lingered for quite a while just watching people and in no particular rush.

After walking around and browsing through shops for a while, we were hungry and decided to make our way to Vemillion, the Sri Lankan restaurant our friend had recommended so we could introduce a little change to our palates.  My son ordered Samosas and Tandoori Chicken with Cabbage and I opted for the Vegetarian Thali (pronounced Thaa-LEE), which is a South Indian traditional large plate that is filled with small portions of a variety of different foods.  We rounded out the meal with an order of Garlic Naan and a half bottle of white wine.  And yes, we asked for the food to be extra spicy since the owner mentioned they cook it very mild for the French.  Not only was the food quite good (not as good as homemade), but my taste buds felt like they’d come out of dormancy.

My son enjoyed the ground beef samosas with hot chili pickle as well as the tender and flavorful chicken.  My thali included potatoes cooked in a tangy tomato sauce, stewed eggplant which had been cooked in spices with tamarind, sautéed spinach, pakoras (fritters), a spicy & delicious lentil daal and basmati rice.  The daal was definitely my favorite but I enjoyed every morsel on the plate.  Too full for dessert or coffee, we made our way back to our temporary home and packed up for our overnight journey.

Our friend picked us up in the late afternoon and we began our drive to her parents’ home in Cantal, Auvergne. As we drove, she filled us in on some history of her town, told us about her family and the family farm, talked about politics (as most French enjoy doing), and enjoyed the sights around us.  We stopped at the town of Aurillac, where she attended university, pulling in just as France won the world cup match against Belgium which was cause for much celebration around us.  Aurillac is known for its craftsmanship in umbrellas and all around you there are umbrella shops and alleys with umbrellas hanging from the sky.  These are not the umbrellas you buy for $2 at Penn Station in New York City.  One can see the quality in these handmade versions that start at prices around 75 Euros and go into the hundreds depending on fabric and design. After stopping for a leisurely cup of coffee and soda, we picked up a couple of pizzas from a pizzeria in town and some wine from a local shop (Chateau De Lancyre Pic Saint Loup) from a region I’d never tried before, and continued our drive to Cantal.

We arrived at my friend’s family farm around 8pm and decided to do some exploring after we had settled in a bit.  Her parents were out for the evening dancing with friends, and it felt good to stretch our legs in the quiet of the mountains after so many days in large cities.  My son was happy to run around and goof off in the wilderness and have things to climb on to just for the fun of it.  Once hunger set in, we warmed up the pizza, made a salad of tomatoes & shallots and ate outside on the picnic bench enjoying the drastic change in our atmosphere.  The pizza was ok, the tomatoes were delicious and the wine very good.  I am still amazed at how much good wine can be found in France for less than 10 Euros. After another walk to digest our dinner, we set off to bed for some rest from our long day.

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