Somehow Sara had never visited the La Couvertoirade, the knights templar village, high up and remote on the Causses du Larzac.
Wednesday was (yet another) glorious day and the fortifications of this wonderfully intact medieval village looked particularly splendid. We were almost the only people to be strolling around; the tourist season clearly ended at the start of October and almost all the shops and cafes were closed.
We then did a rather mad, circuitous drive across the Causses towards Montpeyroux. I had forgotten to pack my map, but we were not in a hurry, and so meandered around, discovering that there are some pretty bleak isolate parts of this huge plateau. The box bushes which are a feature of the Causses were all looking distinctly brown – dead from the drought – rather than autumnal, adding to a rather sombre aspect.
Then down the winding road off the plateau towards the vineyards which stretch to the south. By now we were peckish and disappointed to find the Montpeyroux restaurant closed. On to St Saturnin, where there is another restaurant frequented by the wine trade as well as tourists. This being France and after two o’clock, I was not optimistic. But no, we were offered a splendid, huge plate of charcuterie and impressive range of cheeses. Just what we wanted, and all for 15 euros for the two of us.
The aim of the day had been to visit our very good friends, Graeme and Alice in Octon and arrived, as planned, for tea (I had brought a delicious cake from le Vigan!).
Alice is a childhood friend of Sara’s niece, Amelia, and I had the good luck to meet her on another trip with Sara years ago. She is full of warm, enthusiasm, intelligence and compassion. And Graeme is the same, though somewhat less effervescent!
We talked about their life choice, compared with that of so many of the friends. Graeme left his life as an up and coming doctor in a London hospital 17 years ago to learn winemaking. He then bought little vineyards scattered around their home in Octon and now has an established domaine, Trois Terres.
Alice, who had been a consultant in developing countries, joined him in this adventure. I asked her if she had any regrets about leaving her old job, which had involved much travelling round the world. No, she said, she was completely happy with sharing the work with the vines and in the cave (selling wine) as well as bringing up the two children in a happy, safe rural environment.
Life is financially more limited and precarious than their previous one in London, but they have no regrets leaving this stress behind and living in a peaceful village.
Graeme, who has been dividing his week between winemaking and being a GP in the village, had been going to give up being a doctor all together this year and concentrate on the vines. Luckily he did not carry this out as this year’s catastrophic nearly five-month drought has had a serious effect on wine production. Indeed, Graham said, the obvious signs of climate change are making him think he may have to abandon one of his vineyards because of lack of water and get land near Lac de Salagou, a man-made reservoir beside their village, where the soil is not so good for wine but the water is available.
Then we had to leave, as two separate parties of Dutch arrived to buy wine. Our last sight was of Graham filling one of the car boots to the brim with cases of his wine.