Saturday, 31 May 2014

Day trip to Castres

Following on from previous post.
On a Day Out, I would generally be pulled in the direction of the sea (by myself); I left it to Ezra to choose: Mazamet and Castres.
My only recollection of the former was being lost, hungry and that no shops were open. The latter . . . an extremely run-down, and therefore interesting to us, hotel with purple-flowered wallpaper and a mysterious bidet on wheels.
The drive was supposed to encompass a viewing of the now-disused Gold Mine at Salsigne to the North of Carcassonne. We couldn't find it due to an absence of notices saying Gold mine this way, but I suppose the local population wouldn't want people wandering about in the hope of finding a left over nugget. Also we were too hungry.
I pulled in Starsky and Hutch style on spotting this restaurant on the D118. I love places like this, suspended in a 1960s/70s time warp: the same sign outside still there after braving the decade's elements, the owners disinterest in tarting the place up and an emphasis on good down to earth grub.
It was better than I expected: friendly waitress, a menu at 13 euros, including rabbit in mustard sauce, and an authentic non-designer interior.

After 'mimosa eggs', the afore-mentioned rabbit and chocolate banana tarts, we paid and continued happily along to Mazamet with that wonderful benevolent feeling that settles after a great value and overly ample meal.
Mazamet was a rain blur through the window. Apart from a brief scuttle through a downpour to look at a train (Ezra's request) we moved on, driving through the river valley and observing the various factories, used and disused that had established the town as a textile centre.

My vague memory of Castres being a place with a crappy hotel and a bidet were rapidly replaced by realising that it's a smart town, a little like a tiny Gerona with its riverside houses. Perhaps it has come up in the world since our visit; it certainly seemed so. The buildings looked well-cared for; the Goya museum, fascinating except we arrived five minutes before closing time; and the formal gardens clipped and obviously loved.

We Took Tea in a very sumptuous shop that had a menu of sixty million teas or thereabout. My Assam (with egg timer to check brewing time) was perfect and Ezra's Matcha tea milkshake thing deemed to be fantastic.
After this we visited a sinister church which we loved, where some florists were attempting to brighten the interior for a wedding with huge vases of white lilies.

Shopping never being high on the agenda, I did manage to drag my son into an opticians as he really needs sunglasses.
My opinion of Castres being a charming place was confirmed by an example in The Art of Shop Assisting. The young woman spent about twenty minutes assisting Ezra with style, information about lenses etc; then adjusting our final very small budget choice's arms/frames etc to give the perfect vision and symmetry.

Altogether a good Day Out.

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