The French Pig (from salt to ham)

Pilgrims 1

Today reminded of something my friend, Colleen always says:

"Slow down! This isn't a race; it's your life."

Whenever Kate and I take a road trip, I slow down. Ambling at the required highway speeds, we talk in broad strokes and minute detail, marking points on our calendars in no specific time-frame, about everything in the universe. This afternoon's drive with a tank full of gas, our bellies full of poule au pot, and the back of the van stuffed with a beautiful-but-broken couch, sacks full of cold weather gear, cameras and other devices, was no different. A lesson in pacing. Slow down. Pull over here. Take a picture of the sea of dried fern forests. Oh my gosh, look over there. There's a ladder and a platform in the middle of nowhere. Maybe for hunters. Maybe just to enjoy the vast expanse of undergrowth the color of baked potato skins and the spindly pines that stick up like closed beach umbrellas on a December afternoon.

Photo by Kate Hill

Photo by Kate Hill

The couch goes first to the English couch hospital just before we enter the mountains in earnest. Then a stop for afternoon hot chocolate in Orthez. As we drive some more and the mountains grow up around us and the sun sets. We arrive in St Jean Pied de Port just in time for Monday happy hour: a glass of Basque hard cider. 

Photo by Elaine Tin Nyo

Photo by Elaine Tin Nyo

After happy hour, a little WiFi refresher before dinner. Dinner. In the only place in town open on Mondays. A very nice place overlooking the river Nives. Kate had the duck confit with pomme frites; I have the Duck Parmentier. If you don't know, Duck Parmentier is what shephard's pie would be like if sheep were ducks. And shepherds were French. The bestest, most magical purée of potatoes (whipped with duck fat, no doubt) covering a layer of shredded duck confit stewed with a touch of silky onions. When I have time, perhaps when you take out for that drink you promised me, I'll tell you the story of Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, the culinary Johnny Appleseed of France (if apples were potatoes and trees were recipes).

Photo by Elaine Tin Nyo

Photo by Elaine Tin Nyo

Photo by Elaine Tin Nyo

Photo by Elaine Tin Nyo