As usual, cooking was a scavenger hunt for a knife that could cut. Or at least cut straight without the handle shaking. The cutting boards were in sad shape and made me almost glad the light in the kitchen was poor, for they were also impossible to get truly clean. And as in every French gîte, or rental house, there was one of those rustic corkscrews with a handle made out of a chunk of gnarled grapevine. More than one vacation has been cut short by a heart attack provoked by the incorrect use of one of those, I'm certain.
The cupboards were populated with useless kitchen cast-offs, like ice cream glasses and tiny forks, but there were no potholders and only three proper wineglasses, plus two champagne flutes which were promptly broken.
The bathroom was just as thoughtfully equipped, with a useless bidet but no useful towel racks. There was an old musty armoire filled with hangers that kept falling out. And naturally, there wasn't a shower curtain. I've determined that the French detest shower curtains, and I believe we've the only family in the entire country to own one.
Then there was the leaky kitchen sink, that went from slow drip to swimming pool over the rainy Tuesday we spent inside. The plumber promised he'd arrive at five o'clock but showed up closer to eight, then stayed to chat about bullfights and bricolage until nine.
But stumble out the back door and none of that mattered. The house owned the hillside, the well-tended lawn curved down, and the view stretched forever. There was a château on the hill across the way, endless grapevines and fields of nascent sunflowers. And the house itself was beautiful, despite the funky kitchen and the faulty plumbing. It was a 12th century chapel, according to the rental announcement. I had my doubts, and the gothic-arch windows seemed a bit too perfect to be old, but the warm Gers limestone was genuine.
The location was perfect, what's more: halfway between Condom* and Montréal, hiking distance from the fortified village of Larressingle, and a stone's throw from the Way of Saint James. During le Petit's nap time, I spread out under the locust tree outside the front door and decided that those who had named Gascony le pays de cocagne were right.
* Yes, that is a real place name. One of the biggest towns in the Gers, in fact, although that doesn't mean it is a big place by any stretch. The pronunciation is closer to condo, though, so don't giggle.