Sometimes the best days are the ones you don't anticipate to be particularly memorable. I am learning, more and more, that the perceived success of most things in life relates to expectations. When they are low, there is room to be pleasantly surprised. When they are high, it's difficult to measure up. Needless to say, I am working on the former, which I believe will be a happier route.
Anyway, one Wednesday, when the children did not have school (in France they do not have school on Wednesdays), we took advantage of a short burst of sun and drove east to the Lot department. Although only an hour and a half away, the scenery was completely different from our little, lush green valley in the Dordogne. On the docket for the day was a stop at a fortified, Medieval mill called Cougnaguet, en route to Rocamadour (pictures forthcoming!). My husband, Ben, discovered it with his friend Chris last year and I requested a trip after tasting some of the flour he brought back. It was incredible. My buttermilk pancakes and crepes have never tasted so good! And since all my favorite memories have to do with food, in some shape or form, I felt compelled to see the source of this pure goodness myself.
The road to the mill, just off the main road, which was really not much of a road--it barely fit two cars--looked like this image above. I didn't know what to expect at this point, but I was certainly intrigued.
Once we rounded this curve, the excitement set in...the cool turquoise from the river, the chartreuse green grass and the warm, limestone cliffs stopped me in my tracks. Nature created one of the prettiest color palettes I've seen to date. I quickly pulled over our van to snap a picture.
After our four children had made a sufficient amount of racket, the friendly mill operator came walking out of the building. I was relieved! He and my husband conversed in French while I tried to pick up a few words from their conversation (pretty much my strategy all the time!). As we were the only visitors at the time, we were able to begin our tour immediately.
To summarize, construction on the mill began in the late 13th century, finishing up in the middle of the next century around 1350. It has the capacity to produce 3 tons of flour each day, and the reason it was fortified was because during times of famine, it was often attacked. This mill produced flour until 1959...can you believe that? After tasting the delicious flour, we wondered why they stopped! We found it absolutely incredible that a building could function properly for hundreds of years. I wish quality like this still existed!
After some hit or miss weather all month, we were thrilled with the sunshine that day. Clearly I wasn't the only person enjoying the warmth. When I exited the mill to find out where my children had disappeared to, I discovered them all playing by the river together. No fighting, no bickering, no discontent of any kind. This was the part where low expectations paid off--I did not anticipate this moment, but it made me so happy to find them making daisy chains, tying flowers with grass and throwing sticks into the river.
At the end of our visit, the mill operator allowed us to each take a bag of flour home...so that's 6 bags in all (Gray needed some for his pancakes, right?). I couldn't wait to put them to good use. We stocked up on two bags each of the 3 types of flour--all varying in weight. Some were fine and others were more hearty. But all ground on the same, Medieval "equipment".
Funny story: when my husband left the country a couple of weeks before us, I sent him home with the flour in his carry-on suitcase--all six bags. Once in the United States, he was pulled aside at customs for a search, after the bags showed up on the scanner. They thought he was trying to smuggle in cocaine! The agent said to him, "what have you got here?". Ben then told him they were bags of flour, to which the agent replied, "is that what they are calling it these days?". After the drug test came out positive, my husband told him a little about the mill. I'm sure the agent was not amused!
More images from the afternoon below...I will never forget this day.