Hi folks, Pearl here. Pia and I just came back from visiting our brother, his wife and their family in Tourreilles, France, a small village 30 minutes outside Carcassonne.
Tourreilles only has 100 inhabitants—most of whom are Karen’s relations—and has retained its old-time charm—there are no commercial stores in the whole village. It was truly wonderful to get away from the trappings of modern life; with no internet service, we really felt isolated (in a good way) from the outside world.
Karen’s grandfather, “Papi,” took us on a walking tour of Tourreilles—it takes about 30 minutes to walk through the village—and showed us the fountain that used to be the sole source of water for the villagers, the cemetery where generations of residents are buried, the fruit trees that feed the locals (the plums were exceptional) and the stone houses that make up most of the village. On our third day there, Papi took us on a truck ride all around his vineyards—the family has been producing wine for centuries—where he explained the different methods of producing grapes. I wish I understood more of what he was saying because we were getting an insider’s view of the life on the vineyards.
Karen’s parents, Jacques and Cecile, took us on a long hike up the surrounding mountains, and we saw the beautiful landscape of the village. There are apparently many wild boars in the surroufing woods that people come to hunt for pleasure! Later in the week, they planned a picnic on the summit of the mountains where we ate good fresh food (mostly from Papi’s organic garden) while watching the sun set and listening to Pablo perform Grateful Dead covers on his guitar.
Some of our other favorite moments include the family reunion that Jacques and Cecile hosted, where they served an authentic African couscous dinner out on their veranda; trying the Cassoulet and Fricassee, regional dishes of the area, at La Maison de la Blanquette; and visiting the medieval city of Carcassonne with Neil who wants to grow up to be a knight! Most of all, we enjoyed spending time with the French side of our family: the family dinners cooked by Cecile, playing Trivial Pursuit in half-English/half-French, reading to Neil, watching Neil and Marion splash in the pool, and jamming with Pablo on his guitar. We are sad to leave our French family behind but we are looking forward to our next family reunion.
Pia and I had an overnight layover in Amsterdam on our return flight to NYC so we decided to make the most of our time there and had a nice adventure in the city. Our first stop was at Vondelpark where we watched an outdoor concert amidst the tons of locals and their bikes. The band, Acda + DeMunnik Met Band, must have been popular because there were hundreds of shouting fans there with their kids as well as their grandparents, picnicking on the grass while listening to the music and smoking their hookahs. In the few hours of daylight we had in the city, we walked around the Old South neighborhood as well as the Jordaan and Western Canals. It was such a peaceful experience—we felt like we experienced the Amsterdam that locals know. Both of us could really see living there, feeling so at home walking around the city and canals. We ate dinner at Moeders and ordered an authentic Dutch meal (hachee, suddervlees en stamppot). Then, we popped into a coffeeshop around the corner and played some pool. All in all, it was a wonderful little adventure to conclude our trip to Europe.