December 18, 2010 Marseillette, France

Today is primarily a travel day. After checking out of the Rambla Praktik (which we highly recommend – economical, centrally located and perfectly fine rooms), we take a taxi to our Hertz pick-up location. First we can’t find it, then the person in the information booth is not informative and finally our GPS takes a very long time finding a signal while we drive aimlessly around. But we survive and start our trip to Marseillette.

We stop in Salt, Spain for lunch because who wouldn’t want to stop in a place named Salt? We are just figuring on some fast food because it is starting to rain and see a sign for McDonald’s. Unfortunately the sign is just a ruse and we end up driving around until we finally give up and go to a place called Viena Cafe. It is the start of a day when finding the native cuisine proves difficult. But, wait, what’s this? A sign saying that Mark Bittman of the New York Times has labeled one of their sandwiches “the best sandwich I ever had.” Well, wow, let’s get one each of the Iberian ham flauta. Really, Mark Bittman, the best? We eat it with varying degrees of gusto, John, some, Sarah, less and me, none. The next time you are in Spain and happen across the chain restaurant, Viena Cafe, remember Marymom, says “not the best sandwich I ever ate.”

Viena Cafe
Not the best

After a brief stop at the grocery store to pick up supplies, we arrive at our next lodging, Mountain View House in Marseillette. The owner, a British ex-pat, welcomes us enthusiastically. The place is very cute. It has three bedrooms and two baths and even a Christmas tree! But it is cold. Very cold. The owner assures us that all we need to do is start the wood burning stove and keep it lighted and all will be well. What? No central heating? But we are game and freezing so we get the fire going. It keeps the main room warm. The bedrooms have heaters that work a few hours a day and giant down comforters so we think we can manage. (Although both Sarah and I terrified that we will all die of carbon monoxide poisoning which explains why we are both up in the middle of the night.)

It's cold in here!
It’s cold in here!

Merry Christmas tree
Merry Christmas tree

Sarah imaking tea
Sarah making tea

But then there is the problem of dining. There is not a single restaurant open in town. The butcher and boulanger here are victims of the economic turndown. So we end up driving a distance to the only place open, El Campo Pizzeria and Italian/Spanish restaurant. We have some assorted dried meats, a salad and pasta. All fine. Just not what we expected for our first dinner in France. Where’s the foie gras?! John’s spaghetti carbonara looks the most dramatic.

Spaghetti Carbonara
John’s spaghetti carbonara

We now have to make the decision whether to stick it out at the Mountain View House for another two nights or try to find more felicitous lodging in Carcassonne itself. I’d write more but I need to go feed the fire.

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