last but not

I woke up this morning to the incredible smell of fresh strawberry jam being made by my aunt from the remainder of our solstice bounty. What pairs best? Fresh baguette and croissants. This is easy to accomplish. My mother and I drove the short distance to the nearby town of Saint-Remèze where both the local baker and butcher occupy a space seemingly no larger than my New York City bathroom (not large). Two cereal baguettes, two plain. Three croissants, two pain chocolat. Back home, around the breakfast table. Hot coffee, warm jam, bread baked hours before. I am in France and I am going to eat like I am for as long as I can.

We are employing "second to last" in front of everything. I am leaving soon. This is my second to last full day, my second to last lunch with my family, my second to last (or is it my last?) slice of bread. I am not anxious to leave here, all this, the good life. But I am anxious about "my future" so I am heading back to Portugal in a couple of days to tackle some needed administrative tasks and simultaneous, inevitable, soul searching that will go along with it as I plan my next steps. It's been lovely here, a break from reality, but the time has all-too-quickly come.

In the meantime we headed to my (probably) second to last medieval town, Aigueze.

Vaulted passageways, fortified walls and towers. A beautiful 11th century church plus a so-called curiosity shop (!) that stole my touristic heart. Beautiful pottery, delightful bric a brac, local honey, pâté, and lavender oil. Aigueze seems designed to charm and mission: fully accomplished.

The only letdown? Being denied access to the tiniest of castles atop the hill, what I would imagine to otherwise be the main draw of such a village yet blocked off at every entrance. But the watchpath surrounding at least provided some of the best views of the Ardèche yet.

Back home and we all gave in to one of the most pleasant second to last afternoons of the week. The weather was perfect, the winds not too strong. A lunch on the terrace turned into leisurely sitting around talking eating drinking for hours. The best. Eventually another dinner by Jan, another walk. For now all the second to last simple pleasures I can soak in.