The night train to Toulouse could have been a time capsule, for our sense tonight of having been transported back centuries in time. Not that the city of Toulouse lacks modern conveniences, including an Avis rental car office at the train station, ATM machines, and an autoroute throbbing with commuter traffic this morning as we made our way an hour and a half southward. But by the time we reached the hillside hamlet of Selsein and asked enough neighbors for directions to find the unmarked home of Judith Matulova, we could have been in the 1500s, which is when the house was built. After late-morning naps to catch up on sleep, we walked three kilometers down the one-lane road from Salsein to Castillons. I bought a walking stick, which prompted a smiling guy with a pencil moustache to ask me in French, “Where are your cows?” We toured a cheese museum and bought some of the local brand, Bamalou. And then, by God, here came the cows, right down the middle of Castillons, trailed by two men on foot and a dog. Later, from our window in Grande Ourse, Darlene and I watched a shepherd and two dogs work a flock of sheep down a nearby hillside. She and Deb had a chance before we left for supper to see brand new lambs in a barn a few steps up the road from the B&B. It is silent here, except for a village church bell tolling the hour. The beams in our room are more than 400 years old. Selsein is a good launching pad for tomorrow’s trip even further back in time, to more than 10,000 years ago when the first artists painted images on the cave walls at Niaux.

Friday, October 08, 2004

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