If you have ever visited Languedoc, you might have caught a glimpse of a flat-topped mountain, which can be seen from far away. Its official name is Mont Caroux, but locally it is called La Femme Allonge, the sleeping lady. If seen in the right light, from the right viewpoint (and with enough imagination) the small peak on the left looks like a face in profile, with the crags resembling flowing tresses. The picture below is not really showing that interpretation, but it gives you an idea of the general shape of the mountain, which can be seen from as far away as Valras Plage. Apparently, the outline of Caroux has been used by mariners to help with navigation.
The mountain is a paradise for hikers and wildlife alike! There are many tracks and trails to be explored, and if you are lucky you might catch a glimpse of a mouflon,the big horned wild mountain sheep. The roads are sinuous and sometimes narrow, but there are rewards for navigating these roads!! The driver has to concentrate on the road, but the passengers can enjoy the glorious views!
I recently visited the village of Combes, which is located on the southern flank of Caroux at 500 meters altitude. My reason for going there? Food, of course! I went with friends, to eat at the Auberge de Combes.
The Auberge de Combes had been recommended to me a number of times over the years, and I was very much looking forward to the meal. The drive was beautiful and the weather just perfect for eating outside, on the shaded terrace. The views from the terrace and the dining room are amazing!
And the food was wonderful too!! Here is a picture of our amuse bouche, the pre-starter, to get us in the mood for what was yet to come: Escalivade (roasted red pepper & anchovy filet), aubergine puree in a shortcrust pastry case, and gazpacho made with heirloom tomatoes!
The starter was a delicious composition of crisp pastry, tender baby squid and tasty greens.
The next course was a crayfish bisque with wild gambas – oh so very tasty!!
For our main course, we had pan fried foie gras with roasted figs – wonderful!!
The main course was followed by a plate of tasty cheeses:
The meal finished with dessert, and three different desserts made it to our table – there might have been more on the menu, but I don’t recall. This was a peach soup with peach ice cream and a crunchy crumble topping:
The raspberries were on a bed of light pastry cream, in a crisp pastry shell, served, of course, with raspberry sorbet.
The chocolate vacherin was to die for – chocolate mousse, chocolate cream, mandarin cream, meringue AND mandarin sorbet!
Now that I’ve eaten at the Auberge de Combes, I know that the people who recommended the restaurant were right – it’s definitely one to visit!!
After all that delicious food we needed a walk – badly!! I suggested to my friends that we continue our drive up the mountain, and visit the hamlet of Douch.
Douch is on the northern slope of Caroux, at 900 meters altitude, and the road ends there. The hamlet is a popular starting point for the climb to the top of Caroux, and there is a greeter by the car park: a megalith made from locally quarried granite.
On the way from the car park to the hamlet we passed some very neat vegetable gardens.
The houses are all clustered together, sheltering one another, no doubt!
Just on the edge of the hamlet stands a communal bread oven.
The bread oven was built in 2012 by the municipality with the help of local volunteers. A sign on the wall invites visitors to make use of the oven.
Everything is there: wood for the fire, a paddle to put bread and/or pizza in and out of the oven, even some brooms to sweep out the cinders. There is a big table right next to the building, made from one huge stone slab! Such a wonderful idea, and what a welcome for visitors!
I’ve made a mental note for a future outing to Douch, armed with pizza dough and toppings – it could be great fun!!
The little chapel was unfortunately closed.
Before the advent of running water, this pump would have supplied the neighbourhood.
At the end of this narrow alley stood a most magnificent hydrangea, surrounded by other plants and flowers. Somebody must have a green thumb!
The view from the hamlet was breathtaking – a wide expanse of hills and not much else!
And then it was time to leave Douch and start our drive down the mountain again. I’ll be back, before too long!