Every once in awhile you come upon a scene that is so perfect, so unbelievably beautiful, that it seems all the stars must have aligned just for that moment. It is always completely unexpected and can never be duplicated – or forgotten. Example: A friend was out in her kayak on a local lake early one morning last week. She was alone, with mist rising from the water, when she heard a strange sound. She paddled around a corner to see a man, alone on his porch on an island, playing an oboe. The music drifted across the water and she said it was so haunting she described it as ‘magical.’ Staying perfectly still for several minutes, the man never noticed her – but she said it is a moment she’ll never forget.
This started a conversation about magical places. For me, this happened in Sarlat, France, in 2008. As a little background, Sarlat-la-Canéda has been around since the 9th century and is one of the most well-preserved towns from 14th century France. We had gone there for the Saturday market and it was very crowded. The center of the old town, where the market is held, is full of gorgeous honey-colored stone buildings and it feels like stepping back in time. Vendors were set up shoulder to shoulder selling mushrooms and truffles, foie gras and local fruit, cheese and dried sausages, along with handmade jewelry and clothing and trinkets.
We came into a small square in the shadow of the 12th century belltower of the Cathedral of Saint-Sacerdos and heard music. People were crowded around the musicians … a man and a woman playing a guitar and violin. We stopped, took pictures and video, and then I just stood and soaked it in … surrounded by gorgeous medieval architecture, the notes of the violin floated over the colorful umbrellas set up by the vendors. Behind me was La Creperie in an ancient half-timbered building, its windows adorned with scrolled wrought-iron balconies. In the next building – local golden stone with blue-paned windows – a man came to the second-floor balcony and leaned against the rail, watching the tourists below. The music fit the scene perfectly, past and present colliding. We bought a CD from the musicians – they call themselves Paris Londres – and to this day that song is the soundtrack for Sarlat: bringing back memories of a warm September morning in a timeless village in France.