I know that most Brits discovered the Dordogne in the seventies but last week was my first trip.
The first thing that struck me is how so very rural, France is. You can drive for many miles and not even go through the odd village. A quick google and I now know that France has roughly the same size population as the UK but the UK is only a third of the size of France. I’m always banging on about us being a small over-populated island with limited resources! (Rant over.)
The satnav that came with our car rental took us the scenic route down very narrow lanes whether we liked it or not. The word ‘Nostalgie’ was at the top of the screen; I think maybe it had a sense of humour or perhaps it just knew we are Anglais.
I love the architecture there; even the new build is stylish and blends easily with the old. We went to a little place called Couze-et-Saint-Front, for lunch at Au Fil de l’Eau; there were some beautiful properties there. The yellow stone, the wooden shutters at the windows and the elegant door canopies – it’s all lovely.
There seems to be a market somewhere everyday and I particularly liked Issigeac, a charming medieval village with a Sunday morning market. We overslept that morning waking at nine so it was a bit of a rush to get out by ten to make the 40-minute drive. On the way we saw lightening and it poured with rain but we soldiered on. First stop was L’Atelier for coffee and pastries to recover from the journey and wait for the rain to stop. Then we ventured fourth (the sun did shine!) determined to buy the unusual and ended up with artichoke (interesting experience trying to cook that one when you are ‘camping’ as The Grey says) apricots, two food cloches for dining al fresco, girolles (my absolute favourite mushroom) and other goodies. We also came across two artists, Sophie Lozac’h who makes amazing sculptures of women and then photographs them, and Arte Ateliers where there were some fabulous paintings.
Another day we went, on the advice of our wonderful hosts, Lisanne and Den, to Chateau Feely, a family-run vineyard where they make biodynamic, organic wines. On arrival I confessed to Caro Feely, the owner, that I am an author (www.gillbuchanan.co.uk) and was formulating a story line for my current novel which involves, Roger who is forced into early retirement and vineyards. (Working title: The Long Marriage) The trouble was I was so wound down in holiday mode that I’d forgotten to take pen and paper to make notes. After a bit of scurrying pen and paper were found and Caro gave us a very interesting tour of the vineyard and winery together with a tasting. We learnt about how they farm the grapes by hand and without the use of pesticides. They have created a biodiverse environment for the vines to thrive in.
It turns out your typical wine contains nasty sulphites which are bad for your health. By the end of it The Grey pronounced he was only drinking organic wine from now on. He’s a very all or nothing kind of guy.
Wonderful cottage for the week
We stayed for the week in one of the luxury cottages at Domaine de Leygue (peacefulFrance.com) owned by Lisanne and Den who proved to be the perfect hosts full of helpful suggestions of places to visit and restaurants to try. Frances Field, our cottage, was so comfortable and we had the most beautiful view from our terrace. I have never slept so well away from home; it really is peaceful France and it did The Grey the world of good. He has returned to Blighty rested and invigorated. It is a worry.
As our Ryan Air flight landed at Stanstead on time, they played a fanfare with some inane announcement after which The Grey shouted out, ‘Hurrah, welcome to Brexit land!’ as I slid down in my chair.
Je ne regret rien.
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