Friday, 7 March 2014

Meandering road trip

Winter holidays in France, so while everyone else headed to the ski slopes, me and Ezra headed for a bit of South-Western France where there was sure to be no snow.
We had a vague idea that Agen might be interesting, mainly as it is the hyper-centre of prune production in France, and we like prunes.
We set off far too late in the morning and ate our picnic about three miles away overlooking a particularly favourite view of mine.


Auch was the first stop: majestic hilltop cathedral, of which I only have a picture of this door,


lots of shops, huge racing brown river and I'm not sure what else as we got caught in a huge downpour and retreated to the car.
We were going to stay in Agen, but got sidetracked into a small town called Lectore as it had a hotel called Hotel de Bastard — very glad we did as it was a charming place, and the hotel doubly so. It looked way above our budget, but an out of season room was actually no more than the boring motel type room we stayed in the following night.
It's odd how certain days on a trip end up being right in every way. That was one of them: great hotel, weird and wonderful meal in a local café and inspiring walks/drives/observations etc.


The next day was less successful. On arriving in Agen we walked about, went in the museum, ate a pancake and found not one solitary bag of prunes. The one remaining 'prune specialist' shop was shut, and as six stuffed prunes (stuffed with further prune) seemed to have a price tag of nine euros, I was quite relieved.
Drove onto two of the 'plus beaux village de France' which were indeed beautiful, and tourist (other than us) free; then, in the spirit of meandering holidays, decided to drive to Bergerac.
It was rather a long way. The ancient elegant and faded hotel I had been imagining didn't exist. The tourist office offered 'The family' hotel and the Europe, near the station. Both looked horrible, and one was shut. We eventually found three huge hotels in the middle that the tourist office had obviously not seen. Chose the cheapest and sank gratefully into a hot bath before stepping out to experience a fabulous meal.
The place I had decided on was having some sort of function and everything else looked too expensive so we went in "La Scala' where the food was unmemorable but the menu translations were worth the drive to Bergerac.

Egg stink with it's fingers of bread in fois gras.
Duck wipes
Omelette of the leader
Salad of crudeness with it's greenery 

This can only be surpassed by a restaurant in our town serving:
Side idiot of tomato and paving slabs of salmon.

We left early the following morning, bought a couple of croissants, drove about ten miles out of Bergerac, realised we had left all the maps in the bakery, drove back and out again. Then sallied forth into the lovely rolling hills dotted with impossibly beautiful buildings that is the Dordogne.
Ezra wanted to go to Cahors, mainly to look at the train station, so we did. Had a fine cup of tea in the station café and wandered about a bit.
I decided that we should do something madly touristy and headed off to Saint-Cirq-lapopie, thirty two KM away from Cahors along a stunning winding stretch of the Lot Valley.



(borrowed from wikipedia pic)

I'm glad we did, and I'm glad it was in March. I can imagine how impossible it would be to get there in July; the amount of spaces reserved for coaches was a fairly good indicator —this tiny fairytale place, like most of the other 'Plus beaux' villages obviously becomes a seething mass of people, ice cream, and nicknacks as the summer starts.

Set off homewards, wishing we had bought more food, and wishing both of us hadn't eaten quite so many dried apricots . . .



The best shop front of the trip


The best cat of the trip


Contrast in dining experiences: The elegant dining room of The Bastard, where we went mad and had the buffet breakfast. And the formica splendour of the 'Café du coin' where I had an excellent 'Pot au Feu', soup, wine, and Ezra a basic but comforting Spag bol, all for the price of breakfast at the hotel.



The best hotel name


And the best nightclub/church experience

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