Tuesday, 29 June 2021

Road trip number . . .

No idea. I've lost count of them over the years but they take up (welcomely) a large amount of memory space in my head.

As our lad will be coming back home in a few weeks after his studies in carpentry and will cram his current belongings into a small white Clio with no room for his bike, it was the perfect excuse to go and collect said item and have a . . . holiday. A what? Yes, one of those things where you go off somewhere else and don’t carry out all the usual day to day home stuff. I love our new house but haven’t actually left it for ten months for more than about three hours at any one time.

I arrived in Périgueux and located my titchy air b and b flat at the top of an interesting 1930s/40s block and was delighted to be in the middle of a city for a change. Ezra joined me and we wandered at length savouring the unusual experience of choosing a restaurant. A restaurant! I haven’t as many people haven’t, sat outside a restaurant and glanced over a menu for maybe a year and a half? We ate and chatted and discussed what we might do the following day, which would of course involve a lot of meandering in the car and stopping at mostly overlooked and unsung villages and towns. We are still keen to one day jointly produce a book of places that would never be mentioned in any usual guide book - got a good stock of photos ready….

 hallway of my B and B building

                                                   Home is where the tea is - my fave old teapot 

After a good sleep, apart from a fruitless mosquito hunt in the wee small hours, I did the usual morning routine and then went to meet Ezra at his college – the Compagnons du Devoir; I’ve probably blogged about the place before but in case I haven’t . . . the C de D is an extraordinary institution which exists to provide intensive and incredibly good quality tuition in practical skills such as carpentry, roofing, plumbing, locksmithery (is that a word?) landscaping, leatherwork, shoemaking, etc. It is intensive with the apprentices working for local companies and learning in the evenings and at weekends but well worth it if you are committed to taking up a trade. 

                Indescribably complex structures being built by a student at the Compagnons du devoir

Kate n’ Ezra road trips generally consist of no planning other than a brief look at a town to head for and then see what transpires, with the proviso that all tangents and derivations are allowed even if the ‘plan’ is altered by noting a roadside sign to an abandoned mine, clump of disused factories, a lake/pond/river that could be get-in-able, etc. The weather should be preferably not bright and sunny but atmospherically misty or drizzly; good for walking and bringing out the best in any insolite (quirky/unusual/bizarre) attributes of a town or village.

                                            House martin nest with several years of poo history


The weather was in fact, hot sunny and better suited to straight forward tourism so we opted for a visit to Sarlat le Canéda, a ridiculously pretty Dordogne town, stopping at St Cyprian which was magnificent with its honey stone buildings and narrow back streets, and a vide grenier! (boot sale). I was restrained and only acquired a fanciful late Victorian, Stoke on Trent, two euro, cheese dish – imagine the journey in time and distance this object has made to end up in rural France . . .

Salat was bulging with camper vans, tourists and a few miles of market – mostly dream catchers, knock-off bags, racks of the same clothing, etc and very little local stuff so after a quick tour we moved on. Picnic by a river, lots of exploration of quaint villages, rolling hills and forest, then back to base via a detour to look (no photos) at a bizarre series of cave entrances and serious-looking metal doors where police ‘practice’. The signs didn’t say what they practiced but there certainly wasn’t a visitor center or gift shop.

Supper was chips and deeply suspect meat in batter things at a beer n’ chips emporium that Ezra frequents on a Sunday evening with his college mates. Enjoyable, but a one off for me . . .

The second day dawned promisingly overcast and a lot cooler, ideal for a more random driving day.

I breakfasted first in a small Périgueux square, sketched and listened to the locals as they ate seafood and drank white wine (9 am) . . .

                                                           Lovely rock paving slab in Périgueux

I met up with Ezra and after a brief map-inspection, Brantome was chosen as the start point, not a ‘plus beau village de France’ which seemed odd as it was extremely beau with its abbey (oldest bell tower in the country) wide river, old bridges and parklands. A walk around in the mizzle (mist/drizzle) revealled a gentle unkeptness to the rest of the town which obviously didn’t qualify it for the hallowed badge of PBVDF.

                                                                   Brantome, not a PBVDF

From this point the spontaneous road trip began, wandering across country via an abandoned hamlet, mill and waterway which could have featured in Andreï Tarkovski's Stalker, but a little more picturesque, then onto Riberac, a non-touristy town with two churches, one Romanesque and a larger concrete 50s (I think) small version of the Périgueux cathedral which was experiencing structural problems either due to being made of concrete or being on a hill, or both. Small delights of the unplanned trip - a ‘chemin des abeilles’ – lane of the bees, behind the older church; lovely herb and flower filled gardens, hives and a small building containing interesting info about bees and a glass hive so one could observe the insects' comings and goings.

The day's picnic was enjoyed under the open car boot lid with requested atmospheric drizzle being a little too forceful to sit out in. Roast chicken, tomatoes and strawberries from the Périgueux morning market.

The next town was a Plus Beau village Aubeterre, and was so - ancient stone houses tucked into the hillside, pretty market square, lots of busy restaurants and antique shops and impressive chateau. The rain had morphed from melancholic drizzle to medium downpour so we stopped the wanderings and returned to collect Ezra's bike from his college via villages with intriguing names such as Festalemps and many, many ending with AC (Bardenac, Rouffiac, Brossac, Douzillac, etc,  - apparently ac means water source.

                                                  Magnificent church doorway in Aubeterre

Bee comings and goings


        Unusual 50s/40s? concrete and mosaic pillars in the worryingly unstable-looking concrete church

The day ended with cakes eaten in my micro-flat and a hunt for an open restaurant which seemed unlikely on a rainy Sunday evening, but joy of joys, we came across a small Indian/Afghan takeaway, the patron of which warned us that the food would be piquant! Spicy Indian food in France? Nah . . . but it was piquant, and excellent, eaten in the rain overlooking the Dordogne river after a perfect road trip day.






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