Tuesday 25 February 2014

Culture day…..

Today was designated ‘Culture day’ – I was determined that we would not leave France without having been inside a Chateau.  It’s taken us almost a month to track one down that is actually open in February.  The Chateau de Monbazillac (click on the link) is just south of Bergerac, and opened for business again about a week ago.  We decided to go this afternoon as the morning opening times are 10.00 till 12.00 and by the time we’ve dragged our lazy arses out of bed (well, it’s dark in the mornings here and we haven’t been waking up until 8.30!), showered, breakfasted, walked Ozzy, and driven there we wouldn’t have had much time.  So we had a lazy morning, a late brunch and headed over there about 1.00 in time for opening at 2.00.  It only took us half an hour though, so we had plenty of time to wander around the outside before they opened the doors.





You could see for miles from the grounds – it’s just a pity that it wasn’t a clearer day like yesterday.











The last three pics are of the Chateau kitchen in the cellar – the sink, the large fireplace with oven at the back and the well - it wasn’t nearly as bright as the photos suggest – a dark and gloomy place to work in the 16th century I suspect!  I took lots of photos but I won’t bore you with any more – the above are just a few.

The weather had cleared a little more by the time we came outside and the sun was shining, but not for long.  As we headed west back towards the gite we had a terrific storm, rain coming down in torrents!  And still the locals drive like maniacs along the narrow country roads – we were almost taken out a couple of times on bends with them cutting over to the wrong side of the road!  But we made it back in one piece, and guess what – it’s still bloody raining!  Again!!!

The best yet…..

Yesterday (Monday) was the best day yet, weather wise.  We went to Ste Foy to do our grocery shopping in warm sunshine, 16 deg and rising, and the sunshine continued non-stop all day.  We sat out with coffee and I got a load of washing dry in the light breeze.  Ozzy had a lovely time playing with Poppy, our host’s dog, and Pickles, our host’s pet sitter’s dog (our hosts have returned to the UK to look after grandchildren for 10 days).

A few more photos of the gite and surroundings, taken about 5.30 pm, just as the sun was starting to go down.



The pool, obviously not in use at the moment!




As you can see, just about in the middle of nowhere, with very few other houses visible, just a farm or two up the road.  It’s been very peaceful here, and a nice break, despite the weather being so wet.  But we are having to start to think about returning to reality now – we leave here on Friday, taking a leisurely drive back up through France, stopping at Tours on Friday night, and Rouen on Saturday night, using the tunnel to cross back to good old Blighty on Sunday afternoon. 

Wednesday 19 February 2014


The weather having improved a bit over the last few days, we went to Bergerac today.  What a lovely town it is!  We had a wander around the market and then found the Tourist Office, which was actually open, and came out with some literature and details of some attractions which are open at this time of year (unfortunately most are shut!).  We then just had a wander and found the old historic part of the town, heading down towards the Dordogne river.

P2190004 Memorial to the brave men and women of the French Resistance



This monument commemorates the 1870 war



The infamous Cyrano de Bergerac (6 March 1619 – 28 July 1655) was a French dramatist and duelist. In fictional works about his life he is featured with an overly large nose, which people would travel from miles around to see. Portraits suggest that he did have a big nose, though not nearly as large as described in works about him.

On our meander down towards the river we found lots of narrow, intriguing little lanes and some fabulously old buildings:








The river is still very high!


We found a river-side bar for a coffee as it had started to rain. France ain’t cheap anymore as this photo proves!  6 € for 2 small cafe-au-lait!!!


It had stopped raining by the time we’d had our coffee, and we wandered back towards the centre on town and a walk around the Notre Dame. 

Notre Dame church in Bergerac was built in the 19th century to accommodate the whole congregation of the expanding city.
It was designed by the architect Paul Abadie in Neo-Gothic style. It is topped with an 80-meter high steeple whose first floor opens on the nave while acting as the gallery. The nave is flanked by two narrow side aisles. A transept is in front of the apse with an ambulatory and has with three vaults. Two beautiful pictures can be seen in the East chapel:
- a Worship of the Magi, attributed to Pordenone, a Venetian painter, student of Giorgione; and especially
- a Worship of the Shepherds, attributed to Ferrari Milanese, student of LĂ©onard de Vinci
In the West chapel, an immense Aubusson tapestry with Bergerac’s coat of arms, is on display.





A beautiful church, with some lovely stained glass windows, but sadly the photos I took of the windows didn’t come out well!

We loved Bergerac, and would like to come back at some point in the future to explore it further.

Tuesday 11 February 2014

Getting around a bit, despite the weather…..

Unfortunately, as we are only about 30 miles east of Bordeaux we are getting the same weather as the UK, although not as extreme.  We have only had one day so far that it hasn’t rained at some point, and the temperatures are not very different to the UK either.  Not what we were hoping for, we knew it wouldn’t be great at this time of year, but we were hoping for a little more sunshine and slightly higher temperatures.  Still, never mind, we are warm and cosy in our gite, and we are managing to get out for a couple of hours most days.

On Sunday it was fairly dry first thing so we decided to find the path we had spotted from Ste Foy La Grande, on the opposite side of the Dordogne river.  We couldn’t find anywhere to park the car at the start of the path near the river museum, but were lucky to find a picnic area a little further along, so we parked there.  The path was fairly well kept apart from a few muddy patches, so we managed to let Ozzy off the lead and had a decent walk along the banks for a while, before we started to come across ‘Prive’ signs and the path deteriorated into a muddy quagmire.  Knowing that property in France is often unfenced, but suspecting it was a public right of way across private land, (we were traversing a small vineyard at the time), but, fearing the wrath of an angry Frenchman waving a shotgun, we turned around and went back the way we had come, passing the picnic area and continuing along to opposite the museum until the path petered out onto a road.  Returning to the car, we just made it before the heavens opened once again.


You can see how much the river is up by the drowned trees and bushes


Just testing the zoom on my camera – this is across on the St Foy La Grande side of the river


Set into the concrete along the path was this brass shell shape – no inscription, so we wondered as to it’s significance

Yesterday, having heard about the large market in Castillon-la-Bataille – we decided to head over there.  Unfortunately the weather was against us again and it rained all the way there.  The wind was blowing a hooley and the stall holders were packing up – there weren’t very many of them to begin with!  We had a little walk around, but it really wasn’t the weather for a wander, it was too cold so I only took one photo, of the town hall.


Notice the sign in the foreground – that’s for you, Russ!!! You’ll know to what I am referring!!! 

So we went and did some grocery shopping for the next few days instead!  Today we have had another visit to the Lac De Gurson to allow Ozzy to have a good run – our third.  Today there was a chap with a leaf blower clearing the leaves of the paths.  Getting ready for the summer season?  I somehow doubt that it’s going to be anytime soon!!!  From a cold, dry morning with a freezing wind, guess what?  It’s raining again!!!

Thursday 6 February 2014

Ste-Foy La Grande…..

We went and had a wander around Ste –Foy La Grande, one of the nearest local towns, this morning.  The weather started off gloomy and drizzly but improved as the day wore on, the sun coming out a little before we left to return to our gite.  The town was given the name in honour of a young Roman girl, Foy, the daughter of a Roman aristocrat from Agen.  She was born around 290AD and, having become a Christian, refused to relinquish her faith, preferring instead to submit to torture and death at the age of 13.  Several miracles were reported and she was revered after her death.  Legend tells of a monk from Conques who brought back her remains to his Abbey, which was later established in the Manse Du Venerol in 1076, near to a Priory where Ste Foy was venerated.  It was therefore decreed that this become the name of the new town created by Alphonse de Poitiers.  In 1363, the town, having developed rapidly, was given the name Sainte-Foy La Grande, probably to distinguish it from others of the same name.


The building which houses the tourist office (which was closed) dates from the 15th century.  The “ennobling turret” was added in 1690, awarded by Henri IV to a consul of the city who lived in the house, for service rendered to the crown.


This half timbered house next door to the tourist office also dates from 15th century, and apparently the sculpted beams on the facade depict medieval images of people and animals representing good and evil


Yet another half-timbered building

The sun having started to come out by now, and somewhat bored with looking at half-timbered buildings, we decided that a walk by the river was in order.


The Dordogne River, running extremely swiftly, and very high indeed.  It seems that not only in the UK is there flooding, this is part of the Quay, disappearing beneath the water.  We have also heard of severe flooding in Bordeaux.  We spotted another path on the opposite bank, which looked like a pleasant walk, so we will explore that another day, along with the River Museum, and the Maison Des Vins which are also on the other side of the river.

Tuesday 4 February 2014

A warm, sunny day at last…..

The weather has had a different feel to it today.  It’s like a nice spring day back in the UK.  The sun has been shining since we got up, with a gentle breeze blowing.  I’ve even managed to get some jeans dry on the washing line.  I’ve also taken a photo of the gite – I’ve put off taking one until we had some sunshine, so here it is, with Ozzy outside to prove I really did take it!


We went to St Meard this morning in search of the post office to buy stamps for a postcard and our youngest grandaughter Lizzie’s birthday card.  The poste office found, we wandered in through the open door to find…. nothing!  Just an empty building with a few old battered sticks of furniture!  As we came out again a local began gesticulating and waving his arms around, seeming to tell us that we need to go around the back, so we did.  No luck, only the gates to a school.  We walked back round to the front of the building and I girded my loins, dragged my schoolgirl French to the forefront of my mind, and crossed the square to consult with the same chap and a woman we had seen earlier. They were manning a veg stall set up in a shelter outside the church.  Luckily, the lady spoke a little English, and, combined with my ‘en peu le francais’ we managed to establish that the post office was now closed (I think we’d already gathered that!. It’s not just in the UK that villages are losing their post offices!) and we needed to use the post-box around the corner.  I showed her that my post had no ‘timbres’ (stamps) and she waved her arms about a bit, meanwhile shrugging her shoulders.  ‘Le tabac?’ said I.  ‘Oui, oui’ said she. ‘Pour Angleterre?’ said I.  Again the shrug. ‘Je ne se pas’.  So we proceeded around the corner to le tabac, and, sure enough, there was a little post office counter inside.  Phew!  I was even brave enough to ask in my best French, with an appalling accent, no doubt, ‘Je voudrais deux timbres pour Angleterre’.  You see,  the trouble with asking for something in French, is that the person you are speaking to then assumes that you can understand it as well, and starts speaking it back, far too rapidly to even hear the words, let alone understand them!!!  Anyway, I think he said he’d put the stamps on for me, and directed us to the till.  He was obviously training up a new clerk on how the till worked, and we all threw up our hands in horror ‘Ah non, non!’ and had a good laugh as she rang up €8.60 instead of €1.60 for two stamps.  That ordeal over, we went and bought bread at the boulangerie, and, thanking the lady on the veg stall profusely, bought an overpriced savoy cabbage from her to have with our dinner tonight.

French doesn’t come easily to me, the pronunciation especially just doesn’t make any sort of sense in my mind.  Now, if we had been in Italy, it would be a different – it’s a much more phonetic language, words are mostly pronounced as they are spelt, with a few easily remembered exceptions, and I’m finding it difficult not to come out with the Italian word for something – not that I speak Italian with any sort of fluency, but, having spent 3 years in Naples, the words just come automatically to my mind, and, to me, it’s a language that makes sense.

Back at the gite, feeling very smug that I’d managed to make myself understood, we sat outside in the sunshine with our coffee.