2013 France – Part 2

I’m only running about a week behind. Please be patient.

After my first update, my sister’s comment was:
“So if we hear that you’ve been arrested it could be for urinating in public, driving illegally, parking illegally, taking photos illegally or drinking too much.”
So far, Interpol has failed to find us.

Friday 19 July
Off to the poissonerie to buy longoustines and fish for lunch. Cooked the longoustines and put them in the fridge to cool then back to the pier for Stu to visit the tackle shop.

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The longoustines were beautiful and – I’m going out on a limb here – maybe better than mud crab. Big call, I know, but they were really, really good.
We got away about an hour later than planned and made it to our B&B. Thomasina Tom Tom wanted to send us up a tiny little street barely wide enough for one car. After our earlier experiences, Stu wasn’t keen but I knew it was the right street and we found the B&B in a huge courtyard behind high wooden gates.
Dinner at Cafe Portebleu which had been recommended. Honestly, nothing special. We rather felt like we’d been shoved in a corner. After dinner we had a Bailey’s or 2 in the beer garden at the back of the pub and listened to some live music played in front of the backdrop of a chateau turret.
This village, Verteuil, is beautiful but seems to have been totally taken over by the English, and therefore invaded by English tourists which really spoils it. Our host at the B&B commented that the French don’t go out much at night. I’m not surprised. They’re probably trying to avoid the likes of us. Yes, I know we’re part of that problem, but really, when I want to visit a quaint village full of English people, I’ll go to England.

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We much prefer the random little places where we struggle to understand and be understood but where the locals are French and friendly. Not excited by this one.

Saturday 20 July
We wanted to get away early this morning. At least having English/Australian hosts meant they understood “early”. The only limitation was the time the boulangerie opened (7am), so we were away by 8.00 and made good time getting to my facebook friend’s husband’s parents’ place near Bordeaux.
We had time to meet everyone then we went on a drive around some of the many, many, many chateaux in the area. Not the grand chateaux like we saw in the Loire on our last trip, but many spectacular buildings all the same. We have a slightly better understanding of the French wine regions and labels. Very strictly controlled.

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We had a picnic lunch that perhaps could have been more French, though I’m not sure how. Our friend produced a basket and cold bag with baguettes, cheese, pate, ham … and of course wine and wine glasses – no plastiques here, not even on a picnic.
After lunch we went to Chateau Bechevelle for a tour and explanation of the wine making process, their label and the wine names. This was followed by a degustation where we tasted their 2 wines. The “cheap” one sells for 30 euros a bottle. The expensive one is 90 euros a bottle, but they have sold 95% of that before it’s bottled so they are not pushing sales.

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On the Gironde River there are many little fishing huts called “carelet”. I think Stu would rather like one.

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Back at the house for dinner and I’ve learn’t to say “I’ve had enough”. This works for food. I’ve yet to try it on wine.

Sunday 21 July
Those of you who were concerned that we were staying with random people we’d never actually met may be slightly disappointed to know that we all woke up alive this morning, so clearly none of us are axe murderers.
I wonder how many of those who expressed these concerns have ever slept in a dorm (possibly even a mixed dorm) in a hostel with a whole host of people they don’t know.
Off to the centre of Bordeaux for a walk around which we enjoyed, though surprisingly nearly everything was closed because it was Sunday. With so many people in such a big tourist spot you would think they would open, but no.
One of the most popular spots was the “water mirror” – a large area with very shallow water  nice and cool on your feet in a hot day. Every so often it is drained and when they refill it there is a misty spray filling the air. On a day like today this made it even more popular.

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The Cathedral was closed but was spectacular from the outside and the statue and fountain in the square were fantastic.
Waiting for our return tram, Stu of course spotted a small market across the road. We only had 9 minutes till the tram but managed to taste several different sausages, have a discussion with the vendor about chorizzo and purchase a mountain sausage, a mountain sausage with pepper (my favourite), and a sanglier (wild boar) sausage.

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After our friends left for home, his parents took us for a drive to St Emilion. Driving down the motorway you could, at times, be anywhere. Then you’ll catch a glimpse of something that tells you that you must surely be in France – an old stone farmhouse on a hill behind a field of wheat, a little village with its church tower, a vineyard – any or all of these scenes appear without notice.
St Emilion is a medieval village in the wine region of the same name. The village is lovely, if crowded with vendors of all sorts of things, not just the wine of the region. There are some old stone “lavoirs” – once used for washing clothes but now good for soaking your feet on a hot day.

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The tour of the medieval church was only in French but we got a handwritten English version. This was a good tour because access is restricted to guided groups, so there weren’t a million other people milling around. You’ll be pleased to know that I didn’t tempt fate and risk the impossible by sitting and praying on the “pregnancy chair”. One lady in the group did. I wonder if she will be pregnant within a month as promised.
Home for dinner. Didn’t eat too much, didn’t drink too much.

Monday 22 July
We didn’t really achieve much that we’d intended today, but it still wasn’t bad.
We had wanted to go to the Lascaux caves to see the replicas of the cave painting – the originals have been closed for, I think, 50 years due to damage but were replicated and are apparently spectacular. I say “apparently” because we never got there. To get the tickets, you go to the office in Montignac and line up. This would have been OK if we could have found somewhere to park. But of course we’d turned up on the first day of the week long Festival of Montignac, hadn’t we. Gave up.
We had seen on the map and checked on the net another cave nearby. Although the net said you had to be there before the 9.30 opening to get in that day (you can’t prebook) we thought we’d give it a try. This was one case where the net was right. The office opens at 9.30, they only issue 80 tickets a day and people start queuing at 7.00am. Gave up.
We had lunch back in town where, despite the previous errors, I managed to order a salad with duck gizzards. I’m pretty sure we’ve finally sorted this out and there will be no more intestinal errors.
We visited the medieval town of Domme which we didn’t like as much as St Emilion but it did have the advantage of not so many shops which might be why it’s wasn’t quite as crowded. Still hot, hot, hot.

 

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We headed towards Rocamadour and started looking for a B&B. Found one up a random back road through a timber yard and by a lake. Must admit we had seen a sign to it but it did seem a bit of an odd place for it. Anyway, there was no one home but I rang them and in very broken French managed to book for the night.
As we obviously weren’t going to get to Rocamadour today we headed for town to buy something for dinner. We never made it as we happened upon Les Grottes Cougnac which happens to have cave paintings – not as spectacular as Lascaux by any means but still cave art and we wanted to see it. The commentary was all in French but the guide kindly gave us a quick English rundown between caves. We weren’t allowed to take any photos of the cave art, unfortunately.

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Tuesday 23 July
We made it to Rocamadour around 10.00 after a fairly early start. Thomasina TomTom once again took us via a very scenic route on very narrow, winding mountain roads. This may have been a good thing as we approached the town from a different direction to what we would have on the more major roads. The best moment was coming round a bend and seeing Rocamadour clinging to the side of the mountain and hearing the chanting (monks?) floating across the valley.
We enjoyed this town even though like all the others it was very hot. Fortunately this one had lifts – for a price. On a day like this they were worth every cent.
We walked around the ramparts, visited the cathedral and wandered around the town. We bought nougat, duck sausage and 3 types of cheese – goat, ewe and cow. All very nice.

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Heading towards Facebook friend’s house on some slightly more major roads we started looking for somewhere to have lunch. We found a random roadside restaurant in a little village (Bastit) that turned out to be something we’d been looking for and had found without trying or knowing how. We still don’t really know how to identify these places but are happy we found one. We heard about them years ago. It is a small, family-run restaurant where, I suspect, no English had ever passed their lips. There were lots of locals including workmen having lunch there so we figured it was OK. Sat down and we were told what was for lunch. No choice, just 4 courses – couscous, zucchini stuffed with sausage, cheese and chocolate mousse plus a bottle of wine (choice of red or rose in a plain bottle – presumably filled from a plastic container somewhere) and coffee for 15 euros each.
I don’t think Australia will ever adopt this style of eating, more’s the pity. The health inspectors would have a fit if they saw bread being amalgamated into one basket from the left overs on 2 or 3 tables and given to the next customer, or the cheese board that simply went from one table to another as required. I suspect the left over wine (yes, there was some) was just topped up and given to the next customer as well.
The place was nearly full and the 2 women in the kitchen and the man at “front of house” didn’t stop the whole time we were there.
Found Facebook friend’s (henceforth to be known as “friend”, since we’ve actually met) place no problems, despite it not being in the GPS because it’s a pretty new area. Went shopping  and home for dinner of melon with pineau(? I might have to check that one), Toulouse sausage, cheese and tart. I skipped the cheese and tart. Stu skipped nothing. I can’t keep eating.
We were explaining our lunch to our friend and she was puzzled when I said it was 4 courses. I went through them and she said that cheese isn’t a course – it’s an obligation. And so it shall be known from now on.
Didn’t eat too much.
Didn’t drink too much.
Did go to bed too late.

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3 thoughts on “2013 France – Part 2

  1. Pingback: Sunday Stills: Looking through windows | Miscellaneous Eclectica

  2. Pingback: Miroir d’eau – Travel Theme: Square | The 3rd Drawer Down

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