Sunday, February 3, 2008

Picture Perfect

You know, I just can't understand why people would bother buying a beach house at Carrickalinga etc. For the same price, you could have your holiday home here, in South-West France. Seriously, it doesn't have a beach, but it's too beautiful for words.

It was a mega-relaxing little break. Some days we just rose at 11, wandered (waddled?) down to the patisserie, picked up some croissants and a baguette, mosied back to the cottage, ate and read books, pestered Brenton to start a fire in the fireplace, and then snuggled in front of it. Then, more eating, reading, sleeping, in whatever order you like. It was all very easy, but you had to time it carefully, as there was no guarantee that shops would be open when they said they would. Basically, they opened in the morning, closed from 12 to 2, and then depending on whether the shop person could be bothered, reopened for a few hours in the afternoon. Good ol' French work ethic!

It was like staying in the village in Chocolat. Everything was old and cobblestoned and authentic. As it was Winter there were also hardly any tourists around (though I managed to detect an Aussie accent even on the first day. How does that happen everywhere?) and we practically had the village, and all of the surrounding sights, to ourselves. This was our street, and Brenton in our backyard being very manly and chopping the wood:

Other days we would wander a little further afield, but as I was tasked with driving the hire car we didn't try and go too far. When we did we visited various villages in Perigord and just generally admired the quaintness of them all. Everywhere you looked there was something beautiful to see, some tiny alley or little cafe or tree lined street. They were also very into their markets...

...which leads me to the food! Oh, it was magical. We didn't have a bad meal the whole time we were there (well, except for the night we went to the English pub because it was the only thing open). So much good cheese, fresh bread, little cakes (I'm sure there's a better name for them and that), coffee, poulet and canard, soups, roquefort and jambon crepes, hazelnut honey, icing sugar and chocolate covered walnuts. I'm hungry just reminiscing about it all.

On other days, we went castle hunting, as we called it. Perigord had a castle for practically every hill top, of which there were many. Chateau Baynac was on a cliff overlooking the Dordogne river. It was so authentic, it was like all the knights had just got up and left sometime in the 14th century and the place hadn't been touched since. Brenton has done a great account of it here.

The gardens at Marqueyssac were also a highlight. They snaked around the place in this incredible intricate fashion. Apparently, they were designed by the same person who had done the gardens at Versailles (though obviously I haven't fact checked what I was told!) I can imagine during summer it was be absolutely lovely, though it was still pretty spectacular.

The hire car deserves a special mention. To be honest I did get used to it but the French drivers terrified me. They haven't heard of things like speed limits or indicating. They also assume that you know the roads as well as them, and loathe foreign, left hand side drivers such as me, which is fair enough I suppose. The week's driving culminated in a hideous experience of driving back to Bordeaux in pitch black darkness, on tiny, twisty roads, with semi-trailers coming towards me and impatient locals trying to pass. It was horrible.

But, that aside, it was a lovely little break. We got back to London feeling very well-rested and felt a bit overwhelmed by all the people, which says something about how secluded we were. When I have a little money, I am going to buy a house round there (well I can dream), and come back in summer to enjoy the festivals, communal village meals, outdoor Shakespeare. They really know how to live in that little part of the world.


Anonymous said...

Picture perfect describes it well Penny. It looks beautiful and exactly like the village in Chocolat.How lovely to be able to spend a week there.As you know Chris and I went camping! in Perigord.Unfortunately we didn't visit Belves. Next time maybe and definitely not camping again.You did well with the driving. Love Mumx

franzy said...


I mean ... what a wonderful time you appear to having in what should obviously be my rightful place.

Ah me. Back to work in my shitty little Adelaide flat ...

Anonymous said...

Dear Penny,
Yes it is a lovely part of the world - Gill and I went there on a camping trip in a Mini and by the time we got back to the ferry of at Boulougne (I think it was there, anyway) the back bumper of the car was only an inch off the road because we had so much wine and other grog on the back seat under the camping gear.
We were also able to go right into the Lascaux caves, which are not far from that area - to the east - before they were closed forever to public visits. I always wanted to see the rock paintings and we were lucky to be there on the one day a week they were open.
The town looks very pretty and very French - glad you enjoyed all the food. Perigord is one of the richest cuisines in France and full of delights.
Lots of love Dad xxx