Edit Blog Post
Published: June 12th 2013
K- my challenge is to finish these blogs before the anniversary of our return to real life comes around. As we were in the Dordogne on June 24th 2012 and it is now June 12th 2013 I had better get a move on!
The Dordogne (or more accurately the Aquitane region) is almost impossibly pretty - perhaps teetering on twee, with castles and medieval squares in abundance. It seems that nearly every town or village has been accorded "le plus beaux villages" status and actually deserves it. Mix in the lovely green countryside and rivers, the weather and of course the amazing food and it is easy to see why it became the retirement destination of choice for Brits - at its peak around 30,000 lived in "Dordognshire". Although we are a little bit away from retirement we definitely wanted to see what the fuss was about.
We decided to base ourselves in medieval Monpazier which is apparently the best example of a Bastide (fortified town) in the Dordogne. Which means it is pretty special. We were lucky to find a lovely chambres d'hote (Les Hortensia - highly recommended) and explored the small town on foot. It is a
pretty mix of old streets, an ancient square with 16th century market hall and several pleasant restaurants.
Talking of food (again) - we were now in full-on foie gras country. Foie gras is of course a controversial food item but in Aquitaine the controversy is very different to the one discussed in California, where it was banned in 2012. Foie gras is not seen as a luxury here but a key agricultural product and they are proud not ashamed of it. People we met were genuinely perplexed at the "bizzare" decision to ban it. Every farm seemed to have a sign offering it for sale, every restaurant included it on the menu in several different guises and they sold postcards of the local marchés au Foie Gras (basically pictures of hundreds of dead geese) next to the ones with happy sunflowers in sunglasses. Guess which one I set to my nieces! I am not going to debate the rights and wrongs in detail here. Suffice it to say that we love foie gras. Those of you who are vegetarian or who only ever buy humanely produced meat feel free to point the finger. Otherwise I would suggest a brief
review of the average life of a pig or a cow in the US and determine whether a foie gras ban or a massive overhaul of animal husbandry and meat production would be the most impactful legislation.
The weather was mixed throughout our French trip but we enjoyed visiting classic small towns such as Domme, Monflanquin and Belves. They are very touristy and we were glad to be there on off season but they are beautiful none the less. We also enjoyed a market day at Sarlat, where we perused an absolutely fabulous selections of cheese, meats and produce. It was just so hard to choose our picnic food and as I negotiated hard to be allowed to buy a single goats cheese rather than "3 for 5 euro" we wished we had lots of friends with us so we could widen our selection. Mark didn't see why we couldn't widen our selection anyway so we compromised on excessive quantities of food for 2 people (with no fridge) as against a disgusting quantity of food for 2 people. On the necessary quantity of red wine for 2 people we were of course in complete agreement!
Culturally there is
On my way to market
Picnic time! I think this is Sarlat.
an amazing amount to do in Aquitane as nearly every town is basically a living museum with the medieval square, market buildings, fortifications and chateau. Yet again just walking or driving around was a cultural and historical experience in itself. We chose Château du Biron to explore in more depth and enjoyed the tour of this classic 12th century castle which was once owned by the Plantagenets. The Dordogne also has many famous gardens so we made a trip to the Jardins d'Eyrignac, a topiary garden on a huge scale found near Sarlat. It was a pleasant change and we were glad we went but we felt that the topiary lacked precision and unfortunately the new meadow garden was not yet in bloom.
As we have so many times I am going to let the pictures do the talking. Next stop Armagnac!
Tot: 0.127s; Tpl: 0.013s; cc: 14; qc: 31; dbt: 0.0941s; 1; m:domysql w:travelblog (10.17.0.13); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.1mb