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August 20th 2016
Published: September 13th 2016
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Condom and La Bastide

This is a condom sort of story. So get ready so stretch you mind.

But before I tell you about that, you will have to read about La Bastide. Now I can sense some readers shifting in their seats as they wonder about my swear words and sexual references. And think of others who now consider my travels have crossed moral boundaries and I am skating on thin ice, about to descend into literary degeneration.

Relax. The French are not so uptight.

The French word ‘bastide’ is not a reference to illegitimacy. It can mean ‘country house’ or ‘mansion’. So we pulled up beside a creek in the town of La Bastide d’ Armagnac. There were a few other motorhomes parked in the shade there so we decided to stay the night.

Our walk through the town led us along the normal narrow cobbled streets of a French ville. The town square opened out before us like many others in this part of the world; medieval and fortified with ramparts, surrounded by stone residences, interlaced with a few stone and timber residences, an ancient church at one end of the square with the Hotel de Ville on one side, and a few restaurants serving food and liquor at tables at the edge of the square. The only visible concessions to the 21st century were a glass door to the Office d’Tourism and a yellow plastic La Poste sign. It turned out to be one the better preserved medieval towns we have visited. Despite having been established in the 13th century and much of it built prior to the 16th century, the buildings still serve today. The type of buildings pictured are common in France and while they may look like museum pieces on the outside, the interiors have generally been fitted with modern appliances and fit outs, offering comfortable modern habitation. Thick stone walls and heavy timber doors insulate against the extremities of temperature experienced here; it was in the high thirties when we visited, and even this far south, snow does fall.

The church building in La Bastide d’ Armagnac has a bell tower which was originally a dungeon. But when dungeons fell out of vogue, the city fathers attached the rest of the structure so as to make a church. Its front door has a military formality in its appearance.

Armagnac is the region. But Armagnac is also a drink. A good one too. I shall write about that some other time.

On the creek in La Bastide, there is a 17th to 18th-century communal bath house. This type of structure is fairly common in this part of France. It was a place where les gentils would bathe. There is a large bath more like a small shallow swimming pool which would be fed by a spring or flowing stream. Hence its presence beside the creek where we camped. You can imagine the state of the bath water after some hygienically challenged residents did their dipping.

Now that I have finished writing that dirty bit. The following day we headed for Condom. The name has its origin in a Gaulic era and means something like ‘market field.’ But the name still titillates and gives rise to controversy. The story goes that the mayor of Condom initiated an attempt to twin with the town of Oakham in England. But the stiff upper lipped across the English Chanel declined due to their Victorian attitudes.

We had a very relaxing weekend at a wonderful little camping area by a river at Condom. But it was soon time to move on.

We drove through a big muddy puddle of water as we left the camping area. Now isn’t that life? Our Condom weekend was all over. Looking back it was really stretching things further than seemed possible, and then it all blew out of proportion and came to a sudden sticky end.

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