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Saturday 25 August 2012

12 days in the "Dordogne", France...

Once settled in at our home in France, Shelagh and I went for an exploratory walk in the  village. We came upon the cemetery and went inside. We both like cemeteries, and the ones here are quite ornate, with large tombstones and ornaments. Most of the graves were covered in framed photos of young children and newlyweds etc; it's like a way to include those passed on in current events. We walked on into the centre of the village and figured out where the butcher, baker and grocery stores were located. Then we came upon the local hotel, a small auberge with a restaurant and a nice terrace. We took a seat outside and ordered a half liter of the local wine, very tasty, and sat there in the French country side being completely blown away.

Dinner was on me that night and I chose to cook a Hungarian goulash, big mistake, it needs to simmer quite a while to tenderize the beef. Although the dish tasted okay, the meat was tough, bummer! Next time I'll use pork tenderloin.

We had dinner "al fresco" at the picnic table, and that is where most dinners were served during our stay. The night air was warm and comfortable, we had some wine as the sun set and the stars came out. In the country where city lights don't spoil the upward view, the stars are a magical display of distant mystery. Guy, who used to be a merchant marine, gave us a quick lesson in astronomy. We were shown the big and little dipper as well as Orion and Cassiopeia. Fascinating stuff to see so far into the universe, and then to be told that the light you are seeing was sent here millions of years ago, some of the stars we see today may no longer exist! It makes you feel very small in such an enormous space.

We tumbled into bed at around midnight and slept like the dead...

Up in the morning Shelagh and I went into town and at the bakery we bought one baguette and four croissants. Breakfast was on in the garden with some boiled eggs, our bakery treasures and fresh jams and cheese from the local merchant. Coffee and fresh juice rounded out the extravaganza. After cleaning up we went for a walk around the country side and came upon fields of corn and sunflowers, both just past production and a little dried out. We saw the Dordogne river up close a stuck our feet in the cool water, knowing that a swim was in our future. Along the walk we met a chasseur (hunter) and asked him how it was going, "Sa va?" his reply "Mais non!" a bad day for pheasant.

Guy and I took turns in the kitchen during our stay in Carsac. It was a good routine and we had some excellent dinners. Our last stop of the day was always at some grocery store to find what to make for dinner, it set a precedence for future holidays.


During dinner we discussed what we would do the next day and we decided to go to Rocamadour, a village famous for the discovery of the bones of the apostle Zacchaeus, as legend has it, but also an important pilgrimage site of prayer. The town is glued to the cliffs of a deep gorge and it is exquisite. On the way there during our drive Guy spotted a sign advertising an ancient fortified mill, so we took a detour, paid the modest entry fee and got a guided tour of how the workers milled grain into flour using the river's current for power. Fascinating machinery and ingenious impellers that could be lowered into the river to drive the grinding stone.

The grinding stone

The view from the mill

The entrance to Rocamadour

Little shops

Looking up

The path to the church

Upon arrival in Rocamadour we wandered the streets all the way up to the church that tops the town. The views are amazing and it leaves you feeling a bit strange when you realize that this town is about 1000 years old. The streets were built for donkeys, so car traffic is nearly impossible. We had plans for a late lunch here but restaurants close between 14:00 and 17:00, so we had to be satisfied with some ice cream. A lovely day was had by all and we went back to our little house in Carsac for a nice dinner and idle chat in the garden with some of that lovely regional wine...