France: Beyond Bread and Wine

First stop in the morning on our waking tour, and the bike tour as well, was the local boulangerie. It was a real treat to walk into a French bakery in a small town and buy fresh bread. Part of the treat was the opportunity to interact with the local people. While we didn’t have much of a command of the French language, we were always able to communicate with the few words we had and by pointing to what we wanted. Such a variety of choices from which to choose. From the boulangeire, we would then head to the butcher for salami or cured ham of some sort, then the produce market for apples, peaches, or what ever else we might need for our picnic lunch. Once we were provisioned with bread, cheese, and fruit we would head off for the days adventure, walking ancient paths, and country roads.. At the end of the day’s walk we would typically have a fine four course dinner with a local wine. No shortage of fine wine in the Dordogne. Bread and wine becoming the bookends for our daily adventures.

The highlight of the trip though, wasn’t the bread, the food, the wine, or the places we visited. It was the people. Everywhere we went the people were warmhearted  and friendly, whether it was the old woman we met on the first day of our walk, the clerks at the boulangeries, or the inn keepers.

One event in particular stands out as a highlight. Dinner at La Maison Rose. La Maison Rose is a small bead and breakfast in Origne. Dinner is served family style with guests and hosts sitting on benches at a long table. The house, was once the presbytery for the church across the street, and it’s easy to imagine we’re simply carrying on a tradition that has gone on for centuries in the dining room. We shared dinner with Mr et Mme de Rochefort, the hosts, with a fabulous four course dinner of roast rabbit, fresh bread, and a local Bordeaux wine. It was a treat to be entertained by the Rocheforts and to visit with guests from New Zealand, England, and South Africa. Gathering around a common table and sharing bread and wine is like medicine for the soul.

 

World Tourism Day

La Cité du Vin. Bordeaux, France.
La Cité du Vin. Bordeaux, France.

Having just returned from France, I thought it would be appropriate to share something from our recent travels for World Tourism Day. One of the locations we visited was La Cité du Vin in Bordeaux. I was struck by the design of the building, with it’s flowing curves and ribs. Evocative of  knotted vines, wine barrels, wine turning in the glass, and the swirls and eddies of the the adjacent Garonne River. The website says “Each and every architectural detail evokes liquid elements and the very soul of wine.” Beyond the design, the museum houses exhibits about wine, covering every aspect of wine that you might imagine.

Ibuprophen s’il vous plaît?

Our first stop when we reached Le Barp was the pharmacy. Ibuprophen is the “lubricant” that seems to keep our muscles and joints working. When we run out, or bodies threaten to seize up like a car engine running without oil. We left home with what we thought was a sufficient supply, but it seems we miscalculated.

With a fresh supply of our “lubricant” we managed to log 62 kilometers, leaving Le Barp about 9:30, stopping for bread, salami, cheese and fruit before pedaling through the forest and into the maritime provinces where we stopped to look at the oyster producing areas, through the Parc Ornithologique and on to Arcachon, arriving in Arcachon about 5:30.

Vin s’il vous plaît?

We’ve logged 102 km on our bike ride, having left the town of Cadillac on the morning of September 17th. Our ride has taken us over the rolling hills of the wine country in the Bordeaux region, past Chateaus, churches, through a variety of villages and hamlets to the small town of Origne, where we’re taking a day to just relax. The french motorists are very courteous and respectful of cyclists it seems. A contrast to riding at home. Enjoying fabulous food and wine along the way.

Cadillac: Start of our “Tour de France”

Town gate at Cadillac, near Bordeaux
Town gate at Cadillac, near Bordeaux

Today we start another adventure in France with a six-day bicycle ride from Cadillac, near Bordeaux, to Arcachon on the coast, riding through vineyards, visiting Chateaus and shady forests.

Le Chevrefueuille

We’re spending three nights at a delightful farm house, just a few kilometers from Les Eyzies. Nice to put our feet up after logging 100+ kilometers on our seven-day walking tour of the Dordogne. Already dreaming about where my feet might take me next.

We found this place through Rich Steves’ guide to France; not AirB&B as I mentioned in a previous version of this post. I’ll have to give this place a high rating; I’ll have more to say in a future post. We went into town for an afternoon tour of the Font-de-Gaume, one of the better known caves in the region. Photography is not allowed in the caves, so the best I could think of was to photograph some postcards that represent what we saw in the caves. Exquisite examples of poly-chrome Paleolithic art.

On to Loubressac

Our walk today took us from Carennac to Loubrassec, logging 16 km walking through woods, across meadows and past the hamlets of French farmers. We took an un-planned detour when we got to the tourist location of Gouffree de Padirac. The literature says “the most famous cave in Europe.” The price was right, 12e, and there was no line, so underground we went for a 2 km boat ride on an underground river. A refreshing side-trip from the heat of the afternoon. Then back on the trial. Keep on walking. A dip in the pool at the hotel was a refreshing end to the walk, followed by a five course meal. Exquisite! \

Carennac: Keep on Walking

Woke up feeling a bit stiff and sore, but once I’ve got my boots on and walking, I’m feeling content. The aches and pains and anxieties seem to go away. Today’s walk took us from Beaulieu to Carennac, a distance of 16.4 kilometers. Started the day with a blister on my left foot, but that doesn’t seem to bother me once I’ve gone down the trail about 20 minutes. Keep on walking.  Dinner at the Hotel Fenelon was an extraordinary five course French meal on the patio of the hotel, with a seafood bouillabaisse, goose in Foie Gras sauce, cheese board, and walnut parfait. A delightful walk through the French countryside followed by an exquisite meal.

 

 

 

Beaulieu: The Joy of Walking

I’m never quite so content as when I’m walking. Perhaps I’m just a restless soul, but put me on a trail and I feel at home. Something about walking that just soothes the soul. I’ve lived in the same house for some 30 plus years, and even when I’m at home reading a book, there’s a part of me that’s just anxious to be moving.

For our walk today our innkeeper drove us to an overlook above the ancient town of Curemonte. From there we walked to Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, a distance of eight miles. At the start of our walk we met a woman who stopped to chat. Not that we could understand much of what we said, but her enthusiasm communicated enough. It’s clear she wanted us to know the delights of the local environment. From there is was up a hill, past farms, down into a valley, across a stream, and on over hill and dale, through woods with a light rain until we reached Bealieu. A delightful walk.

 

Meyssac Loop – The Road Less Traveled

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Today marks the first day of our Macs Adventure Walking Tour, an eight mile look from Meyssac, through woods, past farms, and to the village of Collogne-la-Rouge, an ancient town noted for red sandstone buildings. Our adventure had us on a variety of narrow country roads and ancient and well worn foot paths. A warm and sunny day, but we spent the better part of our walk in the woods, we had cool shade and a slight breeze. As we left Meyssac, we passed one farmer standing in front of his house calling his dogs that wanted to let us know who was in charge. Then we followed the postman for a bit up the track as we left town, once out of town though we didn’t see a single person on the trail. Once we arrived at Collogne-la-Rouge we were back among the tourists, although tourist season being over the town seemed more or less deserted, and while the town is very interesting for it’s architecture, the main economy seems to be tourism, and I find looking at tourist trinkets to be rather boring. Much more to share, but the hotel has rather limited bandwidth, so you’ll just have to stay tuned for the next post.