Here in Bretagne ( Brittany) the countryside, architecture and character is beautiful…quaint cottages, cute skew buildings and rolling hills – in fact – it is truly Asterix country along with mistletoe and Celtic stones and menhirs dotted around the fields. The Spring flowers are amazing and the place has taken on the look of its namesake – Britain.
BUT unfortunately – it takes after it’s namesake in more ways than one – it borrows some of its weather patterns as well. Not as much rain I imagine…but it rains all year round so often – the days are grey..but the countryside remains a startling green. After a while..one begins to long for blue sky which I’m told is seen way more often in Summer and that the continual grey skies at this time of the year are very unusual. Plus they’ve had a bumper winter of rain, the most in 43 years.
One place I’ve longed to go an see is the Perigord / Dordogne area. The Perigord is made up of four parts – the Perigord Verte (green), Perigord Blanc (white), Perigord Purpe (purple – obviously) and Noir (black) and the whole of the Perigord area is very small..about 10 thousand square kilometers. The regions vary considerably in that small space – Blanc – full of chalk and lime cliffs with ancient Troglodyte caves, Purpe – fields of vines (just outside Bordeaux), Verte – greens fields, cows and tobacco and Noir – mountains filled with oak trees, truffles and valleys of fois gras farms. Three huge rivers – the Dordogne, Dronne and Vezere wind their way lazily through ancient golden stone villages perched on cliffs and nestled in valleys. As you can imagine – everything centers around food and a very slow way of life.
We were waiting for some paperwork to come through (one can’t do a thing here without paperwork) so we packed the car, popped the mutts in the back and headed off for three days to go and see the area. This involves a 640 km drive, by rights shouldn’t take long, about 6 hours….but when you’re in Anabel and you decide to avoid the toll roads because you don’t want to spend your life on a fast road but rather want to wander a bit through interesting places along the way…to cut a long story short – it took 8 and a half hours.
As we came over the hills from the Charente area and into the Dordogne/Perigord Verte, the scenery began to change and as we entered the Perigord Noir (considered the most beautiful region of France as far as a combination of scenery, lifestyle and climate goes) ..well….I just fell in love with the place and when I looked across at the husband, I could see he had fallen under it’s spell already as well.
The next day we went to Sarlat – a small town that has been declared a museum. The village lives around markets of food…one day a truffle market, another local veggies, another local meats and pates, another day is for old antiques, books and briq-a-brac from old France. The street lanterns still look like they are gas and they have a ceremony during the summer where they “light” them each evening. Some villages have a truffle hunt where they train you and your dog to look for these black delicacies and then they ask each person to see if they themselves can find one – the winner has the “nose of the year”. I can’t describe it really, I’ve attached pictures and bear in mind – this is still mainly wintery with Spring flowers carpeting the forest floor and gardens but trees still bare. Domme – and ancient village that looks over the Dordogne Valley. The architecture, the stone, the cows, the truffles, the food! Fields of walnuts and almond plantations, the cheeses, the unusual roof lines…oh yes…I was hooked and if I was going to settle anywhere in France – this would be it. Cool winters, not too much snow and hot long summers with schools on holiday for two to three months, festivals every week…all centered around food and a slow pace of life! What a way to go!
We didn’t want to come home but life carries on and we had to – it’s much colder here although today and for the next week blue skies and Spring days are forecast, the farmers are ploughing, the birds are building nests and the coypu has found a friend…. so the spirits have lifted.
Enjoy the pictures of a most stunning corner of France
A la prochaine