Week 497

Sunday, 1st July, 2018

Happy July from the sweltering Dordogne.









A hot and humid night and we were up early – 6.30 am – to greet the sunrise. Freshly squeezed orange juice followed by Yorkshire Tea and a cup of coffee get me started for the day. We are going to another of those, essentially, medieval towns (villages) which has a big, all-encompassing open market on a Sunday.

The place is called Issigeac which the locals seem to pronounce EasyJack. It is only 20 mins drive away although we must have past at least 10 different wine estates en route. One can become rather blasé about the scenery after a while because it is so similar just as the little settlements are. We felt the same about Italian/Tuscan towns. I suppose, you could say the same about most, British towns.

Although we were there and parked well before 9.00 am, the market was already busy and vibrant. We walked through the first street and said to each other, “We’ll have some of those and … those and those. The most wonderful and interestingly huge tomatoes – red, orange, yellow, purple – maybe about ten, different types. Shallots, garlic and onions in the green, newly pulled stage. A little, old lady was selling her own eggs from her small holding and had pictures of her hens. I asked their names but she didn’t understand. Even so, we bought half a dozen. We also bought local strawberries (gorgeously sweet) and raspberries,  pickled garlic and delicious, green olives.

We drove back to watch the Sunday Politics show and for a swim in the pool as the temperature ramped up again. I did some jogging round the grounds to get my paces up. We cooked and ate large, shelled prawns in a tomato and garlic sauce with langoustines cooked in garlic oil. It was accompanied by griddled slices of cauliflower with lemon sauce. Absolutely delicious! Later, we went for a long walk in the countryside before watching some football.

Monday, 2nd July, 2018

Fantastic thunder and lightning show last night. Really spectacular sheet and forked lightning. It drifted away around 11.30 pm and we went to bed. I always go straight out like a light – the sleep of the just. When I woke at 6.00 am, Pauline told me she had been awake and walking around half the night because the storm had returned with even greater intensity and heavier rain. I had snored through it all. Well rested this morning, we had a problem with the internet. The hub had been knocked out by the storm.

We went out to Sainte-Alvere, about 20km away and, once again, we had chosen market day. How France manages to sustain so many small scale producers can only be through these local outlets. Even so, it must be fairly precarious. Our problem is that we seem to have been to a different market each day and can’t physically store or eat any more food however special it is.

Today we are going take it a bit easier although we will fit in two, half hour swims and a walk. We are griddling chicken thighs with salad for our meal and looking forward to the football after last nights penalty shoot-outs.

Tuesday, 3rd July, 2018

Hot and very humid this morning. In fact, our phones reported 100% humidity. We went down to our local market for fish – sword fish steaks – and artisan bread for Pauline. Back to the gite for coffee and then out on  20km drive to Perigueux. Interesting city particularly if you like cathedrals which are not my thing. Needless to say, the traffic was a Perigordian knot of its own and we didn’t stay long.

Everywhere on the drive back was beautiful. Farms to the left of us vineyards to the right all punctuated by restaurants. Don’t make me eat any more!

Back at the gite, coffee and the newspapers and then a 30 mins swim in the pool. My job then was to make a tomato sauce with huge purple and yellow beefsteak tomatoes plus a whole bulb of garlic, a massive, green shallot and some olive oil, white wine and a large bunch of dill (aneth). With these sort of ingredients, I am a genius. This sauce will be matured for use tomorrow with langoustines.

Oh, it all feels so indulgent. If we were having a holiday from a busy and pressured job, we would feel totally deserving. But we’re not. We are permanently on holiday and just moving home to the Dordogne for a while. As such, this whole experience feels incredibly fortunate. After all, we may never do it again.

Wednesday, 4th July

A quieter day today. No major excursions if you don’t count driving out to the local bottle-bank. Actually, it was very lucrative. We posted 4 plastic water bottles into the container and were given a couple of cents token to spend at Intermarche. Now what will I spend it on? Maybe a bottle of Bergerac wine. I think I’ll need to drink a lot more bottled water before I can afford that.p

Just going out for a long walk in the local countryside followed by a strong swim which will earn me the right to watch 90 mins of Prime Ministers Questions. We may go mad today and eat red meat for the first time I can remember for months. Griddled filet steak looks a possibility with shallots and mushrooms. That sounds good enough to merit a long walk.

Actually, the early evening brought a violent thunderstorm with lots of thunder claps and strong rain. The power went off just after we had washed up from our meal and made coffee. We thought it would last a few minutes. After two hours, life was becoming a bit tedious. After four hours, I was searching the boot of our car for a torch. I had one but had never used it and the batteries were corroded and useless. As the light faded to dark, the power came back on ….. and immediately went off again. Fortunately, the second coming stayed and I made coffee and turned on the television news. Bliss! Amazingly useful stuff, electricity!

Thursday, 5th July, 2018

Another lovely day although slightly cooler. By late afternoon, we had peaked at 26F/79F. We went out for a tour this morning. We intended to start with a market in Lalinde village. As we approached it and looked for parking spaces which were at a premium because of the event, the skies opened and rain poured down.

We decided not to stay but drive on to our second destination – Limeuil which is situated at the confluence of the rivers Dordogne and Vézère which feature picturesque viaducts in the village.

Last of the Summer Wine.

Limeuil itself is a delightful hamlet of potters and artists and others exploiting the water. Down on the banks at the confluence of the two rivers, a canoe school was set up and waiting for customers. Rising up above the river banks, old, honey stone buildings edged narrow streets which climbed the steep hills – defences against flooding. It reminded us of Holmfirth with sunshine. We did a long and tiring climb to the top past umpteen pottery and art shops – mostly naieve work which could capture the tourist – and restaurants which we had to struggle harder to resist.

We drove back in lovely sunshine and stopped in Lalinde where the market stalls were just packing up. There was a lot of crushed ice on the road a strong smell of fish. On to the gite and a strong swim in the pool. I was exhausted at the end of it. We cooked langoustines in tomato, dill and garlic sauce and ate it with griddled cauliflower and red pepper. Lovely day. These are experiences to be stored in the memory banks – dementia willing!

As we drank coffee, our attention was drawn to the quiet, rural lane that we can see over the fields from our kitchen. Initially, we noticed a build up of traffic. Next, a fire engine and an ambulance arrived followed by a couple of police cars. You could not find a quieter or more isolated lane but traffic does drive much faster than the 90kph/56mph limit and there had been a downpour. Big incident for a little place. Everything has its context.

Friday, 6th July, 2018

Another really enjoyable day. Humid and ‘close’ but inconsistently sunny. We did our weekend shop but indulged ourselves with walks around Carrefour, Netto and Intermarche. We also looked round Brico (B&Q equivalent) which had house and garden hardware. Recently, we visited the market in Eymet. Today, as we walked round Netto, we noticed a jar of simple pâté de campagne made by 4th generation family producers in Eymet. That became our lunch and it was absolutely delicious.

The morning produced 7,000 paces and we returned to have a strong swim in the pool before lunch. Now we are reading our newspapers before we go for a walk and return to watch World Cup matches.p

Our main meal today will be brochettes of duck breast, marinated in lemon and garlic and then griddled. As usual, we will eat it with a simple salad. While we relax for the rest of the day, we will spend the evening researching tomorrow’s trip.

Saturday, 7th July, 2018

Early morning in the heart of the Dordogne.

Up at 6.00 am to watch the sunrise out of the early morning mist around our gite. The long grass has nets of mist/condensation blanketing it but soon to be burnt off. We are going out to (another) medieval village/town. This time we will visit Monpazier about 40 mins drive away. Of course we have to be back for 4.00 pm for a particular event.

Our trip out was an absolute joy. In baking sun, we entered the cool shade of this medieval town. It is hard to believe that people still live, move and have their being in this ancient place. It is billed as ‘the most beautiful town in France’ and who could argue with that sobriquet?

Astonishing constructions for covered walk ways from 700 years ago. Cool, dark and protected from the weather.

We spent a lovely morning exploring the past in the present and then drove back via Beaumont du Perigord which turned out to be a ‘mini-me’. one becomes rather blasé after a while.

Back at the gite, we had a strong, 30 mins swim and then went out for an hour’s walk through the woods as the cicada orchestra almost deafened us with its enthusiasm. Back from our walk, we were in time to watch England beat a disappointing Sweden 2-0. After showers, we griddled swordfish steaks outside and ate them with salad and an ice cold bottle of Bergerac Sauvignon. What a lovely day. We say that so often these days that we realise how lucky we are. It is after 8.00 pm (CET) but still 32C/90F. It’s going to be a sticky night.

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