Hope you had a good week. We’ve just spent 4 days touring, this time across to La Rochelle on the west coast, Bordeaux, Brive-la-Gaillarde and back via Limousin country – here’s David with a summary:
The drive across to La Rochelle was uneventful other than a rain squall while driving on the freeway at 130k – very unpleasant. La Rochelle is a beautiful seaside port that was the last bastion of protestantism until the King instructed Cardinal Richelieu to blockade the port, destroy the fortification and unite France under catholicism. Around 20,000 people died in the process – it’s crazy what’s been done in the name of religion. We stayed for two nights in La Rochelle, spending the second day exporing Ile de Re, an island off the coast that has some lovely little towns, fortifications and an amazing lighthouse. Chris was very brave climbing the 280 steps around the spiral staircase.
On Saturday morning we drove down the coast to Bordeaux which we regret doing. Bordeaux (population 1 million) might be a lovely city but we didn’t stay to find out – it was really busy with a huge market, dirty and clogged streets and people everywhere and it was all rather unpleasant. It’s reinforced to us that we just don’t like big cities – we’ve spent too long in the bush! We drove east toward the Dordogne region which took us through miles of wineries and little towns. We seem very lucky in that everytime we decide to take the scenic route we get to take a deviation due to road works. We ended up spending the night at Brive la Gaillarde. Brive or BG, as the locals call it, is the main jumping off point for tours of the Correze region. If you have any plans to visit France, include this region as the scenery is stunning. The Correzes is the upper regions of the Correze and Dordogne rivers and is dotted with beautiful hill-top villages, chateaux and really diverse scennery including deep valleys and high plateaus. Our photos don’t do the region justice. The last part of the drive back to the cottage was in heavy rain (it was quite windy too and when it wasn’t raining rain, it was raining autumn leaves!) and on yet another deviation so we got home stuffed but having enjoyed another slice of France.
Chris here again: a big challenge while out and about is to a) find a public toilet b) find a public toilet that one can sit on, rather than a ceramic squat plate in the ground (one does not squat these days – if one did, one could not get up again!) and c) having found the afore-mentioned sit-on toilet, remember to BYO toilet paper as there ain’t none supplied!
A note on the hill-top villages – what makes each one unique is that each is built from the local stone so all the buildings in a village are the same colour which is very different to the next village further down the road. A great example is Collange la Rouge (picture included below), aptly named for the distinctly red stone quarried from the immediate area. Another village might be all grey, another ochre, another beige.
Coming up this week is an exhibitioin by artists in the watercolour class we go to (along with a couple of other classes as well, probably around 35 – 40 people in total). David’s putting in his latest work (pictured with the photos below) which, being of local subject matter, was a bit of a hit with the class, but my ‘work’ looks a bit amateur against the real artists’ paintings! Last Tuesday night at art, the organiser went round the room to ask each person how many pieces they were showing and what they were called; she got to David and said (she tries hard to speak English but really struggles) in English ‘Do you expose?’ David said ‘Not in public!’ She thought that was pretty funny, so did we. While my art is not great, I’m enjoying the interaction which has been quite amusing – the art teacher will ask me in French how to say what he wants to say to me in English, I’ll tell him, then he tells me in English even though I’ve understood what he said in French! I’m constantly translating between David and the teacher, and anyone else who comes to chat with David about what he’s painting so that keeps me on my toes.
We did all the mowing here last week and after a few showers of rain and some sun, you can literally watch the grass grow!
Until next week
Chris and David