When I stumbled across this pigeon, it had its head and shoulders right in the hole. Once it realised I was there it wouldn’t stop watching me.
Spotted these wee beasties gathering on the wall of the gite during our recent stay. Was intrigued by the variety of shapes and markings or perhps that should be the lack of markings. I have them identified as Firebugs but this may be wrong as other similar pictures on the web suggest that they may be “blister” beetles.
If it’s Tuesday, it must be Collonges-la-Rouge. What the heck is that ?, you may ask.
Selected as the target for a visit from yours truly this beautiful medieval village, some eighty kilometers from our gite, is listed as one of the “Most Beautiful Villages Of France” and is entirely built from a red sandstone which comes from the Habitarelle massif.
After exploring the various streets and alleyways we had lunch although not in the establishment featured above. The meal was as usual, very relaxed and delicous and was accompanied by the unusual “Moutarde Violette” which is made by combining mustard with a red grape mash. The version that we were eating is produced at Turenne, just a few kilometers away from Collonges. We enjoyed it so much that we purchased a jar to bring home.
We, of course, visited the Church of St-Pierre. The contruction of which was started during the 11th century. Further additions and modifications were made throughout the 14th and 15th Centuries and the church was fortified during the 16th century. Hence many different styles can be observed both inside and out.
Unusual for Collonges, the entrance way is decorated with white limestone, from nearby Turenne, although it is tinted with the red sandstone dust.
After leaving Collonges our route took us past Turenne. We opted not to visit on this occasion, just stopping to take a couple of quick snaps from afar before heading home to the gite.
It’s Monday morning and I’ve made the run to Massaret for fresh bread.
French bread is wonderful but it doesn’t stay fresh for long. But that’s OK because I get to meet all these friendly people. Everyone says “Bonjour” when they meet you in the street or inside the boulangerie. Then “Au Revoir” when either they or you leave the shop. It is such a refreshing change from the sullen brits who just stand there avoiding eye contact.
So this morning I request a baguette, and a boule, in my rather fractured franglais and make it known that I would like the boule sliced. Madame returns with the loaf in a bag and promptly drops it on the floor with the individual slices all trying to make a run for the space under the counter. With many typically gallic shrugs and embarrassed smiles a second boule makes its way through the slicer, into a bag and safely into my arms and back to the gite.
Today we have decided to go into Limoges for a bit of a reconnaissance. Surprisingly we make into the centre, park up and find the tourist information office all in one smooth move. We discover that there is one of those “tourist train” things due to leave from just outside the tourist office in a short while. The consensus was that this would be a quick way to orientate ourselves to the Limoges sights. Then we can cherry pick those that we want to do in detail. So into a cafe we go for a quick coffee and cake and not long after we are sat aboard in anticipation.
To describe the journey as the ride from hell would be extreme but it was anything but pleasant. The coaches shuddered back and forth like the folds of an accordion and the cobble streets jarred our spines through the virtually non existent suspension and thin padding on the seats. I should also point out that there is an audio commentary available with translations. We were all issued with earphones but the translated commentary was fragmented possibly breaking up in harmony with the reverberations radiating through the chassis of the coaches. The translated commentary was pretty much drowned out by the volume of the native commentary blasting out over the speakers. Thankfully, after an hour it was over.
After the trauma of the train ride we decided that what we all needed was a quiet walk by the river. This turned out to be a good decision.
The walk by the river led us to the saint-Etienne Bridge ….
The following description I have plagiarized from one of the many info plaques ….
The St Etienne bridge was built in the 13th C to divert some of the traffic away from St Martial bridge, aboy 1km downstream. It was on the “via Lemovicensis”, a main route to Santiago de Compostella and is used by pilgrims to this day. It linked the right bank quarter of washerwomen, who until the middle of the 20th C washed the towns bourgeoisie’s linen in the river, to the “Clos Ste Marie”, nowadays a village in the city centre, on the left bank.
The bridge also marked the end of the stretch of river used to float lumber from the mountain to the construction sites and industries of Limoges.
It was very peaceful here, away from the noise of the city traffic. So much so that there was a bit of billing and cooing going on ….
Another, more modern, bridge …….
Day 3, Sunday, was designated a slow, recuperation day. In reality this was our first full day in France that didn’t involve several hours behind the wheel. The crazy french lady had told us where to find the boulangerie, the boucherie and the local supermarket. She had also told us that there was to be a brocante, flea market, in the nearby town of Magnac-Bourg and that she herself would be there. So, after a leisurely breakfast we headed off to Magnac-Bourg in search of the brocante.
However, there was no sign, in fact Magnac-Bourg appeared to be closed apart, that is, for the Hotel des Voyageurs where we partook of a refreshing beer. We asked the hotelier, about the brocante. He, looking suitably mystified, disappeared inside and after consulting with his wife, reappeared to inform us us that there was indeed a brocante. But that it was at Le Chalard, a mere 34k away.
Beers downed, we took ourselves off on a tour of the local countryside which took us past many apple orchards, a lake and Coussac-Bonneval which was duly noted for a future visit. We duly arrived at Le Chalard
and had no trouble finding the brocante as it was spread all over the streets.
They do say that one mans trash is another mans treasure and I was amazed at the sort of stuff that was on sale. As a one time collector of vinyl I was quite interested in the numerous “vintage” records on sale as well as the various traditional wooden handled tools.
We ourselves had a couple of items in mind as we strolled the stalls. The gite was in need of a decent bread knife and also some decent size cups so that we could have a proper cup of tea. We picked up four coffee mugs at a euro each but there was no sign of a bread knife. At one stall, we were offered a wooden block of kitchen knives by a Brit who is now resident in the village. Unfortunately, despite a strong sales pitch, he failed to seal the deal.
This was due to the fact that the bread knife was missing !!!
After an interesting hour or so spent rummaging we decided to head back to the gite where we broke out the beer and, eventually, the wine. The wine took a bit longer to break free as we couldn’t find a bottle opener. All four of us turned the kitchen upside down as we played hunt the bottle opener, searching in total disbelief that a french kitchen would not have one. Eventually we found two, hidden at the back of the cutlery drawer, and we were, at last, able to settle down and imbibe.
Sat outside, under the trees, watching the shadows grow across the fields as the sun set. The temperature in that evening sun was 30 degC.
Consisted of an early start, 06:00, to drive up to the “chunnel” terminal at Folkestone. We made good time, with none of the anticipated delays on the M25. So much so that we were placed on an earlier crossing.
So, very soon we were underway, across the channel and plugging down the French autoroutes, heading for the B & B which was to be our bed for the night. Apart from a couple faux pas on my part, minor deviations, caused by my misinterpretation of the satnav instructions, the journey passed without incident. After approximately five hours motoring time punctuated by coffee, cake & pee breaks we arrived at Le Petit Nancay in Thenioux which is near Vierzon. Here we were given a warm welcome by Clement who greeted us with a big smile and showed us to our rooms.
This being our first evening in France, we asked Clement to recommend an eatery. He gave us several choices but pushed us to try a local establishment in the village.
Taking his advice we strolled alongside the river to the local Auberge de la Coquelle.
From the outside this establishment is not very inviting. With it’s tired plastic patio furniture scattered under the trees and grouped under an equally tired pergola, of the type that looks like an old frame tent with the sides removed. All were deserted.
Dubiously, we stepped forward and studied the menu board. Not a large number of choices, but interesting ones. Starters included Goats Cheese Salad, Veal Kidneys with Black Pudding and Poached Egg with Foie Gras in a creamy sauce. Mains included Pave of Rump Steak, Duck Breast, Cod in a white wine and tomato sauce and Chicken (coqulet).
While we were studying the board we were approached by, as it transpired, the owner. He informed us that they didn’t open for another forty minutes. However, he offered us drinks so we sat and the drinks duly arrived. Our host also talked us through the menu and the local nuances then left us to talk amongst ourselves while we enjoyed the warm evening and listened to the birds in an adjacent stand of bamboo.
An unexpected bonus was the arrival of a hot bowl of mussels to share. They were presented in a white sauce and were delicious.
After an apparently short time, during which our wine, beer, and the mussels, had all miraculously disappeared, we were invited into the restaurant and duly seated.
As usual, no matter how many times a menu is read nobody is ever ready to order. However, with some guidance from the owners wife, we managed to order our meal.
Three of our group ordered the poached egg with foie gras while I had the kidneys which were very tender with a beautiful flavour.
For the mains we had all selected different dishes. Cod, Duck, Veal and Beef, all agreed our selections were beautifully cooked. All the dishes were accompanied by green beans and a gratin of potatoes. One of our group has an intolerance to cooked cheese so the chef created a separate, cheese free, version. Good service.
This was followed, for me, by a selection of local cheeses. Most of these were covered in a black mould which was not, visually, very appetising but they were, nonetheless, very tasty.
When it came time to settle the bill, the bottom line was so reasonable I actually enquired if they had included our pre-drinks and mussels. We were assured that all was in order and so we headed back to our B&B and on to bed. A fitting end to a long day.
After a light breakfast, which included a kind of potatoe based pizza with ham and the usual selection of breads and croissants, we set out to continue our journey south.
We were making such good time it was decided to make a detour for lunch. And so it was that we found ourselves in the centre of La Souterraine. After a brief meander we settled in a fairly busy restaurant for a relaxed lunch.
On our return to the car we plumbed the address of the gite into the satnav which showed we were just one hour away from our destination. I then phoned Mrs. Santoni, the owner of the gites local agent. She suggested that we were four hours away. I argued that we would be just one hour and we agreed that we would call when we arrived in La Porcherie.
And so we set off and were almost immediately caught up in a diversion due to roadworks which then meant we were heading north. The opposite direction to which we needed to travel. Worse still we ended up stationary on the autoroute with no exit in sight. This less than delightful interlude added an hour to our journey and we began to think that Mrs. Santoni knew more than she was letting on. Eventually we were able to get clear of the traffic jam and made good time to the gite where we called Mrs. Santoni and advised her of our arrival. She duly arrived and soon earned herself the title of “The Crazy French Lady”. With much bowing and hand shaking we were led into the gite and shown around. She seemed to obtain much humour from introducing the toilet as the “water closet”. Further delight was derived from pointing out, belatedly, that we, or rather I, should watch out for the low beams and door lintels throughout the building.
Chortling away to herself she wrote out the locations of the nearest supermarkets, boulangeries and boucherie. Also she advised us of a brocante at which she herself would be running a stall.
And then she was gone, we being left to move in and get a brew on.
Why do the french not have kettles ? Water boiled in a saucepan does not taste the same. At least this gite had a teapot, but only big enough for two. Our last gite had neither kettle or teapot.
After a cup of tea we decided this being Saturday, we had better obtain supplies. So we headed into Magnac-bourg where we had been assured we would find an Intermarche.
It was shut.
Thank god for modern day satnavs. We were soon heading back up the autoroute towards Limoges where we found a Carrefors. Suitably stocked up with provisions, beer, wine and, oh yes, some food, we were back on the road to La Porcherie. To rest after two pretty full on days.