Limousin, France – Day 6

Day 6, Wednesday, designated a relaxation day. Although the sun was shining on the gite, the view across the valley was very misty.

La Porcherie, France - A misty morning as viewed from the gite
La Porcherie, France – A misty morning as viewed from the gite

As usual I made the journey into Masseret to obtain fresh bread and as is my wont, en-route back to the gite I made a small detour.

The start of  some of our previous excursions had taken us past a sign, at the entrance to a small lane, indicating that it  serviced something or somewhere called Landes du Pierres du Mas. Being inquisitive by nature I decided to find out what was what and after following the lane which meandered for maybe a mile or two I was rewarded with a beautiful view.

etang des Pierres du Mas  -  The Pond of Pierre Mas
etang des Pierres du Mas – The Pond of Pierre Mas

Here I met a gentleman who introduced himself  with a hearty “Good Morning” and laughed at the surprised expression that must have been on my face. I had expected at least a “Bonjour” and had, as he approached, been preparing my best franglaise. His immediate interest was to see if I was planning to fish as the pond is owned / administered by  the local fishing association. I assured him the only thing that I was fishing for was a decent photograph, or two. As we were talking I discovered that he was a brit and that he originated from Little Missenden in Buckinghamshire. He has been in France for over thirty years and had originally come over as a shepherd, working a farm north of Limoges. He eventually took over the farm but had sold up and was now living in La Porcherie and fulfills the role of  “guardien de peche”.  During a pleasant conflab he explained that Landes du Pierre du Mas roughly translated to “the moors of Pierre Mas” and that anywhere we see “landes” indicates moors or heathland, areas of special interest.

After he took his leave, I strolled part way around the pond, disturbing a pair of kingfishers who launched themselves across to the far bank. No chance of a photo, they were almost supersonic. This brief sortie served to show that here was a venue that deserved a longer visit but rumbles in my stomach told me I was long overdue for heading back to the gite for breakfast.

Later in the day a couple of us headed out to walk the lanes again, this time heading away from the centre of La Porcherie. We hadn’t traveled very far when we came to an almost complete stop. Having discovered a hazel tree loaded with nuts we spent a few minutes cracking the shells and enjoying the contents.. Moving on, we hadn’t gone very far when we stopped again. This time it was Sweet Chestnuts that were on the menu. This was how our walk progressed, walk a bit, much a bit, walk a bit more. The nuts were supplemented by the blackberries we discovered in the hedgerows. Very healthy.

Not sure what this is ? Appears to be on a rose plant
Not sure what this is ? Appears to be on a rose plant

Our route around the lanes took us to a point where we could look back at the gite and on towards La Porcherie.

Puy Archer, La Porcherie, Limousin, France
Puy Archer, La Porcherie, Limousin, France

The view from the lane, over the pond, back towards La Porcherie demonstrates just how rural this area is. Beautiful.

Countryside, La Porcherie, Limousin, France
Countryside, La Porcherie, Limousin, France

Although our walk did not cover many miles it kept us occupied  with so many beautiful things. Berries and Harebells in the hedgerows, blue Cornflowers (?) in the fields …

Cornflowers (?)
Cornflowers (?)
"Tangle" Berries
“Tangle” Berries

One thing noticeably in abundance around the gite are birds, birds of all varieties. Our perambulations were regularly punctuated by the cries of  large birds soaring out over the fields. Obviously birds of prey, but we never got a really good look at them. They certainly did not come close enough for us to be able to make a positive identification. Of course it would have been helpful if we had taken the binoculars along with us. That would be the ones sitting in the glove box of my car. My guess would be that they were kites or buzzards, judging  by their size. However, the heron posing on a rock in the pond was a little easier to identify. I think the beak was a bit of a give away.


Heron - pond, La Porcherie, Limousin, France
Heron – pond, La Porcherie, Limousin, France

Having seen a few trains passing in the distance, we decided to take a detour to the station at La Porcherie.

Station – La Porcherie, Limousin, France

Probably not a good idea but it had to be done.

Railway Lines – viewed from the station at La Porcherie, Limousin, France

As we headed back towards the gite we passed this sign which was very informative. Unfortunately the site that it was telling us about was fenced off with nothing to see from our position on the road.

Motte Feodale du Chateau Vieux - La Porcherie, Limousin, France
Motte Feodale du Chateau Vieux – La Porcherie, Limousin, France

The gist of this is that, back in the 11th Century, there was built a “castle” on an earthen mound with a moat. This type of construction was introduced during the 10th Century but was eventually replaced by stone construction during the late 12th Century. My translation may be a bit flaky but it seems that this place was home to a family called De La Porcaria. This area was a centre for agriculture and in particular “pig breeding”. La Porcherie translates literally to The Pigsty.

So my holiday for 2014 was spent in The Pigsty.

Limousin, France – Day 5 Evening

Finding ourselves back at the gite, a little earlier than we expected, a couple of us decided to go for a walk up into  La Porcherie. The gite is situated in a very quiet corner of a very quiet village so we were able to stroll the lanes with no concerns about traffic. Here are a few shots I took along the way.

This is the lane that gives access to the gite.
This is the lane that gives access to the gite.

Behind the gite there are three lakes from which the water trickles, one to the next before passing through some kind of water treatment works. The water then passes on to the large lake which can be viewed below the gite. Whoever, owns and works at the water works had created a rather stylish rock patio set.

I think Fred & Wilma probably live here. Actually an improvised outdoor dining set for our nearest neighbour.
I think Fred & Wilma probably live here. Actually an improvised outdoor dining set for our nearest “neighbour”.

Just a few yards from the lane leading to the gite, at the side of the road, we came across a totally random collection of flowers. Not in someones garden, just at the side of the road. Beautiful.

Beautiful. A random roadside collection of flowers.
Beautiful. A random roadside collection of flowers.

Across the road from the flowers was a field containing three horses. We were rather puzzled by the fact that all were sporting blindfolds. Perhaps they were playing some kind of equine “Blind Mans Bluff” ? We were later informed, by the owners, that this was to protect their eyes from flies. The horses were visited two or three times a day and the blindfolds were removed at times when the flies were less apparent.

A horse playing "Blind Mans Bluff" or perhaps "pin The Tail On The Donkey"
A horse playing “Blind Mans Bluff” or perhaps “pin The Tail On The Donkey”

As we entered La Porcherie we came across this old shop front. Apparently La Porcherie used to have shops and an active restaurant but all are gone now. It is a shame but does, of course, mean that the village remains very peaceful.

La Porcherie, France - Old Shop Front
La Porcherie, France – Old Shop Front

The church here dates from the 12th century. Unfortunately, I have forgotten if it is dedicated to a particular saint. To the left of the church is the now defunct restaurant. Anyone want to start a new business. The canvass is completely blank.

La Porcherie, France - 12th Century Church
La Porcherie, France – 12th Century Church
La Porcherie, France - Village Well
La Porcherie, France – Village Well

As we strolled around the village we came across the war memorial. As we were to see in many other towns and villages, the names listed  really drive home the devastating impact the first world war must have had. Not just to the families but to whole communities. When you see that single families lost two, three or even four members, it really drives home the futility of war.

La porcherie, France - Monument to the fallen of the 1914-1918 war.
La porcherie, France – Monument to the fallen of the 1914-1918 war.

One thing the Limousin is renowned for is it’s cattle. They really are solid looking beasts, much more robust than there English counterparts. And, as one of our group commented, rather glamorous with their long eyelashes and the lighter markings around the eyes, reminiscent of mascara only white. This fine example studied us intently as we made our way back to the gite.

Limousin Cow
Limousin Cow

On our return to the gite we were able to relax with a nice cold glass of Leffe Ruby which was nicely set off by this wonderful sunset.

La Porcherie, France - Sunset
La Porcherie, France – Sunset

Limousin, France – Day 1 & 2

Day 1

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.

Le Petit Nancay, Thenioux, France - Back view
Le Petit Nancay, Thenioux, France – Back view

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.

Canal de Berry, Thenioux, France
Canal de Berry, Thenioux, France

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.

Day 2

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.

We did.

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.

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