Encore, Encore ….. yes, a couple of years ago we were in Collonges-la-Rouge for the first time. Back in France and we decided we liked it so much we would go back again.
Collonges-la-Rouge is located in the Correze, and just over ninety kilometers away from Serandon, where we are staying.
The first thing you notice, when you enter the village, is the colour of the buildings. The majority of them have been built using the local red sandstone.
Le Cantou – Collonges-la-Rouge
These photos are just a small selection, there are more on my previous post.
You’ll notice the ominous clouds in some of the shots. The rain held off until we sat down to lunch in Restaurant Le Cantou. Being British we were fool enough to sit outside. And, even though we were under two large umbrellas, the inevitable happened, and water began to pour onto our table. One of the waitresses came and pulled our table further under cover but the deluge was too much and we were forced to move inside.
The food was very good, so was the wine which originated from Cahors. Gerry was able to have a second glass but, being the designated driver, no, only driver, I had to stop at one.
After touring the village we returned to the car and set of to re-visit Beaulieu-sur-Dodogne. However, the weather was against us and the heavens opened. The rain looked set for the evening, and so it seemed as we drove back to the gite. The windscreen wipers had never worked so hard.
Yesterday we ventured away from Serandon, took ourselves over to Tulle. Tulle is the capital of the Corrèze département in the Limousin region in central France.
For the drive across to Tulle the satnag offered us the choice of going via toll roads, or not. We chose not. The route was very pretty but, as expected, followed mainly minor roads as it cut across the gorges. We soon felt as if we were on an alpine rally as we negotiated hair-pin after hairpin, and as we climbed up to a peak before dropping down the other side to cross a busy stream.
En-route we passed the ruined fortress of Ventadour, sitting on a rocky promontory that we were negotiating our way round.
We will have to make a separate trip to visit this site.
We arrived in Tulle whereupon the satnag, having been programmed for the town centre, had another hissy fit and guided us through the centre, up and out the other side before claiming we had reached our destination. Assuming that we needed to be at the lowest point I ignored the satnag and we eventually parked, for free, right across from the cathedral.
For the uninitiated, Tulle is sometimes known as “the town on the seven hills”. And those hillsides are very steep and every spare space is crammed with houses and businesses. It must make for some very desirable real estate but it also makes for many steep and winding roads.
Tulle was, historically, an important centre for lace production. It is the town where tulle, the finely woven material, often used for wedding veils, was invented.
Having parked up, and knowing the French penchant for towing vehicles, I enquired in the local pharmacy about parking fees. She informed me that for two, or maybe three, hours around lunchtime the parking was free. Certainly the parking ticket machines seemed to be in agreement. Both of the nearby machines were displaying “hors service” which translates to out-of-order.
Since it was lunchtime, we decided to eat at L’Abbaye. Still unsure about the parking I asked the waiter. He pointed to the ticket machines and when I explained that they were both out-of-order, he shrugged his shoulders and said “then it is free”.
We had a very nice lunch, both choosing burgers which is an unusual choice for Gerry. She chose the “Classique” which boasted a hache steak made from Limousin beef with tomatoes and onions. I had the “Auvergne” which also comprised the afore-mentioned hache steak, but with Bleu d’Auvergne, one of my favourite cheeses. All washed down with a glass of biere pression (draft beer). Very nice.
While eating we had noticed two guys working on the ticket machines and, still nervous about the parking, we wandered over to check the machines again. Still out-of-order, so we set out to explore Tulle.
One of the items, on our list, to visit was the Cloister Museum at the base of the museum. Unfortunately, it was shut.
Cloister Museum – Tulle
Cloister Museum – Tulle
According to the sign it was to open at 14:00, however at 14:15 there was no sign of it opening so I took a couple of shots through the bars of the iron gate and we moved on.
We opted not to venture inside the cathedral,
preferring to stay outside in the sunshine. Literally, just around the corner from the cathedral entrance is Maison Loyac.
Dating from the 16th century it is decorated with sculpted motifs of plants, animals and occasionally figures in compromising positions. So says our guide anyway. See if you can spot them.
While in Tulle we raided the local tourist information office, lifted a few leaflets to give us some ideas for future days out.
Another item on the list is the Municipal Theatre, also known as Theatre des Sept Collines (The Theatre of Seven Hills). It was built in 1899 and, although built of reinforced concrete, it has a beautiful facade decorated with enameled sandstone, busts and medallions in glazed plaster.
Mooching around on a warm summers day can develop a thirst, so we felt the need to stop for refreshments. Our chosen establishment, La Taverne du Sommelier. One beer and a coke later we were on our way meandering around Tulle.
A few more photo’s taken ….
Narrow street – Tulle
School – Tulle
Narrow street – Tulle
Tulle – General view across from the Cathedral
La Correze – The river runs through the centre of Tulle
…. and it was time to head back to the gite. A short detour into a boulangerie for a fresh loaf and we were on the road again.
Since we arrived in Serandon the local forecast has been threatening us with thunder storms and rain. Well it finally delivered the rain part of that deal, and made the first fifteen minutes of our journey unpleasant. As we travelled further east the rain disappeared and the skies brightened.
The evening back at the gite was very pleasant and I found myself watching the mists develop down in the gorges. Of course I had to go and take some, well quite a lot of, photographs. I’ve included a couple below ….
Mist forming in the gorges – Viewed from Serandon
Mist forming in the gorges – Viewed from Serandon
Mist forming in the gorges – Viewed from Serandon
Mist forming in the gorges – Viewed from Serandon
The shape and volume of the mist changes by the second and I could have stood there for ages. Well, actually, I did. I had to force myself to stop taking pictures, of the mist anyway.
Here are a couple of other shots taken while I was being mesmerised ….
Escargot – Ground Attack Variant
Parsley family, I think ?
Escargot – Aerial Attack Variant
Later this same evening the mists thickened until we were totally fog bound. The only reason I could see my car was that there was a street light right by it.
Eighth day of our vacation based at the La Porcherie gite. I think we are getting into the swing of this holiday lark.
Yet another nice day, weatherwise so we decided to go explore Landes Pierre du Mas.
Once again the pond impressed with its quiet beauty.
It’s refreshing to be able to visit such places and to have them to yourself.
Not just the tranquility of the pond and the paths around its perimeter but also the beauty of the heather illuminating the mound.
Just a few feet of elevation makes all the difference and changes your perspectives.
There were many brightly coloured lizards here, but they were much to fast for me to photograph, so you will just have to take my word for it.
Even the lichens and moss, covering the rocks, has an inherent beauty. Providing a subdued contrast to the vibrant floral display of the heather.
We had taken some stale bread to the pond, hoping to entice the fish to put in an appearance. We were out of luck, the suitably softened crusts floated across the pond, driven by the gentle afternoon breeze. Apparently of no interest to the fish. However, it did prove to be attractive to a large crow who performed some impressive aerobatics and a fair emulation of a fish eagle plucking soggy bread from the surface of the pond.
The fresh air and exercise set us up nicely for the BBQ planned for our evening meal. The only fly in that particular ointment was the bottle of wine that we opened to wash it down. It was so decidedly bad that I tipped it away, the only bad wine of the whole holiday.
Yet another misty morning and we were treated to a visit from a Red Squirrel. We had been throwing out the stale bread for the birds, using the wooden barrow as an impromptu bird table. Tufty seemed to like stale bread too. He certainly had the teeth for it which is more than could be said for us old codgers in the gite.
Our itinerary for today, Thursday, was to take us to Oradour-sur-Glane a few miles north and west of Limoges. Chosen by me because, a couple of years ago, I had read an excerpt from a book that had just been published. The excerpt, published in one of our national papers, told of the tragedy that befell the residents of this French village.
So to set the scene …
On 10th June, 1944, 642 of its inhabitants, almost the entire population of Oradour, including women and children, were massacred.
From Wikipedia: A massacre is a specific incident which involves the violent killing of many people and the perpetrating party is perceived as in total control of force while the victimized party is perceived as helpless or innocent.
Although the true reason for this atrocity is not known, one explanation is that members of an SS Panzer Division entered the village to avenge a German officer, kidnapped by the French Resistance.
The SS ordered all the townspeople to assemble in the village square. To keep everyone calm, this was done under the pretense of having their papers checked. Some 400 women and children, separated from the men, were herded into the church where the SS placed an incendiary device. After it was ignited, women and children tried to escape through the doors and windows of the church, but they were met with machine-gun fire. Only one woman, 47-year-old Marguerite Rouffanche, managed to escape from the church. She was shot and wounded as she escaped but managed to hide until she was rescued the next day.
The men of the village, more than 200 were herded into a barn where machine gunners opened fire, shooting at their legs so they could not move then dousing them with petrol and setting them alight. The SS then looted the village and set fire to the buildings before leaving.
A few months later, after Liberation, de Gaulle visited Oradour-sur-Glane and it was decided that the ruins were to remain, untouched, as a monument to the martyr village.
Oradour-sur-Glane now has a visitor centre, the “Village Martyr, Centre de la Memoire” which leads you through world history and the events that lead to the war and ultimately to the events that occurred in Oradour itself.
The centre sets out to put Oradour into its proper context in the war. The village was quite prosperous and, with several cafe’s and restaurants, was a popular destination for people from Limoges and the surrounding areas. All this came to a dramatic end on that fateful day.
This then, is the Oradour-sur-Glane left behind by the SS on that summer’s day.
As you walk through the village you become increasingly aware of how quiet it is. It isn’t just that you are requested, on entry, to remain quiet. Having been through the visitor centre you are well aware of the tragedy that occurred here and the enormity of the crime seems to be underlined.
Deserted streets which were once busy with the footsteps of the local residents. No more greetings as friends and neighbours meet, going about their daily business. Visiting the boucherie, charcuterie, boulangerie or even ladies chatting about their appointment at the salon de coiffure. Silent.
The tram lines and wires which once carried many visitors now lead nowhere and, like the streets, are silent. The quiet settles about you like a mantle. It’s not oppressive here although you might expect it to be.
The plaque on the wall of the ruined church reminds us that some women and children were massacred by the Nazis and asks that you make a prayer for the victims and their families.
The heat of the fire was so intense that the bell dropped from the church tower. Just a molten blob remains, with only the clapper giving a clue as to its original purpose.
Another symbol of the heart that was ripped out of Oradour is the infants school. This being a weekday, there should have been the sounds of the classroom and the playground. Silent
A memorial to a family, victims of the massacre, their ages ranging from 5 to 67.
There are, in the ruins, many symbols of normal, daily life. Perhaps the one that I became most aware of is the sewing machine. It seems that almost every house had one and the body of such machines is the lasting reminder of the fact that these were indeed, people’s homes.
Other reminders are scattered around the ruins. The ornate metal frames of beds, perambulators, bicycles and cooking pots all serving as a memorial to the lost people of this village.
I found myself getting angry as I walked around the ruins of this once prosperous village. Angry, not just at the men that had perpetrated this act of barbarism, but also, at the fact that despite the many years that have passed, human kind still hasn’t learned the lesson.
In the last seventy years, since Oradour, there have been many, many events that can be classified as massacres. Some, initiated by disturbed individuals, but many carried out by armed military against unarmed and non military people. There have been too many such incidents.
The sad thing is that they are still happening, perpetrated in the name of religion, race or “I was just following orders”.
Day 6, Wednesday, designated a relaxation day. Although the sun was shining on the gite, the view across the valley was very misty.
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.
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.
Our route around the lanes took us to a point where we could look back at the gite and on towards La Porcherie.
The view from the lane, over the pond, back towards La Porcherie demonstrates just how rural this area is. Beautiful.
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 …
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.
Having seen a few trains passing in the distance, we decided to take a detour to the station at La Porcherie.
Probably not a good idea but it had to be done.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.