A Few of my Favourite Frenchies

It’s a short post from me this week as I’m just back from our family holiday in the sleepy Dordogne. Once again we were treated to long evenings of rich wine and engaging conversation with our friends at ‘Josse’, and surrounded by panoramic views of vineyards and fields of sunflowers. All in all, a very relaxing week. Here’s a few of my highlights:

Rocamadour

Rocamadour is built into the sheer rock face of a gorge above the River Dordogne. Built on the shrine of a Madonna, it’s thought that the Abbey here dates back almost a thousand years in some form and, believed to hold great healing powers, became the site of a major pilgrimage over the ages.

 

The village beneath the Abbey is full of paved streets, lined with medieval houses and contains fortified stone gateways, all of which are totally breathtaking.

We did take the 216 steps down (although not on our knees as the pilgrims once did), but there is also a winding road that leads down and I believe a lift for the less discerning traveller. Certainly worth a look if you are in the area.

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The Breathtaking Beauty of Rural France

When the view through your windscreen evolves into rows of grapevines interspersed with fields of sunflowers and orchards of plum trees, punctuated by the odd medieval bastide, you know you’ve reached the Perigord region of France.

France is one of the most visited countries in Europe and August is their peak holiday season. However, it’s not difficult to cut into a side street in one of their little market towns, pop into a forest for a walk, or wander through the rural backwaters to still enjoy some of the chic decadence and sheer tranquillity that this area has to offer.

This holiday was a restful one for us and much time was spent at the gite reading and generally languishing around the pool. That said we did take a little time out to explore. Here are my highlights:

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A French Adventure

There is something about arriving in a country where they speak a different language that sends a frisson of excitement through me.

Stretching up to Belgium and Germany in the north, across to Switzerland and Italy in the east, and down to Spain and the wonderfully warm Mediterranean in the south, France covers over 643,000 square kilometres and offers a plethora of different regions and climates for the traveller to sample. The northern regions like Normandy mirror the temperate climate of Britain; the eastern alps, often still impassable in April and May offer excellent ski opportunities in winter; St Tropez and Cannes on the French Riveria (and the Principality of Monaco – one of my personal faves) offer wonderfully warm French chic and excellent sailing opportunities; while Marseille straddles the Med. at the bottom, almost guaranteeing succulent summer sunshine. And this is only the tip of the iceberg with many wonderful regions within.

This year we set our sights on the Dordogne in the south west, flying into its capital of Bordeaux. Not generally a lover of resorts, I find a car gives us the freedom to avoid the tourist traps, explore the surrounding area at our leisure, eat at French cafes, visit markets and soak up the local culture. 

Nestled in rolling countryside, equidistant between two ancient bastides, and offering panoramic views of surrounding fields of sunflowers, maize, Cyprus trees and olive groves the gite named ‘Josse’ was our home for the week. Josse is a beautiful 18th century construction with a large swimming pool, table tennis, badminton, bbq… In short, everything you need to occupy an eleven year old, not to mention two forty somethings;)

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