Today we decided to finish our day off in Aubeterre-sur-Dronne because we’d heard there was a pretty good church there. Two, actually. So, having driven around the countryside looking for Romanesque churches, we finally arrived in the hilltop town of Aubeterre. And it was here that I saw one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. It ranks up there with the Lascaux cave paintings and Stonehenge. An extraordinary achievement. However, as I said, that was at the end of the day. Before we did anything, we returned to the cafe to finish our breakfast from yesterday.
Generally our breakfasts in France are small and simple affairs. Breakfast at Comme a la Maison is anything but that. After yesterday’s aborted attempt to eat all 37 courses, we wanted to give it a proper outing today. And we managed to finish.
The bread, the muesli, the French toast and the compote I’ve already mentioned but today we managed to reach the egg and bacon course. And it was delicious. Well worth saving a spot in the old tummy. We’ll probably return tomorrow for Round Three and maybe the fish course…
But it was soon time to sally forth and head out for our discovery of the Romanesque churches of the Perigord Noir. Apparently there’s lots of them and they’re all quite famous. We managed to find two and one of those was shut. We also managed to visit a church which wasn’t Romanesque. Still, it was fun.
Firstly we turned up in the village of Lisle where the church looked a bit foreboding but was locked up tight. Mirinda thought it may have been because the place was undergoing some sort of work (there was scaffolding around the back). So I took a photo and we then drove all the way back to Brantome because Mirinda had left her e-reader in the cafe where we’d had our breakfast.
The staff in Comme a la Maison were very pleased to see me back until I told them I didn’t want more breakfast but did my wife leave her e-reader behind? They all laughed and handed it over. Such a jolly bunch. We then returned to the trail, hunting for our next Romanesque church.
This time we were a lot luckier. We pulled up outside the massive edifice that is the church at Grand Brussac. It is seriously imposing. There’s also a small carpark which is easily accessible and had a spot free, two things that were rare today.
From the imposing front, the church seems to shrink on the inside (a sort of reverse TARDIS) and seems a lot friendlier.
I forgot to mention that it was Ascension Day today. This is NOT as I have previous claimed, the day that Mary was given the bad news. Actually it is the day that Jesus went to Heaven, possibly on a cloud or a winged horse or a Frisbee…I don’t know. Neither, I suspect, does anyone else. Still, it doesn’t stop the conjecture. I think I’ll go with a Frisbee.
Anyway, the last time we were in France on Ascension Day we were in Saumar and everything was closed apart from an Indian Restaurant and a betting shop. It convinced us that Ascension Day is a crap day to be in France. However, everything is different in the Dordogne because, if anything, more stuff was open than we’d ever seen before. Which is a very good thing.
But, back to the church in Grand Brussac…
I got to know this view extremely well over the next couple of hours because a sparrow was stuck inside and Mirinda was convinced that if we just stayed very, very still up the end of the church and waited, it would eventually fly out the door. Time ticked slowly by as we watched it fly from one end of the church to the other, completely ignoring the open door. It was a long, agonising wait but, you guessed it, the sparrow flew out of the church and disappeared without a care in the world.
Mirinda asked if I liked having the kind of wife who didn’t let sparrows die in churches. I said I’d rather be married to her than to a wife who DID let sparrows die in churches.
I do really have a kind wife.
Anyway, having seen everything there was to see in the Romanesque church in Grand Brussac, we set off for our next one. This was to be in the town of Montagrier.
We sort of saw the tower as we drove by. There was no parking (that we could see) in the town and the overflow carpark outside the town was on the edge of a very steep field which Mirinda was frightened to drive down, fearing she’d fall off the edge. So we kept driving.
We wound up in the town of Tocane-Saint-Apre, sitting at a slatternly Tabac drinking a beer and an apple juice (they didn’t have pear) and contemplating the distinctly un-Romanesque church across the road.
We had a good look around the church before collecting the car and setting off for Riberac.
Now, Riberac doesn’t get a lot of good write-ups. Apparently it’s a favourite haunt of the English and, therefore, the French don’t rate it very highly. For this reason, we decided to skip it and head directly for what was planned to be our final Romanesque church, the one in the village of Aubeterre-sur-Drone. We didn’t see it. What we did see blew us away.
The subterranean church is extraordinary. The inside was hand hewn starting in the 7th century by Benedictine monks then enlarged considerably in the 12th century when the owner of the chateau above it returned from the Crusades and decided it needed enlarging. I guess because he’d survived he felt he had to do something for the god he believed he was fighting for. And so he ordered other people to dig out a big church in solid rock using only primitive tools.
The church is over 70 feet high and features stairs that allow the visitor to look down on the entire place. Of course it’s not as impressive as it was when the place was actually used as a church but even so…it does tend to take your breath away. Mirinda wondered how they could have done it. I suggested it was just what people did before TV.
There was nothing else to do afterwards but have a delicious ice cream (it was another lovely day and the temperature reached 28!) on a terrace, overlooking the valley.
We then strolled back up through the village, stopping for a drink at a handy bar, before collecting the car and heading back to Brantome for dinner.
We tried to get a pizza but the only person making pizza in Brantome had orders up until 8:45pm (it was just after 7pm) so we decided against pizza. Anyway, my trio of fish was delicious though Mirinda was less than enthusiastic about her lamb chops. She was rather hoping for pizza.