Up bright and early this morning then, realising my mistake, I went back to bed.
Up at a proper holiday hour and a leisurely start to the day, we headed out for a garden visit.
Following a long and arduous (sometimes mountainous) drive through some pretty beautiful scenery, navigated the old fashioned way because Linda is refusing to read any more maps, we finally arrived at the Manoir d’Eyrignac.
What a magnificent (if somewhat orderly) garden. It’s very French with most plants bent to the owner’s harsh requirements. Any stray bit of branch or leaf is almost immediately pounced on and totally obliterated. Lines of trees are regimentally straight, pebbles are strictly laid to size.
Above is the famous hornbeam and yew hedge. It obeys the French ideal of line, vista and repetition in a garden. And, of course, you can’t walk on the grass. It’s for looking at and for trimming with clippers of varying size.
The manoir (or house) has been in the same family for 500 years, though not the same building. The present house, for instance, was built in the 17th century following the Princes’ Revolt (unhappy Protestants in 1552). The garden, on the other hand, was completely replanted by the present owner’s father, Gilles Sermadiras, in the early 1960’s. At some stage, it had been planted in the English style.
Amazingly, Gilles was a self taught gardener. He created one of the best examples of the French Style in the country. Quite a feat.
The White Garden is the newest part, opened in 2002 and features actual flowers! Quite rare in the orderly French design. Mind you, there is a large family flower bed where flowers for cutting are grown en masse.
The whole place is quite incredible: from the military precision of the hedges to the yellow stone buildings of the Manoir, where the family still lives.
Mirinda and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m not certain that Bob was that enamoured. Still, it was a nice stroll through pleasant scenery, completed with lunch on a terrace overlooking it all.
Speaking of lunch, Mirinda deliberately had a salad because the last few meals we’ve had out have been seriously deprived of any vegetation. She wanted to redress the balance. The salad that arrived (smoked salmon with cheesy cream atop a mountain of foliage) was YUGE. Only a hungry goat could have finished it. Having managed about a third of it, Mirinda felt she had eaten her quota of fresh veg for the next four days.
After our sizeable meals, we headed back towards Cenac, turning off for the very popular town of La Roque Gageac. What an extraordinary place. Caves converted into houses, high above the street where more conventional buildings sit huddle beneath enormous rock slides waiting to happen. And all of it running along the side of the Dordogne.
We had come to Roque Gageac to go on a boat ride. We booked onto one of the gabarres, a rebuilt traditional flat bottomed boat of this particular stretch of the river. While the boats lines and general structure are traditional, the two little propellers and engines are modern necessities. We bought tickets to go in ‘Jean’…though all four of the gabarres are pretty much identical.
Our tour didn’t start for a bit so Mirinda and I left Bob to sit by the river in contemplation while we mounted the steep track that led up to the 18th century church, perched on a rather handily shaped ledge.
I raced on ahead and was rather alarmed when I reached the entrance of the church at the same time as a small family group of American tourists. Americans are immediately distinguishable by their volume and general naivety and they set off alarm bells in my head. After all, you take a small church, add an American family in full force and you’re not going to enjoy any of the soft, ambience.
This time, however, the Americans remained outside (recovering their breath after the long climb) while I took the opportunity to sample some solitude. Silly me. Two German women and a small German boy were making a hell of a ruckus in the Mary chapel. My German is pretty limited (to say the least) but it appeared that the boy wanted to light a candle and one of the women was helping him. The boy looked to be about three.
It was all rather annoying, particularly when the American family then entered, filling the small space with noise. We went and found an ice cream and wandered along the main street for a bit.
The town is very popular with tourists and so are the boats. The Jean arrived, full of passengers. We thought we’d have to squidge up but, the 4:30 sailing was delightfully only half full, meaning all three of us had a bench seat to ourselves. It made for a very comfortable trip up to Castelnaud and back.
The boat has a guide on board who gives everyone a bit of a history lesson. Naturally it’s all in French. For us non-French speakers, there are audio guides. These guides turn on and off automatically as the boat passes various points along the river. Very clever but also a bit annoying when the chap speaking is cut off mid-story because we’ve entered another, clearly more interesting, stretch.
Speaking of the chap reading…he was supposed to be a long dead sailor who once worked the river on a gabarres just like ours (well, without the engine). He had a rather strange accent (perhaps as a result of being dead for so long) with some peculiar pronunciations. We couldn’t work out if he was actually French with some weird English words or he was English with a horrendous grasp of a French accent. Whichever, it was very funny in parts and informative in others. And I really loved this sign.
All up, it was a delightful way to spend an hour over 7km. I was especially pleased when our (audio) guide pointed out how interesting the geology along the river is – I’m ignoring Mirinda’s derisive snort when she heard this. And, given this is my blog, I’m going to include a picture of the limestone layers.
I can hear Nicktor’s groans from here. Metaphorically, of course. He doesn’t actually read my blog.
Anyway, that was it for our tourism today. On the way back to the cottage, we stopped off at a supa-marche called, simply, ‘Shopi’ and stocked up on some essential salads (a weird seafood thing that we thought was coleslaw and a truly horrendous version of tabbouleh that I couldn’t eat), a set of jeweller’s screw drivers (for my sunglasses which keep unscrewing themselves) and some milk and bananas.
We then proceeded to finish the pommeau (which Bob has quite a taste for), most of the smelly cheese, crackers, chicken and salad.
A lovely day, completed by Bob finding the Germany v Algeria World Cup game on the limited TV. It was a late night.