I misheard Mirinda today. She was telling me how she’d like to die lying in a field, looking up at a perfect blue sky (like the one today). She then said that if she died in a hospital I was to walk her outside to see the sky. I thought she said to walk her outside with an ice cream. I then told her that if I was die in a hospital that she should walk me outside with an ice cream. Preferably pistachio or Smurf…or anything except chocolate. And even chocolate if that’s all there is in the shop.
The colour of the Smurf ice cream is exactly how the sky looked today. The blue was so unbelievably deep that we didn’t believe it. Even so, it was. The temperature managed to reach 24 and the air conditioning went on in the car as we drove back to the chateau…having eaten our ice creams beforehand.
Today was our city day; the day we spent in Perigueux, the capital of the Perigord. A lovely city though a city divided into people, places and periods.
There is the early Gallic which was overtaken and expanded into the Gallic-Roman. There was then the shrinking of the Gallic-Roman because of outside forces who believed that the long held Roman peace was somehow a bad thing. Then came the Medieval period followed quickly by the Renaissance. Then came the Modern with everything that holds. And you can see it all! Perigueux is a wonderful tapestry of its past lives.
We began in the middle, joining the throngs of people buying and selling at the sprawling city market that appears every Wednesday and Saturday. Piles of fresh fruit and veg, yummy pastries and bread…it’s all there. Little changed since the Middle Ages, the market sprawls.
We happily joined the crowds, stopping first at a Salon de Tea for breakfast but then heading for the cathedral which forms the back wall of the market.
The cathedral of St Front is unlike any cathedral I’ve seen. The shape is that of a Greek cross and above each point is a massive dome. The legend of St Front shows how he founded Perigueux…which had already been founded by the Gauls and then the Romans and then probably the Vikings. Though, naturally, the religious claim they founded everything because prior to them everything was heathen.
More importantly the cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is always something we’re pleased to see. It is seriously an amazing looking church with hints towards the East as well as France, Italy and Spain. I rather liked it, especially the stained glass.
But we couldn’t stay in church all day. We had to head across the Medieval and out towards the Gallic-Roman section of town. This meant walking passed the Military Museum which we managed to avoid. I have to admit that while I’m interested in most things historical and museum-ish, military stuff leaves me a bit cold. And the thing is, I have an Art Gallery Voucher which allows me one visit per trip. (The voucher can be transferred for an unexpected museum visit if necessary.) The Voucher system means I’m not fast and loose with my visits. So we avoided the Military Museum.
Down the street, across the amphitheatre park (where the remains of the Roman amphitheatre blend in nicely with the grass and trees where once had been 20,000 fans screaming for blood) and through the crowds of high school students gathered around the ruins of a chateau, we eventually found the Roman remains of Perigueux.
Well, actually, that’s not exactly accurate. First we visited St Etienne which is a sombre and forgettable church on the edge of Roman Perigueuex.
The first thing that stops you in your tracks is the remains of the temple to Vesunna. It’s massive. When you see the model of it, it doesn’t look that big but when you see it in real life, it just blows you away. The photo above doesn’t do it justice. It really is massive.
Then comes the really amazing part of the day.
In the 1960’s it was planned for a big block of flats to go up in Perigueux. Before they started, a bunch of archaeologists were sent in to have a bit of a look see. They found the remains of a Roman house; a domus. It was then decided to build a museum above and around the precious finds and so the Site-Musee Gallo-Romain de Perigueuz was born.
Brilliantly designed by Jean Nouvel, the entire structure sits like an umbrella over the ruins while display cases give an indication of life in Roman Perigord.
Truly a masterpiece of a museum. Superb. Seriously there are not enough superlatives for it. We spent a long time wandering around it.
However, eventually we were exhausted and headed back to the chateau before venturing out again for our 25th wedding anniversary dinner at the Michelin starred L’Essential.
And what another brilliant find the restaurant was. The food was magnificent, the wine more than a delight. I’m not going to go on about the food because mere words could never do it justice. I’ll just finish with a photo of my dessert with a celebratory candle.