Almost Black Sunday

I forgot to mention that yesterday morning I saw a hoopee. It was sitting on the grass just beyond the loggia (which is what Mirinda calls the verandah) giving me a funny look. Which is odd because they have a funny look all of their own.

We have two wooden hoopees which we bought from an antiques shop in Haslemere many years ago. They don’t look quite as odd in wood as they do in the flesh. Sadly I didn’t have my camera with me but will keep an eye out for future encounters with Monsieur Hoopee.

And, following subsequent research to find out if what I’d seen WAS in fact a hoopee, I discovered that the hoopee is the national bird of Israel. An unusual choice but one I wholeheartedly approve of. I mean you can keep your macho posing eagles, give me a crazy looking hoopee bird any day.

Anyway, that was yesterday, today started with a lovely, lazing round the house type of morning with no sight of a hoopee. The sun was bright but a good cool breeze kept the temperature down to manageable Gaz-levels.

And, as promised, here is the video of the second part of the house:

But, of course, into such a perfect holiday mood a little metaphorical rain must fall and consequently, while the day was off to a lovely, chilled and relaxed start, it eventually ended in balls of stress and abject misery. But I’m running ahead…our first destination was the beautiful medieval town of Issigeac.

We punched the location into Linda and off she went, taking us through some of the most gorgeous countryside we’ve seen. The traffic was light, the weather was crystal clear, the perfect Sunday for a drive.

Finding Issigeac was simple. It is round and surrounded by fields. Where once there was a defensive wall, is now a road that encircles the medieval buildings and cobbled streets.

We loved Issigeac. We loved the higgledy piggledy streets and the overhung buildings. Sadly we’d just missed the market which happens every Sunday morning but we had a jolly good wander around the entire town.

Duck when approaching

Eventually, having tried and failed at the first place, we settled down in the only restaurant open. It was lovely sitting outside, under the wisteria which was hanging from an open gazebo. It was even lovelier eating duck and chips and drinking a Leffe.

Our favourite restaurant in Issigeac

There was a wonderful moment of high French comedy when a young teenage girl managed to catch her jeans in her chair at the table just across from us. Her jeans were clearly the coolest and had these silly little chains hanging from the back pockets. The chairs had little holes in them (like most garden furniture) which were just the right shape and size to catch the chain but make it impossible to release.

She was of the age when a teenage girl does not want to draw any attention to herself, let alone her bottom, and yet everyone was transfixed as each member of her family attempted to release her. I figured she’d not want me to offer any assistance…so I didn’t.

Eventually her brother managed to cut her lose and she tried to vanish from the public gaze once more, albeit now sitting on a sweater.

After our delightfully entertaining lunch, we set off for our first chateau this trip. We’d decided to visit the closest to where we’re staying so it was off to the Chateau de Lanquais we went.

And it’s a lovely little chateau. The oldest bit dates to the 12th century but bits and pieces were added all the way up to the Renaissance when it had a bit of a wholesale overhaul. Even so, you can see where the old style ends and the newer one starts. Then there’s the few bits and pieces of 19th century addition.

13th century to the right, 15th to the left

We wandered around a lot of it although more than half is still occupied by the last remaining member of the de Gourgue family. You can also stay there if you’re feeling brave.

I say brave because the whole place is a bit scary. You know when you visit somewhere and the ghosts of its past seem to be whispering at you from the walls? When you think you see shadows of past events etching themselves across the tattering wallpaper and tapestry wallhangings? Well, that’s what this place was like.

We wandered through her ladyship’s and his lord’s bedrooms, into the dining room and games room and the grand stateroom before plunging beneath the ground to visit the dungeon and food cellar. Cold and dank it was. Though I was quite keen on the subterranean temperature, I’d rather not have to spend too long down there.

It was then time for the medieval kitchen and the guard room where soldiers would practice fencing while keeping a watch out for the enemy. We then returned to the real world of the 21st century, outside in front of the building.

Chateau de Lanquais was classified a historic monument in 1942 which means it cannot be destroyed. This is rather good except that any restoration that is required has to be allowed by the Ministry of Culture. The costs are then borne by the government (50%) and the owner (50%). Therefore, in 1954, they opened the place to visitors to try and recoup something. Mind you, they’d not have made an awful lot today. There was only about five couples and that’s including us.

Having filled ourselves with the cultural food of Lanquais, we hopped into the car and set off for home. It was then that we made the fatal error.

We had enough food for dinner except we had no fresh bread. In France that’s pretty much a capital crime so we decided to look for somewhere open. Even a supermarket would do. We asked Linda and she said there was an InterMarche in Lalinde (which I’m certain was purely a coincidence) so we set off.

There was a bit of wandering around the country before we actually found Lalinde but find it we did and we parked the car and went looking for bread. There was a market going on but, alas, only bric-a-brac (which is being generous because everything smelled like old, damp garages). We then went wandering through the town.

Lalinde is a bastide town. This means it was built during the 13th and 14th centuries. At first they were sort of frontier towns where the monarchy encouraged people to set up shop and settle down. And it wasn’t just the French monarchy, Edward I of England also created a few.

After a while, they weren’t so much frontier towns as military outposts and they started being fortified. French against English and vice versa.

It’s quite easy to tell a bastide because it is laid out in a strict grid pattern, something the Greeks did to great effect during the city states period.

Not that that has anything to do with anything other than the fact that Lalinde is a bastide town.

What was relevant is that Lalinde has a patisserie that stays open until at least 5pm on a Sunday. I almost skipped through the doors and grinned stupidly at all the lovely French bread lined up against the back wall of the shop. We also bought a cake which was another mistake.

The afternoon was so glorious that we decided to go and sit by the river in a little park perched high above the southern bank of the Dordogne. We watched this bridge as we enjoyed the fruits of our labours.

Bridge over the river Dordogne

Eventually we wandered back to the car and told Linda to direct us back to the pigeonnaire which she happily did. In about 30 minutes we pulled in through the big wrought iron gates, parked the car and jumped out, ready to drink a glass or two of wine and eat some olives. And then Mirinda asked me if I had her little friend.

Mirinda is very attached to her iPhone to the extent that she calls it her little friend. It is like an extra limb. She stops being a normal human being when it isn’t attached to her. My heart sunk as I told her I didn’t have it. The last time we remembered seeing it was in Lalinde.

With little hope, we jumped back into the car and quickly, high-tailed it back to Lalinde (with a minor deviation because Mirinda didn’t recognise the road we were on). Mirinda pulled into a car space not far from the little park and I jumped out, telling her to stay with the car.

I walked into the park and my heart sank. There were a lot more people there than I’d have expected. Just behind the bench where we’d been sitting, there was a group of teenagers doing some sort of dance-off thing. I considered throwing myself off the edge of the park and into the raging river when I reached the bench and there, all alone, as obvious as a white rose on a tuxedo, was Mirinda’s little friend. If it had been a kitten it would have been meowing frantically. I picked it up and raced back to the car, suddenly lighter and happier.

The second journey back seemed to go a lot quicker. The wine when we reached the pigeonnaire was all the sweeter.

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One Response to Almost Black Sunday

  1. mum cook says:

    Love the 2nd video looks very nice and comfortable Wow how lucky can you get they must be very honest in France and don’t touch other people’s stuff, love mum

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