Given that today we have lost our connection to the Internet, I thought it the perfect time to describe how we have been accessing it down here on the farm. Because the pigeonnaire is so far from the main house, someone has installed an extension power line for a wifi antenna. The plug at our end is inserted into a socket that seems to disappear into a garden wall. We feel that behind this wall is the actual Internet and we have the control.
Sadly we were very, very wrong. The owners left for Bordeaux this morning, telling us they wouldn’t be back until after we’ve left (on Wednesday). What they omitted telling us was that they were taking the Internet with them. Clearly it’s far too precious to be entrusted into our hands. We returned from our day out to find we’d been cut off from the world. I felt instantly devoid of all contact with humanity…beyond Mirinda, of course. I was very gloomy.
Our day, on the other hand, was lovely. Our usual late start saw us arrive in the 33% English populated bastide town of Eymet. Back home we watched a programme on the BBC about an area of France called Little England and it featured Eymet. One of the people in the programme is the woman who runs this shop.
Anyway, the town was lovely to walk around and memorable because it’s the only place we’ve heard someone shouting into a mobile phone and he turned out to be English. This is clearly an English phenomenon.
Eymet is one of the bastide towns that was built for aggression. It has a castle and once was walled. It was built by the French to keep out the English. I guess it took a few centuries but eventually the English have indeed managed to get in. And they were everywhere. We had pizza surrounded by them. It felt very odd. I don’t mind the occasional tourist (after all we are tourists ourselves) but a third of a town is a bit much. Also when you pass the English on the street, they don’t say Bonjour whereas the French almost always do.
So, leaving the English town of Eymet, we set off for a very small spot called Allemans du Dropt –Dropt being the river it is on. There is a small church in the middle of the village (dedicated to St Eutrope) which has the most amazing frescoes in it. I was particularly keen to see the depictions of hell because they are always so wonderfully graphic.
And these didn’t disappoint. The frescoes were painted in the 15th century but were not rediscovered until 1935. I assume they were whitewashed over or something. They are now in the process of being restored. Sadly some have been lost completely with no record of what they were. However, the ones that are still in evidence are wonderful.
Ignoring the Jesus stuff (only because it’s all a bit predictable and, therefore, dull) we move on to a wonderful image of St Michael having a right go at the devil. With massive golden lance, surmounted by a cross, he pierces the devil at his feet while gripping his horns. Behind him is an angel and two humans who have been saved from the fires of hell.
But brave St Michael has not been that successful. For to his right is a giant demon carrying a wicker basket full of humans, destined for the fiery pits. He looks back at the blonde haired Saint as if poking his tongue out at him (except he doesn’t appear to have a tongue). The humans in the basket don’t look that unhappy but the one human held by the hair by the devil is clearly in some distress as naked he prepares to receive a rather vicious looking spear from an equally out of sorts demon.
The next panel is clearly my favourite. It is hell itself. A big cauldron, full to the brim with humans, most of whom are looking a bit sad (although one in the front just looks comfortable, so maybe the water is still only tepid). The massive teeth and open mouth of what the church calls ‘Leviathan’ is to the extreme right with big demons depositing their loads into it.
To the left, at the very gates of hell, four demons are arriving with fresh humans. One carries two pierced by a sword, a second has one by the legs, carried over his shoulders like a sack of spuds, the third has a basket on his back with many little human heads poking out and the fourth appears to be pushing a human wheelbarrow…if you look very carefully.
It is all truly fantastic and I can easily imagine the locals on a Sunday being chastised by the priest who would point to the maws of the devil and shout that this was where they were all destined to end up if they didn’t eat fish on a Friday.
Mirinda thought they looked like cartoons and couldn’t really take them seriously. I never take them seriously anyway. However, they were excellent and I thoroughly enjoyed them. We then headed off to the Chateau de Duras.
This is an amazing chateau. It was a complete and utter mess after having been ransacked and left for dead after the French Revolution. Then, in the 1960s a group of people decided to give it a bit of a makeover but, rather than make it look all National Trust, they decided to leave all the rooms bare with boards explaining the rooms and what they were for. This gives a greater sense of freedom to the visitor who doesn’t feel ill at ease. It also means the visitor can takes photographs inside and out.
The chateau does have a couple of little gimmicks though. As you descend to the patisserie, a voice is heard warning you about what may lay downstairs. I was ahead of Mirinda and went through the secret door which appeared in the wall complete with creaking effect. I waited an age for her to appear but she never did. She was worried that she’d be stuck on the other side of the secret door and not understand how to get free again.
The highest point of the chateau is the tower. At the start is a warning – the staircase is very narrow and anyone with vertigo should not go onto the top of the tower. This slightly put Mirinda off but I went first, sending back warnings about what lay ahead. When I emerged from the extremely narrow staircase I immediately yelled down for her to stop following me.
The staircase is in the side of the tower and emerges by the edge. There is a small banister around the top of the tower but the operative word there is small. It came up to my knees. I am not generally afraid of heights but I started feeling a bit wobbly as I headed for the centre of the tower. The views were spectacular and were uninterrupted through 360°.
I tried not to look as I descended the stairs.
Before heading back we popped into a small bar for a refreshing drink (or two). It was then back to Liorac and the dead Internet.