All work and no play makes Nick a dull boy. So today we took a break, left Puymangou, and headed to Libourne on the Dordogne. As we drove down onto the flat plain of the Gironde estuary there was a subtle change in the vegetation. At first you do not notice that the occasional field of vines carved from the forest or nestling in a mixed farm will become more frequent. Slowly you may become aware that the occasional ‘other’ crop is growing among the fields of vines; then suddenly you are absolutely aware that the vine dominates everything and there are no other crops in the fields(although I did see two apple trees very close to Libourne). It is aweful, a truly wonderful sight.
Driving through the rolling fields of neatly manicured vines and golden stoned Châteaux, you may see a distant van parked among those sticks and then notice the rhythmic bobbing of a persons head as they methodically prune and clear working up and down the rows. At the edge of the field a plume of slowly rising smoke marks where the clippings are being burnt. Passing the frequent châteaux you read their names and it is like driving through the wine department of Waitrose or that wonderful off-license that was on the High Street in Overton; do you remember it? Is it still there?
After a very pleasant morning where the occasional bit of shopping divided up the breaks, first a coffee in Place de Lycee then lunch on the edge of the main square next to the Hotel de Ville we went to the Theatre le Liburnia and the photograph exhibition. The photographer, Claude Cathala, has a very strange eye for an image. He sees anthropomorphic objects and images everywhere. His photos are an amazing collection of ‘faces’ and forms seen in every-day objects. However that summary is being disingenuous to the guy and his work; it is far more than that and given the superb hanging, in themed areas throughout the foyer and bar of the theatre, it makes very pleasant viewing. I am not sure how much, if any, photoshop plays in his pictures but | hope very little. One other thing is that none of the images was titled. Having no title (and that includes titles such as ‘No Title’ and ‘image 1’) are the quickest ways to have me give up on an ‘art-fest’. For once that did not matter.
So, full of coffee and culture, we set off home via St Emilion. The Wine department shelf labels continued as we approached the town. The sandstone buildings had already starting to glow as the sun sank over the vineyards. Close to the town the narrow lanes were contained within claustrophobic stone walls that at first glance reminded me of Cornwall. However the reasons for the walls are, I would say, completely different. The winds do blow in to St Emilion off the Atlantic I am sure but I would think that the walls are there to protect the growing grapes from the depredations of mass tourism; and mass tourism finds fertile ground in St Emilion. A beautiful town of narrow streets, fine architecture, mostly military or ecclesiastical, and wine shops. Viticulture and viti-vendre dominate the lives and activities of the whole town. But then with a rising tide of vines lapping at the walls of the Bastide they have no other option.
From here the road back home to Puymangou led through a village called Montagne. It is no higher than anywhere else in the region but I am sure that the name comes with a very amusing story which, one day, I shall discover and share.