It has been a long time since I posted a blog entry from here in the Dordogne and given an update from Bon Abri. Although it is a long way from the height of the summer holiday season a great deal has happened. Here is a summary to help us all catch up.
As Autumn stripped away the last of the greens of summer and gave way to the skeletal trees of winter we took a short trip down to Apartment St Vincent in Carcassonne. However with business to deal with in Perigeaux we decided to vary our route south driving through the thickly wooded valleys of the Dordogne river and across the limestone country to Cahor.
A brief stop in La Bugue where our road crossed the Vézere river was rewarded with a very large market selling a wide variety of Regional produce. The stalls sprawled throughout the whole of the central area of the town. Despite the drizzle the market was busy.
From Cahor we headed across country taking the scenic route and winding up through the clouds over the Montagne Noire. We descended into continued drizzle out across the Aude plain. It is always exhilarating to drive into Carcassonne and despite the poor weather this journey was no exception.
By the following day the weather had lifted and promised to improve for the next day or so. Richard joined us from Montpellier where he had been working which encouraged us to take a trip into the Montagne Noire and to the hidden town of Minerve. Leaving the Aude plain and working our way into the hills the wind whipped across the sparse vegetation that clings to the thinly soiled limestone. As we dropped down into the valleys surrounding Minerve the wind was extinguished and the still air was warm and pleasant.
However the difference between Minerve on this Autumn day and on our previous early summer visit was extreme. Now water cascaded off the rocky surface with splendid waterfalls bouncing and spraying as they crashed into the rivers.
During the summer the two rivers run below the ground surface but now they filled the ravines and white water speckled the surface. Where dry tunnels through the rocks marked pleasant, cool, summer paths in winter the tunnels are full of fierce torrents rushing through the rocks. At the confluence of the Brian and Cesse rivers, the supposed site of the martyrdom of 120 Cathar Perfects in 1210, the deep brown water of the Brian met the fawn water of the Cesse in a magnificent junction. As a geographer the sight set my heart racing.
With the waters rising all around we took a trip down to the Mediterranean. We followed the course of the Canal du Midi through the vineyards crossing and re-crossing it before reaching Beziere. From here we passed through the wind-swept, rain-drenched city of Monpellier and settled for lunch in a small port on the Etang du Mauguio. We watched the flamingos and cormorants buffeted by the winds as they flew past and the grebes bobbing like corks on the spume whipped Etang and we felt that this would be a far better venue with a touch of summer warmth and sunshine.
With darkness rapidly approaching, driven more by the weather than the time of day, we drove back along the coast through Frontignon (source of Muscat de Frontignon), then to Sete, Agde and through Beziers and returned along the Canal du Midi.
This took us back to apartment St Vincent in Carcassonne with plenty of time for a glass of vin rouge in the Celt. In the apré wine glow we reflected on the new French language phrases that we had learned today. These short statements were probably the most numerous of the warning signs that we had seen along our route. “Route Barée”, “Route Innondate” and “Deviation” are now part of my vocabulary.
Once more we returned to Bon Abri in Puymangou as winter slowly crept into the shade spreading cold and leafless brown across the Forêt de la Double. For a few short weeks we watched the greens fade.
We headed back to the UK for Xmas as the kids were unable to join us in France. Our trip was a slowly unfolding nightmare as flu insinuated itself into our systems and left us exhausted for three long weeks. With New Year past (and a belated Bon Anee to all) the Station Inn Rock-Jam gave us a superb night of live music as some of Andovers best Live covers bands performed in the annual massed musical ‘love-in’ for Charity.
So now back in Bon Abri once more, home, and into a few weeks of superb rugby.
Until next time santé.