Bon Abri gites – A short trip to Bourdeilles

The cranes have finished passing over Bon Abri on their migration north. Huge rolling flocks of several hundred birds battled noisily against the continuing northerly winds. As the stragglers, small groups of one or two adults and a handful of struggling juveniles, were passing over, the rare warm and sunny days gave way to days of seemingly endless drizzle from heavy grey skies.

We had to take a trip further up the river Dronne and thought we would extend the trip with a visit to Brantome, a town rather optimistically dubbed the Venice of the Perigueux. It is certainly picturesque and undoubtedly has an intimate juxtaposition of roadways and rivers. However the person who came up with the title has probably never been to Venice. Brantome is well worth a visit and quietly sitting in a river-side cafe sipping a glass of Pineau de Charente while watching the antics of the new sailors in their canoes and kayaks can be a great way to pass the time between visits to the architectural and historical sites.

Castle in the woods to the west of La Tour Blanche, Dordogne

Castle in the woods to the west of La Tour Blanche, Dordogne

Anyway it is irrelevant to this post as we didn’t make it to Brantome. Driving along steep, winding lanes through the cave pocked, tree covered hills we came suddenly upon the ruins of a 13th Century fortress swathed in grey and green swags of ivy and creepers and sheltered on its built up motte by scrawny trees. It made a surprising and elegant view as the rain took a break, packed up its bags and left us for the day.

By the time that we realised that we had entered the town of La Tour Blanche, where a 10th Century tower built over a Gaulish fort is only one of the architectural gems, we had driven right through it. It is a small but beautiful place so be careful that you do not repeat our mistake and find yourself through it before you realise that you have arrived.

Cercle, Dordogne, interior of St Cybard priory church

Cercle, Dordogne, interior of St Cybard priory church

Taking a turning almost at random to find a vantage point to view the Tour across the valley and over the trees we entered the village of Cercles. What an enchanting place this is. The church, which dominates the huddle of houses, is all that is left of the Priory of St Cybard. The carvings over the west door are magnificent despite the weathering. They make an excellent counterpoint to the austerity of the church interior where serried ranks of benches wait for the next service.

Our road took us, by a circuitous route, back to the banks of the river Dronne. Suddenly the 13th – 16th Century castle at Bourdeilles loomed into view across the river. The monumental fortifications dominate the skyline. This had been the blood soaked border between English Aquitaine and France during the hundred years war (presumably during a century and more when people could not count – either that or ‘The one hundred and sixteen years war’ does not have the same ring to it.)

Bourdeilles, Dordogne, medieval bridge over the river Dronne

Bourdeilles, Dordogne, medieval bridge over the river Dronne

The transformation of the defensive castle to a 16th Century statement of elegance and prestige was the work of a female architect. As far as I am aware the only example of a female architect in the 16th Century. Jacquette de Montbron was spurred into action by the promise of a visit from Catherine de Medici. When Catherine decided to cancel her visit Jacquette abandoned the castle and the work. It must have been a devastating blow to Jacquette.

Boat shaped mill on the river Dordogne in the town of Bourdeilles, Dordogne, France

Boat shaped mill on the river Dronne in the town of Bourdeilles, Dordogne, France

This was the point at which our plans for our visit to Brantome were abandoned for the day. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking the streets and lanes of this beautiful town. Up on the belvedere, which looms over the river, we watched a fisherman casting across the weir. We crossed and re-crossed the river over the medieval bridge, gazed at the boat shaped mills, wandered through the tightly packed houses and sipped at a cafe that dominated the large square while it was, in its turn, dominated by the immense defensive walls of the 13th Century castle.

Bourdeille, Dordogne, France - main square  with cafe

Bourdeilles, main town square

This was a town well worth a visit.

Bourdeilles, hanging bank on the river Dronne, Dordogne, France

Bourdeilles, hanging bank on the river Dronne, Dordogne, France

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Apartment St Vincent, Carcassonne – Autumns advance

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.

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La Bugue-Dordogne-France 141125 0008

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.

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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.

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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.

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Before we had made it back to Carcassonne, driving through the inundated fields of the Minervoir wine region, the rain had started again and continued for the next few days.Etang de Mauguio-Carnon-Montpellier-Heurault-France 141130 0001

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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.

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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.

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Christmas in the Aude – Apartment St Vincent, Carcassonne

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Carcassonne is a great place to be around Christmas and the New Year.  Alas we shall not be able to spend Christmas or New Year in the South of France.  For those who can, or who may be thinking of it, there will be plenty to see and to do in and around Carcassonne. As usual Square Andre Chenier will host the toboggan run with booths selling indulgent treats for all ages (especially suited to people with a sweet tooth).

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In Place Carnot the ice-rink is well under construction and already circles the fountain. Around the edges are more than the regular numbers of booths. I would guess that these include the usual vin chaud sellers but probably include at least some of the booths and stalls from Place Gambetta.

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It is unfortunate that the local authority seem to have mis-timed the resurfacing of Place Gambetta turning it into a huge, desolate, fenced off eye-sore. The usual ferris-wheel has been re-located from Place Gambetta to the square outside the southern gate of Bastide St Louis. Here too the usual fun-fair rides and stalls have been increased with the rest of the facilities re-located from Place Gambetta.

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As the festive season steps up a gear the markets, especially in Place Carnot will become focused more on Christmas and Christmas fare.

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This will also attract the street performers. The festivities will be started off, on the 6th December, by a marché de flambeax. This torchlight procession will start from pont levee and wend its way through la cité across the Aude and into Bastide St Louis. A bright and spirited start to the festivities. For those who will be there – enjoy it as much as I have done in the past.

Carcassonne-France-magi-de-Noel 131221 0014Santé

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More joy of visitors

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Through the summer guests came and went and from their feedback they have had a really good time. The tennis court has proven to be a real bonus and despite the rather variable weather the pool has been in great demand. To hear the squeals, the shrieks and the splashing has been a real pleasure as I worked in the orchard or gardens.

As the excitement has passed and we have returned to a more sedate and isolated life I can catching up with events that occurred throughout the summer. Locally and regionally the calendar has been packed. Personally we were very selective in what we went to see; we felt that we should seriously restrict our schedule to ensure that we were around Bon Abri as much as possible. This, however, did not stop us from getting out and about.

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During most of July and August the town of St Aulaye lives and breathes pastels. Hidden behind the main street is a museum of pastels that hosts one of three venues for a huge international exhibition of pictures. This year there were 350 images on show.

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The level of skill is incredibly high with photo-realist images that look to be photographic in their rendering. Impressive as these images are and skilful as the execution has been I personally prefer something more interpretative. There were several images in the main hall that particularly took my fancy and prime among these was an image on a roughly plastered base creating a superb three-dimensional effect.

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Later we visited Epeluche for their marché nocturne which takes place on the river Dronne. With the frantic sounds of the fun-fair behind us we sat on the river bank drinking rough red wine and waited with the crowds for the summer evening grow dark. With the wide river reflecting its lights the first ‘float’ appeared and was gently punted down-stream. Floats came down stream and were then punted,

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pushed and manfully pulled back up-stream to applause and cheering from the crowds clustered along the banks and across the bridge. With the floats finally finished the crowds moved off to an adjacent field where a really impressive firework display had us all, yes, even jaded old me, gasping and oohing into the spark filled sky.Epeluche-Dordogne-France-la fête nautique 140824 0140

Meanwhile, in La Roche Chalais, there was yet another exhibition in the Temple (a superb venue making use of a former church). This time displaying works by several Basque artists. This was far removed from the work of the pastel artists and showed two and three-dimensional images in a variety of media. With just the two of us and the curator we had plenty of uninterrupted time to contemplate the works.
Until next time Santé.

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Autumn is well on its way….

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We are already in November and still so much to be done in the garden before the harshness of winter shuts us in-doors. After yet another stunningly hot day a blanket of fog has crept up from the river and irrigation lakes and has settled over Bon Abri. Standing outside with the haloed glow of the moon overhead sound is reduced to the gentle hiss of settling dew and the occasional muffled rustle of a foraging vole or shrew. There is no wind.

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One sure sign of the approach of Autumn is the migration of the cranes as they cross from the Paris Basin to the Atlantic coast and onwards to the south. The flocks have been getting bigger as the days go by. The birds normally pass us late in the afternoon. Whether it is a single days flight from the summer grounds or whether they had stopped the previous night at some convenient point I don’t know. The lugubrious calling within the flock and the seemingly effortless flight bely the speed with which they pass over. The numbers of birds per flock are hard to count as the birds are constantly moving within the ‘V’ formation and often the ‘V’s will break up and then re-form. It is a beautiful sight and sound.

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For the last few weeks the shops and markets have been full of chrysanthemums. The huge pots of kaleidoscopic colours have been spilling out across the streets from market stalls and flower shops across the country. Within days they will have been taken to family graves brightening up the cemeteries. Toussaint has come round again and now the cemeteries are vivid with colour.

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With Autumn crowding around us there is a lot of produce in and around the garden just crying out to be harvested. Apples, chestnuts, walnuts, leeks and beautiful, huge, orange potiron (pumpkin). We took one from our plot and have so far made a pumpkin and chick pea curry and several types of soup from the flesh then cleaned, salted and toasted the seeds – what a fantastic vegetable. On the subject of food our afternoon tea-cake this week has been orange with an orange caramel topping. A delightful way to watch the sun go down.

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Sante

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The pleasure of a good book….

This blog entry is so far off-topic that I have been wondering how I can at least try to make it reflect something of Bon Abri. This afternoon, as the sun beat down out of a clear blue sky, I thought that when Winter does hit us, with the devastating cold that everyone tells us is usual, we will need to be sure that we are well prepared with a veritable library of good books. We can then snuggle closer to the log burner and we can escape into a really good read.

Log burner in the old Apple store

I think there are three reasons for reading books, on second thoughts four if we are talking about ‘real’ books (ones printed on paper not electronic things). Firstly to learn something – factual books such as manuals, guide books or any number of non-fiction works. Secondly to fill in some eternal time between bed and sleep, waiting for that long delayed train or trapped inside a cosy cottage as the winter beats at the stone walls. My third reason is the physical act of having the book in ones hands, touching the pages, feeling the weight, sniffing it and enjoying the smell of paper, leather, rags, dust, glue and ‘age’. The fourth reason is that wonderful almost physical presence well-crafted words can make on your brains pleasure centres. A sentence that, when you read it, has to be savoured like a good St Emilion, rolled around the mouth and then, swallowed to get the full play of pleasure from it.

When I find books written in a style where the skilfully crafted words have this physical presence I read them slowly working through the sentences perhaps two or three times before moving on; I may then close my eyes as the words are tasted and digested then absorbed. The author I most associate with this style is the great Laurie Lee, the artist who lovingly created ‘As I walked out one midsummer morning…’, ‘Cider with Rosie’, etc..

Of more recent vintage, although his works are for reading more than savouring, is Ian Rankin. His evocation of Edinburgh is stunningly physical. I was sitting reading ‘Let it Bleed’ when I came upon the following incredibly palpable sentence. Rebus, the ‘hero’ of the book is sitting, late at night, gazing out of the window of his tenement flat and he observes “The streets grew quieter after the students had slouched home on the wings of blasphemy.” To me that sentence has physical presence; one can touch it, I know it, I have seen it, I have heard it (and probably done it – but that is another story). As a small aside one of the ‘characters’ in his books is the ‘Oxford’, a pub close to the centre of Edinburgh where both Rankin and Rebus like to drink.

Oxford Bar, Edinburgh

It is a stroke of genius that has fictional ‘hero’ meet author in a brief, glancing aside in at least one of his books. It is also a tremendously atmospheric pub. My friend Roger, a scientist of 18th century eclecticism, often works and writes in the small, dimly lit back room

Anne, Avril and Richard in the Oxford Bar, Edinburgh 2012

However the master of writing, in my mind, was the great poet Dylan Thomas. In my opinion he is the greatest writer in the English language (admittedly helped by the oral nuances of a Welsh accent). His style is often parodied and badly mistreated but the originals are a unique bag of the most wonderfully sweet gob-stoppers and brittle toffees. Fill your mouth with his words, pause, close your eyes and suck that sweetness into your brain. Anyway, the reason for this rather off-topic start to the blog is that I was reminded that this year is the centenary (or at least yesterday, 27th October was) of Thomas’s birth.

So, back to preparations for the winter, cutting logs, picking field mushrooms from the lawns and watching the cranes fly over in ever increasing ‘V’ shaped, noisy, flocks.

Field mushrooms

So, until next time, santé.

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Passing the one-year mark

A year has passed and the new Bourru has been released. It is a light, refreshing drink made from the first harvest and fermented for a very short time. This gives it the light, refreshing taste that along with the live culture still working in the bottles leads to a drink that looks like a glass of muddy water but tastes like tangy fruit juice. It does not travel (the bottle needs to remain open to let the still fermenting liquid breath) so the bottle we drank came from St Aigulin, about 7 or 8 miles away and just across the River Dronne. The amount of alcohol, and consequently the sweetness/dryness of the wine, will change as the days go by – if you leave it long enough. This drink is a sure sign of the approach of Autumn.

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With the first small flocks of cranes breaking their flights south in the fields outside St Aulaye and the storms of the summer giving way to the misty mornings, shimmering days and chill nights of Autumn we can reflect on our first year here in Bon Abri. It has been busy and very satisfying with the pleasure of sharing our home with visitors. It has been a real pleasure to hear the thud of tennis balls or the squeals and splashing of children in the pool. Every family that has come and gone has been a pleasure to meet. There have been problems, hornets, storms, rain, cluster flies and assorted stinging and biting insects but we have had a good time and I think that our guests have enjoyed themselves too.Bon Abri-Puymangou-Dordogne-France-swimming pool 140901 0019

Whilst every group of guests has been special it has been a real delight to welcome family in the bodies of Tim and Jill who forsook the wide open spaces of the fierce Atlantic for the tight confines of our sparkling pool. No regulators or tight rubber suits here, just trunks and a beer or two; and our dear old friends (in every sense of the word – Martin will understand as we have known each other for about 40 years) in the persons of Martin and Michelle. With them we were far more active spending a lot of time looking at improvements to the orchard and the grounds in general, locations for the bird watching hide and the best spot to build a small lake; fantastic plans for the future.

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During my brother’s visit we also had ourselves a sort of ‘end of season’ party (although the season still seems to be moving along). Friends who have supported us for the past year came and joined us as we ate, drank and, finally early in the morning, made merry.

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The few still able to keep their eyes open enjoyed (!!!) Lee, Jill and I making a lot of noise.Bon Abri-Puymangou-Dordogne-France-end of season party 140917 0015

Thanks to everyone for a terrific year, and finally sorry for the delay in posting this latest blog update.

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Guests are coming

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In a state of panic with guests about to arrive we finally gave up adding chemicals to the green soup in the swimming pool. We pulled the plug on it and drained the water out. As the thousands of litres of green water slowly flowed away I started to scrub the walls. No matter how much water poured out I was never able to see more than a few centimetres through the murk. After a while a light appeared on the wall of the pool. Then, hours later, we saw the drain and the evacuation abruptly stopped. With about 20cm left in the bottom (of a 10m X 5m pool) we had to find another method for removing water. With a bucket and an upturned drainpipe I scooped and lifted the water, from 6am to 10pm, up over my head and into the garden. Then with the light fading I scrubbed the rest of the walls and floor, dried the bottom, attached a hosepipe to our tap and started to refill the pool.

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As daylight broke the next day, scattering the low cloud, I saw that one hosepipe may not be enough. M et Mme Metcalf came to our aid and we ran two hose-pipes up the hill. After about 4 days we had enough water for people to use the pool, and not a minute too soon as our guests came, tired and exhausted, to bask on the decking overlooking the limpid blue water. Over the next few days the pool continued to fill and the sparkling, crystal clear water was very attractive.

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The pool is proving to be a great hit and is being used by everyone. The squeals and splashing that flow down the hill where so recently water flowed make it all worthwhile. Combine this with the tennis court and the pleasure that seems to be creating for our guests and the ‘relaxing’ holiday concept has gone out of the window; replaced by activity based relaxation.

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Lee and me playing guitar and singing at Madaleins party

We linked up with team Metcalf a few days later at Madeleine’s party. Lee and I sang and played guitar into the early dawn. During this session we were ably assisted by Amanda who really could sing. She was very patient with the two of us. The drawing of Lee and I above was created by Amanda’s husband.

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This reminds me that a few weeks before Madeleine’s party Anne and I had spent an evening with Colin and Linda.

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Colin, a very skilful and accomplished mandolin player, tried to squeeze a note or two in edgeways as I played.

On a very different note we have come across some really interesting wildlife in the garden over the last few days.

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A praying mantis leapt from the grass and calmly sat while we snapped a few photographs. Then I came across the very beautiful wasp spider while I was picking blackberries.

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Never having noticed one before I was rather surprised to see another just a day later.

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Tour de France

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There has been rather a delay with this blog update caused through a number of minor events. We had guests poised for imminent arrival and had been working like things possessed to ensure that the property is up to muster. In addition we had yet another storm appear out of a clear blue sky. It rumbled and groaned for the best part of an hour before settling into a lively light display close above our heads. Then during one overly theatrical episode a flash seemed to fill the kitchen where we were standing. The upshot of this event was that our Orange Live-box had been electronically disembowelled and the telephone/internet for Puymangou and the close villages was amputated from the National network. So that was it, the end of our communication with the outside world.

Thanks to our friends at the edge of the devastated region who have been able to offer us support and succour. Of course good luck to those still without phone or internet.

The Tour de France has been on-tour once more. I am sure that everyone knows that it set off from Yorkshire back on the 5th July. Now the riders and their speeding entourage have careered around France and through the Dordogne. They have not come very close to Bon Abri and to Puymangou but the ripples from the race have been seen here in the northwest of the Department with a great increase in overweight and vividly clothed riders out on the roads.

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I shall own up now and admit that this Tour holds very little interest for me. However I have been reading about the history of the bicycle in France and of their love of push-bike racing. Some of it is fascinating. France took to the bicycle very readily and racing, especially endurance racing seems to have been of particular interest. It must, therefore, have been very irritating that the Brits along with other nationalities seem to have regularly won a number of the earlier races to the point that French-only events were introduced on occasion.

The impact that the bicycle had in opening France to its people was stunning. It gave personal mobility to a huge section of society. The country had been a series of poorly connected Pays held together, on occasion, by force or religion, or even force and religion. One social scientist has suggested that the bicycle was responsible for increasing the average height of the population by reducing the number of blood-related marriages. The bicycle made it possible to travel fairly easily to another Pays and therefore meet ‘new’ people. The bicycle, relatively cheap, easy to maintain, and not needing much grooming or feeding was quickly adopted by farm-workers, commuters, postmen, priests and indeed by the army.

The race we know as the Tour de France was created as a publicity stunt by the journalist Géo Lefevre and his editor. In the first tour, in 1903, they covered 1,518 miles is six stages and each stage was more than 24 hours. Of the 60 riders who set off 21 arrived back in Paris infront of a crowd of 100,000 people. The winner had been born in Italy but had been naturalised a Frenchman.

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The following year, 1904, during the second stage as the first four riders reached the summit of the Col de la Republique near St Etienne at 3:00 in the morning a mob was waiting for them in the forest. They cheered the local boy on as they laid into the other three riders (including the 1903 winner) beating them up. One of the three had to retire from the race as his fingers were too badly broken to continue. All along the route the atmosphere of true sportsmanship, of fraternité etc. was continued with spiked drinks, bicycle frames sawn through and broken glass across the road.

As we have been driving about, occasionally crossing the route of this years race, we have noticed an increase in the amount of high quality road works and especially re-surfacing that is being carried out. This has been accompanied by a lot of very impressive planting, verge trimming and general grooming. All this will be wasted on the riders but will look really good on the television. It might also help to explain why the Chuckle Brothers French Cousins, Le Glousser fréres, are STILL disrupting working in our nearest town, St Aulaye; there is no one else available.

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Anyone for tennis….? And other games

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As the great tennis circuit inexorably grinds into Wimbledon I thought I should wander over to our tennis court in Bon Abri. From the service line at the northern end there is a wonderful view of Puymangou château which coupled with the position of the sun at certain times of day would put any players at this end of the court at a severe disadvantage. The view, however, is superb.

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This play area has a lovely surface and is a fantastic asset to Bon Abri having been lovingly constructed and maintained prior to our taking over. It is a pleasure to walk on (especially with a glass of pineau) and exciting to play over but it just gets far too little use.

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On the subject of games we joined in a ‘Treasure-hunt’ a few weekends back. This was part of a celebration of 10 years living in France for some friends. It was also an excellent way of getting to see some of the quiet corners of the local area that perhaps one would not normally have seen. After several hours of winding through the beautiful countryside in temperatures that would fry your brains we stopped in Aubetterre-sur-Dronne for a drink in the square. As the few teams that had started after us vanished into the haze we wandered towards the ‘Monolithic church’ where a well sited shop produces artisan ice-cream. Needless to say after this rather self-indulgent delay we were well behind the other teams. As we kept reminding ourselves it was not a ‘first-past-the-post’ race. However despite our dawdling we ended up in ‘silver medal’ position. We put this result down to our team size; the teams were planned as ‘fours’ but our partners were unable to make it so we ended up as the only team of two. However in the true spirit of ancient Greek Games it was ‘winner takes all’; and so second or twenty-second was the same result.

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As ever there is plenty to do in and around Bon Abri tinkering with the gites and tidying up the grounds. There was a small dark cloud a few days ago when I was stung by a rather belligerent wasp. With the sting still fresh in my mind I was listening very carefully for sounds of angry buzzing as I removed some old ‘rock-wool’ insulation from a box insulating an outside tap. I was not, at the time, thinking about snakes when a three foot chap suddenly dropped out of the rolled insulation and raced towards another quiet, dark spot. He/she and I went in different directions but this time I grabbed my camera and was able to snatch a few shots of its retreating back. I shall definitely be getting some chickens next spring and thanks to Ronald for that suggestion.

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We also took a few hours out to visit the Moulin Sartier which opens to the public for a few days each year. The mill closed down in the 1970’s and was re-opened by the present owner and a group of ‘friends of the mill’ a few years ago. The mill sits over a small but fast-flowing river and is split into two. The smaller part is used to make walnut oil using a huge rotating vertical stone wheel. The other part is a flour mill with some beautiful, bold, and functional machinery that was left in working order when the mill closed. It is delightful to see such practical machines built with taste, skill and an artists eye for design; It is a beautiful place and very atmospheric in a lovely setting of rolling hills and walnut trees.

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I had planned, and I suppose I am still planning, that at some stage I would write a short blog about what happens here when the summer season is over and most of the visitors (to the Region in general rather than Bon Abri) have gone home. Recent events however have not only changed my rose-tinted view but have forced me to make a short note now. In general terms then the local people return from their summer holidays, the extra shops, restaurants etc., close and the maintenance teams set to work on the disruptive works that cannot be done during the tourist season without frightening away the tourists. Alas for St Aulaye (our nearest ‘big’ town) the road works through the center of town were given to the Chuckle Bros. French cousins, Le Glousser fréres. There is still no sign of an end to the disruption, diversions and general mayhem the works, started last September/October, have caused.

So, as another thunderstorm rolls over us and silhouettes the trees on the hill it is time to sign off until next time.  Please take this opportunity to visit the website that drives this blog and take a virtual visit to Bon Abri.

Santé.

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