For years my parents have been talking about renting a house in regional France for an extended holiday but there was always something that prevented them from taking the plunge. It’s been one of those dreams that has continued to take a backseat to life’s realities. The prospect of not seeing us for 12 months spurred them on, but I’m glad that we were able to provide them with the motivation to ignore those barriers and make it happen. That’s how we’ve ended up in Brantôme which is a quaint riverside village of around 2000 people in a lovely 3 bedroom townhouse. The townhouse belongs to family friends and my parents have scored it for 4 weeks to allow us to enjoy the relaxing atmosphere of Brantôme and to use it as a base to explore the surrounding area.
As we drove into Brantôme for the first time I think all of us were taken back by the vintage of the town and just how beautiful the river is that snakes its way around the centre of the village. I think we had only made it 200m along the cobblestone stone road into town and my parents knew they had done the right thing. From the 10th century abbey to the stone bridges that connect the village to the mainland, the town is simply stunning and postcard-worthy. We were lucky enough to time our arrival to provide a 2 night overlap with John and Joelle which meant that we could get the scoop on the area and the best places to visit. Unfortunately Anna missed out on most of this as she was sick in bed. We even went to one of the local restaurants to try the cuisine but Anna couldn’t make it. I did offer to stay behind to look after her but the suggestion wasn’t entertained.
Each day starts with Dad walking into the village to buy 2 baguettes and 4 croissants from the bakery which is run by a 70-odd year old woman. They don’t speak English in the bakery but Dad now has a consistent order and the correct change ready. He then returns home to cook us a hot breakfast which is served just as we come downstairs. It sounds tough doesn’t it. We’ve taken plenty of strolls into town and there’s always something different to see. Whether it’s just to weave through the laneways or to browse through the markets, each time it’s an adventure.
Our first excursion out of town was to Perigueux which is only 20 minutes away. The primary driver was to try and organise sim cards but we thought we’d do a grocery shop and then have a look through the old-town. We went to Auchan, which is like a french Walmart, and my parents were very impressed with the range. There were some unexpected items that made their way into the trolley like a telescopic fishing rod and tackle. It must be a father thing that if you have a riverside place then there must be fishing. We went to the old-town and did a self-guided walking tour. The main feature was the Cathedrale Saint-Front which dates back to the 12th century. It was interesting because it was quite grand but the inside was so bare.
Anna’s knowledge of French continues to surprise us all and it’s becoming apparent that she went for an under-promise over-deliver strategy. Not only can she do all the typical touristy things like ordering food and making purchases, but she can talk to the doctor about her symptoms and medications and even explain to the staff at the phone store that we want a sim card that allows for data sharing between devices. I always thought that her french was for holidaying, but I’ve realised that she could live in France easily. Hopefully she doesn’t want to live here because I continue to struggle with anything beyond the basics.
For our next excursion we headed to Bourdeilles which is only 10 minutes away, but like Brantôme, is a settlement on the Dronne river. We packed a picnic lunch of cold meats, cheeses and bread, and found a spot on a riverside lookout. We then went through the chateau which has a fortress with outpost tower that can be climbed and the chateau itself is presented with period furniture which helps gain an understanding of how the extremely wealthy folk used to live. The views of the countryside from the tower were beautiful and Dad is very intrigued by the local agriculture.
Up until this point our excursions had been quite close because Anna wasn’t feeling great and we didn’t want to overdo it. Since starting the antibiotics she has bounced back, so on Thursday we decided to head to Rocamadour which is about 2.5 hours away. Every resource we’ve looked at suggests that Rocamadour is a must-see destination and the photos look great, but once you get there you realise just how steep the cliffs are that they built on. The biggest feature is the sanctuary which is perched on the edge of a cliff and for centuries has attracted pilgrims from all around to see the Blessed Virgin Mary. The lower section of town is a laneway lined with tourists stores and goats cheese stores which is a local delicacy. We were a bit naughty and took the elevator up because we thought it wasn’t best to push Anna. We took the back highways on the way there so we could see the various villages along the way but for the trip home we jumped on the tollway. I’m loving the 130kph speed limits.
Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Anna, happy birthday to you!
Anna doesn’t embrace her birthday like most do, but seeing her squirm each time we sang to her only encouraged us further. Well by us I mean Dad and myself. We must’ve sung to her 10 times during the course of her birthday. Anna’s birthday was yesterday which also coincided with the local market day which was good because the town was buzzing. We went for a morning stroll and browsed through all the stalls which filled most of the town centre. The variety on offer extended from local produce to meat, seafood through to local crafts and toys. We took a shopping bag for some local produce and ended up with a Santa sack full of stuff to try. We let Anna have her pick of any restaurant in town for her birthday dinner and she chose a modest creperie. Such a backpacker. But in her defence she has been talking about crepes since we left Sydney. After we all had savoury and dessert crepes we headed back to the house for a wee cake with a single match in place of birthday candles.
Next week we’re planning on extending our reach all the way to Nice which should be fun. No doubt Anna will have lots of photos for you to enjoy.
Fail of the Week
With the nice warm weather we’ve been having Davo wanted to water the pot plants on the terrace. He grabbed the bucket and headed down to the river. He stepped on the one loose rock on the water’s edge and in he went. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see it, but we did have a good laugh when he walked up to the front door wet from the waist down. Luckily he didn’t have his phone on him, but he did have to lay his Euros out in the sun to dry.
Meal of the Week
Definitely Mum’s curried sausages – she brought the curry powder all the way from Australia on my request. Unfortunately we didn’t take pictures (we were too busy eating) but the crepes for Anna’s birthday were also great and the wine was just as good. We had a good selection of savoury but of course the dessert ones were our favourite.