Meditations in France

But not meditation in French, you understand – or you might not understand! Well, I may not understand, while you may be a fluent Francophile, but we’re getting away from the point. Perhaps ‘Musings in France‘ might have been a better title. Whatever.

Each time I visit the tiny village that is Plaisance, I love it more. It’s like the winding-down experienced on a Mediterranean resort holiday, only more immediate. Howard & Jo are wonderful hosts, always welcoming and friendly, as was anyone I’ve met there so far. So much for the notorious Gallic rudeness of which we hear so much – I wonder is it a reciprocal thing reserved especially for rude tourists…?

Friday was a glorious one, with an edge-to-edge brilliant blue sky, 30-plus sunshine and a very inviting swimming pool. At some point there will be photograhs in the gallery, so keep checking back for pics of my beached whale impression! We had intended to go wandering about in a bit of a haphazard sightseeing vein, but in the end the pool won the day. Conscious of my previous sun injury, I was slathered in factor 50 (or so) sunscreen, and taking breaks in the gazebo rather helpfully placed by the pool for just that purpose. I still got a bit too much sun, but that’s another story. A very fine barbecue, washed down with even finer wine, polished the day off beautifully. If only they were all like that [sigh!]…

Saturday was another story, with thundery showers on and off through the day, but we amused ourselves regardless – and Sunday saw us visiting a sprawling market in nearby Issigeac. You know the French markets we have from time to time over here? They seem to be in every town – multiply what we get here by 20 or 30, and you’re getting close to the size of them. All sorts of stuff; some of it reasonable and some overpriced, but great fun nonetheless.

On the Monday, Fi & I borrowed the family Suzuki jeep (called Jeffrey (Geoffrey?), of course) to go on a minor tour of the Bergerac area. And first stop, of course, was a vineyard. The vineyard in question was called Chateau Tertres du Plantou, and came recommended by Howard (on the back of one of their fine vintages with dinner the previous evening). We found the place, parking uncertainly in their yard under the watchful eye of the vineyard owner, then went to make contact as the heavens opened upon us. “Bonjour” he greeted us, shaking hands – “Er, Parlez-vous Anglais?” I timorously responded. He turned and indicated a woman hurrying towards us – “My wife…”. Well met – she spoke English just fine, so my adventures in French speaking can wait till another day. Phew!

We were introduced to the wine cellar, sat down at a table laid with wine glasses, water glasses and crackers, and she proceeded to give us a complete low-down on their wine-making process – interspersed with samples of their produce (three whites, three reds). Of course I was driving, so sipping was the order of the day. But what wine! And all produced in an organic process, with great respect for the land and its various fauna. When we moved to the reds, the lady of the winery disappeared to get some cheese and returned with a great block of brie, which she carved into bite-sized pieces for us. White wine, red wine, cheese, crackers, a comprehensive lesson in viniculture – this was a real treat, and we left with six bottles. More would not have been possible with Ryanair, unfortunately. Next time, I’m bringing a truck…

That day was a great opportunity to bimble around and get to know the general area. We went through Bergerac and continued north, turning onto country lanes and wending our way back through Bergerac to a village with another vineyard – much larger and probably a whole lot less personal, so we contented ourselves with admiring the scenery. Back to Plaisance, where the rain had finally stopped and we took our meal by the pool once more – washed down with more wine, of course (are you sensing a developing pattern here?)… 🙂

The trip was 5 days, much of which was spent just loafing by the pool, or walking in leafy lanes, admiring and attempting to identify various crops – too early for sunflowers, which was a shame. When in bloom, they must turn the majority of the countryside yellow for a short time. The weather didn’t really recover to the level of Friday’s brilliance, but apparently the weather forecasters were speaking of glorious weather scheduled for after our departure. Typical.

It’s a funny thing, but I always think of the countryside as being peaceful; quiet and still. Sitting by the pool, I occasionally allowed myself to become aware of the noises about me: the breeze gently ruffling the trees, the birdsong, the uproarious creaking of thousands of cicadas in the trees and bushes around the house, the occasional roar of tyres on the road in the distance, the very occasional boom from the nearby quarry(!) – not at all quiet or still! But somehow incredibly peaceful nonetheless. I suppose we filter for particular sounds – I sit here in Beckenham with my windows open and hear birdsong. Traffic noise is largely in the distance and rarely penetrates. Even so, I long to sit on my own terrace in southern France, sipping a local wine in the perceived near-silence of the wind, the leaves, the insects, the occasional passing traffic and the clicking of my laptop keyboard as I work to pay the rent. I think it’s a rent I’d be happier to pay, somehow.

But for the moment, I’m enjoying the spectacular heatwave we’ve got in England – for the next couple of days, at least. Oddly enough, I’m actually looking forward to the spectactular thunderstorms forecast for Thursday. Walk softly, and carry a big umbrella!