Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Tuesday Tune-Up

dlion bigarouquevillageondordogne makeasplash roses

Welcome to the Tuesday ramble:

  • I had another parenting break-through in the last week: I have been struggling to reinforce the boys french but it is really hard to keep their concentrated up. That was until I put my trust in the good 'ol BBC. They have a very good french language web site. Now the routine is to sit the boys in front of the computer and let them just get on with it. They are hooked and I'm having to tell them to go play outside.
  • Check out the size of these dandelions we picked - they are huge. I plan get some more spring nature shots posted - it is a fantastic time of the year.
  • Came across this beautifully hill side hamlet of Bigarogue (Map Here) while travelling back from Le Bugue the other day. This photo just doesn't do it justice, the Dordogne rivers along the base of the hill side and the views from the village back up the valley are amazing.
  • The pool is getting lots of action but the weather this week has been crap. The photo of Henry on the old bush track shows how bad it was. This was taken about 50m below the bottom fence and most of the runoff is from this property.
  • The boys have been very excited to host our first visitor. They have been well spoilt by Serene (or Dr Hu as they still like to call her). She leaves tomorrow on the train to Bordeaux to start a bus tour through Europe.
  • On Saturday we had a fantastic meal and night out at Le Gaulois the farm/ theme based restaurant I mentioned in a previous blog. As this is now a must visit venue for any visitors, I'm only going to tempt them with this one picture (below) so as not to spoil all the surprise.

Cheers and have a good week.


Tuesday, 27 May 2008


Rocamadour RocamadourCitdelclose

For me Rocamadour is a pretty special place as it is just around the corner from Gramat, where I lived briefly some 20 years ago and where I first fell in love with France. 

Both Rocamadour and Gramat are in the Lot département, which borders the Dordogne.  It is only 70km from our home but I have been holding out to visit in the Spring as all my previous visits had been in Winter.  I have added Rocamadour to our adventure map so you can see where it "fits in".

Rocamadour is probably the original tourist trap, attracting visitors for its beautiful setting and historical monuments. Religious pilgrims have been visiting its sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin Mary for centuries.

It was good to be able take Serene, our visitor from Auckland, somewhere where we hadn't yet been ourselves (at least not recently).  The lower village caters almost exclusively to the tourist trade and has probably been this way for the last few hundred years. We steered cleared of the many restaurants and eventually had a simple but adequate café lunch narrowly missing a heavy downpour of rain.  After lunch the sky cleared and we had no time for shopping (damn) as we quickly headed up the cliff before our luck with the weather changed.

We trekked up the countless steps from the lower village up through the medieval complex half-way the cliff face. There are a few religious relics and things to see which are best described here on Wikipedia.  From there we took the windy path up to the château at the top of the cliff. This was built in the middle ages to defend the various sanctuaries below.

The journey out and back was also impressive, we took the back-roads using Serene's Tom-Tom portable GPS to navigate.  I was reasonable impressed with this device but although it was very accurate I still prefer to navigate by map (or as Ange would say: take the seen-it route, i.e. "Don - We've seen that - you're driving in circles").



Monday, 26 May 2008

Beynac Revisited

A quick post to catch up on the days other activities.  Ange took the kids and Serene out on an adventure today..  They took in the market at Saint Cyprien and revisited Beynac - an obvious highlight for the boys. 

Here are a few random snaps from the adventure.

The imposing fortress of Chateau Beynac. Looking back out to Castelnaud and Milandes (nearest).
donttouch market
Five points if you can work out what the sign says! Saint Cyprien markets

Rain Again


It poured down today.  I haven't seen anything like it.. since.. well, since every other day in Auckland. 

This thick heavy rain just seemed to come and go all day.  It fortunately missed Ange's trip to the market and Beynac which is the subject of the next blog.

This afternoon Henry was driving his mum and brothers crazy so I took him out for a walk to survey the neighbourhood for flood damage.  We both got thoroughly drenched and had a nice hot bath when we got home.

Bonne FĂȘte Maman!


Today is Mothers Day in France. This made me realise that I must have missed Mothers Day in NZ, which yes I understand was 2 weeks ago.

Henry and Jack had both made me small boxes at school and James had made a wind chime which is now sitting in pride of place on our door to alert us to any visitors arriving.

Don had taken Henry into Villefranche yesterday to buy me something and they chose two boxes. Don did not know what the kids had been up to at school and suggested to Henry today that he might have mentioned it yesterday. Oh well I now have plenty of storage for all my bits and bobs. Don does know I am a hoarder and now you all do too!

Friday, 23 May 2008

May Poles


Gosh the pressure I am under now to write this blog. Don has already tempted everyone with one of my maypole photos for our Tuesday tune-up, now I have to front with something else interesting for the reading public.

Well, the start of the maypole story begins when our closest neighbour all of a sudden had this 'monument type structure' in their driveway, aka a maypole.

He had stood for the local council and and yes he was successful and as tradition goes here in France (and they are BIG on tradition) the locals turn up with this big maypole which they duly erect in your driveway in recognition of your new standing as a councillor for the village. If you look closely at the photos you can see the words HONNEUR ELU which translate to "honour of being elected" in English.

You may be interested to know that councillors are elected here for 6 years, not 3 like in NZ, so great news if you want a big project done and completed, not so good if you want to get rid of them (I guess.....)

So as we have been driving around different villages over the past few weekends we keep seeing these maypoles and we know "oh someone there has been elected to the council" etc, etc.

It is quite liberating actually, imagine the months needed to obtain planning consent in NZ to get this sort of thing erected.

Market Day - Libos (Fumel)

Ange checks on the goods on display.
Lots of garden stalls, time of the year to get gardens planted.
Cool collection of garlic and onions.
Everything is available, here a butcher stall is setup next to a stall selling aprons and table cloths, opposite is a row of fashion outlet stalls.
A speciality wine and liqueur vendor. He had this amazing collection of prunes and other dried fruits, along with their bottled cousins.

Thursday is market day in Monsempron-Libos which is adjacent to Fumel township.

It is one of the bigger markets in the area and we jostled with throngs of market goers to navigate down the narrow passageways. I took the camera along and took some sneaky shots "from the hip" (literally).


Looks like something has caught Ange's eye, I'll have to go back and "rescue" her.


This is a map of the Fumel area. Our main destination for shopping trips 23 kms away. While made up of a number of towns everyone seems to refer to it as Fumel.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Gouffre de Proumeyssac

Just at the entrance, a man-made tunnel leading into the main chamber. 
proumeyssac proumeyssac_two
Some web photo's of the cave
(visitors are not supposed to take pictures inside the cave and in any event  pictures in the dark don't exactly do justice to this place).
Bit of a bush walk afterwards, the kids still needed to burn off some energy and besides dad reckoned he could find some more caves:) Not likely.


After a couple of quiet weeks I felt that we were somewhat overdue for another adventure.  I was really keen to try out a few caves and had read good things about this cave just outside the town of Le Bugue. 

Le Bugue is a beautiful town on the Vézère river, along which many of the great prehistoric caves of Southwest France are located.  Check out our Adventure Map for location details.  

I was expecting a large cave system but this was a large caven.  The rather dangerous sink hole entrance was known to the locals back in the 18th century but the caven wasn't explored until 1907. 

The caven is 57m deep and roughly 80m wide, it has some really amazing stalactites, stalagmites and various calcium draperies and column formations.

The tour was quite short around 35m but we saw everything. I was a little disappointed, I suppose I prefer the sort of caves that go on for miles.  The sort of place you can get lost in or at least loose a kid or three.  We will have to keep looking.....

"This isn't as big as the black-hole cave in NZ, Dad"

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Tuesday Tune-Up


Welcome to the Tuesday Ramble:

The may pole. Ange is quite fascinated by the traditions surrounding the local elections and the start of May.

Tomorrow (or Thursday at the latest) she has offered to do a blog on this. Please drop her a comment or email to remind her just in case I forget (which is not likely).


Today we decided to get back on the bikes after a few weeks rest. Benjie and Oscar were most disturbed to find out that they would not be welcome to tag along. After my initial attempts to trick them failed, I had to resort to some french instruction to get them to "stay" - "house".

Much to my surprise this actually seemed to work so I sent Ange off ahead while I repeated the stern instructions at the gate. Anyway, I flew past her somewhere near the neighbours house, lets just say that I miscalculated her downhill speed:)

I stopped down in the village and when Ange appeared in view I could see that her bike had grown four little legs just behind the back wheel. So we abandoned this attempt and decided to have lunch early. On the way back up the hill we found the other four big legs, sitting on his bum, gasping for breath.

We had a relaxing lunch, a swim, a rest and then set off again.

This time the dogs found themselves locked in the garage. They were not at all happy but they had everything they needed and I gave them some special attention when we got home.

I should also mention that the cat, Morfeat, has returned after a worrying 10 day absence. He was very skinny, very hungry and covered in ticks. He has spent the last few days staying very close to the house and has been wanting lots of attention.


Back to the bike ride: we ended up on a shorter course, out the back way through Mazeyrolles, down through Le Got and looping back via the Le Got - Monpazier road.

The village of Mazeyrolles will need another visit, there seems to be quite a few interesting things (touristy) going on that we didn't know about.

It is really amazing how much the landscape has changed, everything is just so green. In winter we could see deep into the bush, whereas now it is just a dense wall of green. Very beautiful.

In Flanders Field


In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

       John McCrae
       May 3, 1915


Tuesday, 20 May 2008

View from the Grape Vines


This photo was taken just after lunch today.. we had a short break before we headed out on our "daily" run.  These vines provide great shade and lots of grapes by the looks of it, but we have to wait a month or so for those.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Les Moutons

Here are the promised pictures of Briggs & Stratton, lazily strutting around their paddock. Anyone would think they didn't have any work to do. They have totally taken over our visitors accommodation (pictured).

Friday, 16 May 2008

Jardin update

Well the day time heat and the almost nightly rain showers are helping the garden along nicely. The first lot of spuds, garlic and onions that I planted are doing well.


Lots more has gone in and today I spent a backbreaking afternoon planting capsicum, aubergine and courgette that I bought from a market this morning with the help of a friend.

Don came to the rescue and helped plant 6 new tomato plants as well. So far the pests seem to be staying away "touch wood" with the help of some coffee grounds and egg shells. But I am just a beginner to this gardening lark so any of you who are old hands at this please send me a comment with any helpful tips you might have.


Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Tuesday Tune-Up


Welcome to the Tuesday Ramble:

  • You may have noticed from one of the previous posts that our Henry has lost both of his top front pearly whites. The last of these seem to hang on forever, slowly twisting and turning much to his delight as he tortured the rest of the family with a new grin at every mealtime. 
  • I am saving the best photo's for his 21st party.
  • We have taken delivery of two sheep.  Yes these portable lawnmowers will help to keep the grass in the front paddocks at ankle height.  They are still pretty shy but I will post some pictures of them in due course.
  • An update on my trip to Perigueux last week. It took me 3 attempts to find the right building that sold ANAEM stamps.  Unfortunately this delay meant I only arrived at the Prefecture building at 12:10 after the department for estrangers had closed for the day.  At least I finally had all the stamps we needed and was able to do some birthday shopping for Jack in the afternoon.
  • Ange and I went back to Perigueux today (Tuesday), we dropped the letters off at the Prefecture (no problems this time) and had a nice time exploring the city. 
  • Perigueux has really grown on me. It is much more vibrant in the Spring.  We had a great lunch in the old city, sitting on the terrace in the sun, very nice.
  • We are getting quite excited as our first visitor arrives next Saturday (24th).  Serene (Dr Hu) is our family doctor from Northcote Point, Auckland.  She knows the family/ kids pretty well as we were regular visitors to her practice.  It will be good to show her around and see what she thinks of our Dordogne.   
  • Some blog corrections: VE day was last Thursday and as a result Friday became an automatic holiday. Monday was Lundi de Pentecôte (Pentecostal Monday), which was reassigned as a national holiday after public protests in 2007.  The kids went back to school today, they have tomorrow (Wednesday) off as usual, then there is a teachers strike on Thursday. They are back at school on Friday.
  • We checked out the VE memorial "parade" in Villefranche on Thursday.  It was a very (extremely) low key event.  It's obvious that this memorial day doesn't have the same national significance as ANZAC does for us Kiwi's.  It is quite understandable when you consider the vast history and current state (united) of the European community.  

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Pool Time

The pool has seen quite a bit of use over the last week...  wetsuits are no longer required! Yes.  It is surprising how our two non-swimmers are coping with the lack of a shallow end (the pool is 1.5m deep end to end).

James is jumping in with abandon and paddling his way to the side, he'll be waterborne in no time: a very good outcome. On the weekend I had been trying to convince the kids to go out for another adventure but all they wanted to do was "play in the pool dad"!

Yes.. these pictures don't actually show anyone swimming.  It is a bit hard to take a picture with one hand while still poised to jump-in to effect a rescue: just relax don they'll be fine. 

And what's with the wetsuits.. I thought.. OK so the pictures are a few days old.