Sunday, June 7, 2015

Beaumont Du Perigord - Our Local Town

Beaumont du Perigord is our nearest town, about five minutes drive from where we are staying.  It is one of the dozens of “bastides” in the area.   A bastide means it was built as a fortified walled town, probably in the 1200’s, to protect its inhabitants. It is very picturesque and quite small.  As with all the villages and towns we have discovered, the church (catholic, of course) is the focal point, a magnificent building, inside and out.  In the evening from our house, we can hear the church bells ringing insistently through the countryside.

There is a central market square where the weekly market is held every Tuesday.  There are stalls with fresh produce, fish, meat, fruits and vegetables, handcrafted jewelry, summery clothes and floppy straw hats, baskets, fresh honey and other items right off the local farms.

Here at this market, I have sourced my fruit & veg man who has tables of vibrant colorful produce tempting me to buy more than I actually need, especially as his prices are ridiculously cheap.  I am trying to buy small amounts and go shopping every day or two so I can buy a fresh baquette or two each day, cheese, pate, and other local specialties to try out.  Monday is a closed day in the town (and Sunday) and shops are closed for a long lunch hour from 12:30 to 3pm.

The streets are pretty and clean, the pale stone buildings gleam in the sunshine and flowers and vines add vibrancy to the quiet streets.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Sunday Market In Medieval Issigeac!

The girls and I were delighted when our landlady informed us that there was a Sunday market in the nearby village of Issigeac.  What a great way to launch our first full day in France!!!!  We got up to a hot sunny morning, got dressed and headed off to one of the best and biggest markets in the area.  We were lucky to source a parking space right away and headed down the streets of this medieval village filled with stalls and people in the picturesque streets with a beautiful old church as a centerpiece.  There were so many different stalls from huge varieties of fresh fruit & veg, meats, pastries, hot food (even one selling Chinese food!), wine, clothes, shoes, jewelry, crafts, souvenirs, etc. Lots of interesting stuff!!!  I went to take a picture of a stall with ladies handbags and the man from the stall jumped out from behind a table so fast he nearly knocked me down to shout “no, no!!!!”(…..must be knockoffs of designer goods!!!) We stocked up on fruit and vegetables, bought some pastries to try, some chicken lo mein, and a chicken & veg pie!  A French street musician’s songs drifted through the market, adding the perfect atmosphere to this wonderful part of French culture myself, Jess and Blue immersed ourselves in with pure joy!

The beautiful church reigning over the action!

The Market Music!

Who knew there were so many different olives?

This is only a small portion of the huge market that took up many streets!

Blue and Jess in Issigeac heading for Sunday Market

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

BACK AGAIN!!!!! Return to France!

Following three surgeries, the sale of our USA farmette, and an international move, the girls and I have finally returned to France!!!  I feel, for the first time ever, both physically and emotionally depleted from various goings-on in the last 6 months and am not in my normal “full throttle, I can tackle anything, nothing phases me” mode.  I am hoping this journey to France will help me recharge, gain momentum, find direction, and feel less like a lost soul.  No better place to relax and rejuvenate than soaking in the beauty and peace of the unspoiled French countryside and no better way to strengthen oneself than with my two girlies, Jess and Blue, infusing energy, life and smiles into me!!!!! 

Blue and Jess excited to be on first walk around the farm

Before we had to make our unscheduled departure from the Dordogne (due to an unexpected medical diagnosis for me), we had settled into a residence a half an hour directly north of Bergerac.  This time around, we are staying in a place a half hour east of Bergerac.  It will give us a chance to explore another area while being near enough our old “neighborhood” to revisit our favorite haunts.  Our previous villa was on a huge historical estate and was a large residence with extra bedrooms booked with the intention that friends and family could come visit us and experience some of France with us.  Alas, that wasn’t to be…….(perhaps another time!)

Our French stay this time we already know to be only several weeks long as we will be returning to Donegal, Ireland for the summer so it will just be the girls and I initially and the last 10 days my husband Donald has been talked into coming over to join us and see what all the fuss is about how magnifique France is!  We are staying in a 17th century farmhouse "Cantegrive" on 50 pastoral acres.  As we were traveling from Donegal, I was delighted to find that Ryanair had flights from Derry to London Stansted and a connecting one from Stansted to Bergerac.  The warm air and gentle breeze enveloped us as we walked down the steps from the plane.  I had left my car parked at Bergerac Airport all that time and was seriously considering have a car rental booked as a backup plan in case the Peugeot wouldn’t start and the girls and I were stranded at the airport.  My hubby assured me that it would definitely start so I hoped for the best…..and the car started on the first turn. (Gotta love Peugeots: reliable, nippy, economical!!!!)  Bergerac has very reasonable long term car parking rates but as it happened, I couldn’t find my ticket so paid the lost ticket fee of €100, reattached my faithful Garmin navigator to the window and we were on our way to rekindling our French adventure!!!!! 


 We are so glad to be back and more than ready for more Fairytales From France!!!!!!

Walking in sunshine!!!!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Voices From The Grave

Today Jess and I visited the peaceful country graveyard in Issac which is perched on a gentle slope surveying the countryside just at the edge of the village. It is surrounded by a high gray wall with a wrought iron gate at the entrance.  How fitting that the ones who have gone before are laid to rest in a place of prominence as you head into the village........

Some people might find visiting a cemetery a bit morbid.....not me (or Jess, a mini- me!)  Perhaps it is the Irish is me.... In Ireland, when one dies, it is custom to celebrate their life as it is done with an Irish laugh, to cry, to tell stories, to relive your memories of the deceased.  The graveyard is a glimpse of the story of who lived here and died here, last year, or perhaps last century, what families populated the area, what secrets lay beneath the concrete beds?  To me, walking and stopping at each and every grave in the Issac cemetery brings those souls back to life for a moment just as it says on a plague on one of the graves;


"One is never quite gone as long as there is someone to remember and talk about you from time to time and so bring you to life for a moment."

"Que ton repose soit doux comme ton coeur fut bon"
May thy rest be as sweet as your heart was good

The majority of the graves are cased in concrete, and there is a mix of old and new, of tended and abandoned, of the prosperous and the paupered.  The Angel of Death shows no or poor, young or old.....

I was shocked to find that a lot of the graves only have the family name, no dates or specifics about who is actually buried there.  It was interesting to see that even with the graves spaced generously and the rows having  bigger spaces, the graveyard is half empty.  There are not that many graves altogether, but perhaps it is just how many families that are in the area and each family continues to use the same plot?  The population of Issac has decreased in recent years dropping from 472 people in 1968 to 370 in 2007 and judging from the lack of people around since I have been here, it has decreased again since 2007!!!!

There were loads of fresh chrysanthemums and beautiful potted plants and shrubs on many graves throughout the cemetery so it is obvious that the graveyard is frequented and graves tended by family members.

There are beautiful ceramic flowers on a lot of the graves - a great idea because they seem to be better than real flowers or artificial ones for their lasting power from the elements:

I was excited to see a  "Famille Mazieres" grave.......the name (Domaine de Mazieras) of the estate that my villa is on.....a connection to the family and its place in the locality and a history I intend to investigate further (when my French improves!!!!)

I went through the whole graveyard thinking there would be at least one Irish name in it, but no, they were all French except for a baby who died with the last name Ball which I take to be English, and it was a recent death.  I must also say that the Irish hold the award for the best crosses (especially the celtic ones, of course!!!)

It was interesting to see some trends through the years.  Sometimes pictures of people were put on the gravestones:


Long ago, slate (and concrete) were used to mark graves:

 In the 1900's, ceramic plaques were common:

Sometimes plaques were put on that obviously represented an interest or love or occupation of the deceased such as this wild boar one for a hunter, I presume, or one for a soldier:

I loved seeing really ancient looking cement flower urns.  The moss is definitely an aging touch!!!!!


.......and older above ground cement coffin graves:

The trip to Issac Cemetery was intriguing.  It is my guess that the graveyard only dates back to the 1800's, possibly 1700's and that there must be another earlier graveyard somewhere else near the village.  Even so, Jess and I saw some really interesting stuff and enjoyed our graveyard exploration and we look forward to learning more about the families of the area and their history!!!!!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Typical Day

I guess I have been in France long enough to have fallen into a daily routine (having a child at school actually fasttracked this daily routine process!!!) I get up about 7:45am and Blue gets up at the same time.   I make my morning cup of tea and Blue gets herself dressed for school and then watches some cartoons while she is eating her breakfast (cream crackers with butter or cinnamon toast crunch cereal!).  It is my intention every school morning to leave the house at 8:30am but I am always a few minutes later than that by the time we get shoes and jackets on, find keys, etc.  Blue walks down to open the gate of our courtyard while I drive the car through the gate and she closes it and gets in

.                                                          The gate out of our courtyard:

The village of Issac is only down the road (about a mile) but our driveway is very long also and has quite a few pot holes so I have to drive slowly with my little Peugeot!!!!  Blue has to be at school at 8:45am and if I don't get her there at that time, the gate is locked and she has to ring the bell for the teacher to come with keys to open it.....highlighting her tardiness, so I try to be on time!

                                                        The gate to Blue's school yard:

Blue looking tres chic heading to school!!!!

After Blue is dropped off at school and I have another cup of tea at the house, Jess and I go for a walk to explore the extensive estate we are on. (Jess hasn't gotten the go ahead to start school yet)  There is so much to see and so many roads and paths and fields to explore that each outing is an adventure. In the middle of a field away from all the houses and outbuilding, there is a grove of trees and bushes that hides cave-like entrances into five underground chambers that must have been used during war time to hide from the enemy.  I hope I can find out more about the history of the estate and unravel some of the mysteries that surround it!

After our walk, it is time to pick up Blue for lunch at 11:45am.  We bring her back to the house and the girls play outside while I prepare something to eat.  Blue has to be back at school at 1:15pm, except on Wednesdays when she has no school in the afternoon.  Blue could stay at school for lunch but she hasn't asked to, so until she does, I will pick her up and bring her home for a break from hours listening to all french!  On Wednesday afternoons, we usually plan a trip further away to see some cool place that we have read or heard about and want to see.

When I drop Blue back at school, we normally go for a drive to explore the endless country roads and hidden villages.  If I need to, I also run to the Intermarche, the local supermarket chain in either Neuvic or Mussidan to pick up something to cook for dinner.  We are back to pick up Blue at 4pm.  In the evening, I light a nice fire in the wooden stove to make the house toasty and warm.  The girls and I chat while I make dinner and then relax for the rest of the evening.

Pictures from our walk this morning......