Its just next door...

03rd May 2012
Don’t you just love air travel? Apart from the interminable queuing of course, and the security checking, the overpriced drinks and some of the very dodgy exchange rates to be had on board. Oh – and the realisation that you can find whatever it is that you wanted in Duty Free far cheaper on any random high street in both the country you are flying from – or the one you are flying to. And don’t even get me started on the environmental downsides of flying. But apart from all that – don’t you just love air travel?

We are currently en France – just a hop and a skip away from the UK, but still some 800 miles and about 800 years away from home. The countryside around Bergerac is hosting us for a few days – and its a countryside designed to warm the cockles of every photographic heart. To the north we have the Dordogne – a river currently swollen beyond recognition as millions of litres of French rain heads towards the Bay of Biscay at truly impressive speed. To the west is Bordeaux and the Atlantic coast, but we’re far more concerned with the immediate scattering of wonderfully ancient Bastide towns, carefully selected Chateaux and their associated wine production facilities, and the markets that seemingly sell everything from excellent local cheese to awfully cheesy souvenirs. For a flying visit, we’re staying local.

The weather that contributed to the swelling of the Dordogne is beginning to give way to the more typical warm sunshine – we guess we’re about a week too early. Wild flowers are beginning to make their presence felt in the fields and roadsides with carpets of white, yellow and red. Wine producers are collectively rubbing their grape stained hands together after the wet weather in anticipation of a Good Crop and an even Better Vintage – although thats a few months away yet. Right now we are more concerned with dodging the remaining showers and making the most of the local attractions. Luckily the two are totally compatible in France – active rain avoidance involves investigating the innards of large numbers of wonderful medieval churches, many of which sport gorgeous stained glass windows and still pay homage to Joan of Arc, while the more passive avoidance requires nothing more than a seat in a leafy town square, a canopy to keep the rain off and the verbal dexterity to request “une biere, s’il vous plait” of the attentive and chatty waiters. The sense of history assaults the senses whichever mode is adopted – it doesn’t take much imagination to conjure images of generations of French families living and working in a very similar looking town over the centuries. At least they didn’t have to put up with the glaring green neon crosses of the Pharmacies that seem to have crept into most of my town square photos – or the large number of estate agents that seemingly sell exclusively to the English. You also have to wonder at the foresightedness of medieval town planners who obviously made allowances for the large numbers of 4X4’s that work their way across the ruts formed in the cobbles by horse drawn carts across the centuries. Plus ca change...

Highlight of the trip was hard to choose – but an unbelievable sunset bathing the walls of an ancient hill top monastery in strong orange late-evening light at the edge of a Bastide town only minutes after the perfect entrecote steak and a cracking verre of vin rouge has to take the honour. Tough choice though – it could have been the moments before a torrential downpour in yet another town square when the sky took on a biblically dramatic aspect – or the morning spent in a 14th Century town centre market shooting the people, the cheeses and the buildings that looked as though total collapse was only minutes away. It could equally have been the evening spent on the Dordogne riverbank in Bergerac itself, again after ingestion of steak and du vin, when the lights across the bridge matched the intensity of the sky in that magic cross over lighting time that only lasts for a few minutes. In truth, it doesn’t really matter which of the magic moments were the best – its actually more important to plan the memories that will be made on the NEXT visit – and at £14.99 each way from Stansted, that trip will not be far away. You really have got to love air travel...

Enjoy summer...



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