Does the name Bergerac seem familiar to you?
In 1385 Ramond de la Rivière was given land as a reward for driving out the English from the area. He named his property Bergerac. His descendent, Hercules Savinien de Cyrano was born in 1620 and became a writer and a soldier with the Gascon Musketeers. The real Cyrano de Bergerac became the inspiration for Rostand’s play, Cyrano de Bergerac.
Between August 26 and October 4 you would have found us in Pomport, France in a house without a street number because, due to it’s long life, it has a unique name. To find the house on a local map you need only look for Le Terme in the northwest corner of the Monbazilliac wine region, just south of Bergerac and east of Bordeaux.
This is a region of excellent wine, long religious wars between the Catholics and Protestants, national wars between the English and French, plus chateaux, gorgeous landscape, rivers, and fantastic food.
For a feel of the area, read “the ripening sun” by patricia Atkinson. Her vineyard was about 4 kilometers from Le terme.
We had visited our friends Anna and Janet briefly a year ago and were grateful to arrange a return to meet them for nine days at their family farm house at the end of August to be followed by our solo stay at Le Terme when they returned to London.
Le terme is on a hill with a view of vineyards and sunsets from the dining room. The vineyards climb the rolling hills that surround the house. Anna’s family has owned the farmhouse since the early 1970’s and purchased Le terme about 12 years ago.
September is an excellent time to be there; the figs, peaches, hazelnuts, bay leaves and table grapes around the house are ready to eat. Our neighbor, Dick and Jeanette visited with a bag of their fresh picked plums. The local farm produce is abundant and flavorful.
Prior to our arrival we had intended to do extensive touring in the area. We would rent a car and really explore. Once we arrived, however, we didn’t go very far. We were very busy gardening, walking in the vineyards, visiting the farm markets, watching spectacular sunsets with an appropriate aperitif, making grape juice, cooking dinner, sampling different bakeries, visits with neighbor Dick and Jeanette, coffee and wifi at the code bar in Sigoules, a huge used English book sale in Campsegret, pizza in the bastide town of Eymet, a rainy day exploring cultural venues in Bergerac, leisurely meals in the garden with Anna and Janet and making frequent visits to the excellent pharmacy in Sigoules for an assortment of minor ailments.
We have discovered that Laurus nobilis, or oil made from bay leaves, is a remarkable antibacterial, antiviral.
We recommend the sigoules pharmacy. We paid many visits there for a wide assortment of minor issues including aouta (aka chiggers), a common issue occurring during the fall harvest.
Dick and Jeanette are long time friends of Anna and Janet. Dick is American and Jeanette is Swedish. They have lived at la Moliere for 30 years. She teaches English and he is a jazz pianist. The house is only half a mile from Le terme through the vineyards, as long as you don’t get lost.
The night before Anna and Janet returned to London, the four of us elegantly dined at Le Moulin de Malfourat. This restaurant, located at the top of the ridge overlooking the dordogne valley, produced course after course of gastronomic delight with superior service.
Shortly before we returned to Paris we shared birthday pizza with Jeanette and Dick at their favorite place to eat in the bastide town of Eymet. When we return to Pomport, we need to pay a daytime visit to explore the bastide towns of Aquitaine.
It is not uncommon for the farmers to hunt on Sunday morning in their vineyards. One Sunday morning, I was up and out in the field between the two houses pulling Ivy out of the hedge. I could hear gun shots in the distance in the vineyard across the road. I contemplated whether it might be a good idea to find a brighter color to wear. Then the gun shots were closer and suddenly a deer dashed across the street headed my way, pushed through the hedge about 100 feet from me headed for the vineyard behind the house. The tools were put away for the day and tom and I spent the day exploring the culture of Bergerac.
It turned out to be an excellent day to explore culture since it was journeys europeennes du patrimoine 2016 and all the museum entries were free.
First stop was a beautiful exhibition about the famous actor Jean Sully Mounet, born in 1841 in Bergerac. He was the brother of the actor Paul Mounet. His daughter was the actress Jeanne Sully. He was a good friend, co-performer, and one-time lover of famed actress Sarah Bernhardt.
Next we visited the Protestant church, dedicated in 1792. The reformation arrived in Bergerac about 1535. The history of religious wars in the area between Catholic and Protestant followers is extensive, bloody, and lengthy.
Onward to the tobacco museum where we watched a wonderful film about farming tobacco. This is not an easy crop. The rest of this museum, modernized in 1982, housed collections of snuff boxes, and various artifacts related to the use and functions of tobacco.
We finished with a visit to the small, but interesting city museum with historic maps and farm equipment and boats.
Of course we had lunch on a plaza.
The Bergerac marche on Wednesday and Saturday was excellent and we made several shopping visits. Jeanette encouraged us to shop at the farm shop in lamonzie st. Martin. The farm sells whatever they are picking at the moment, their eggs and chickens and a few local cheeses and wine. We did most of our shopping at the farm after the first visit. The bakery in lamonzie st. Martin also became our favorite with their special baguette du soleil.
We followed the signs to the Musee de voitures on the way back from an errand, on the spur of the moment. The flyer and website did not disclose opening hours, so we hoped hours might be posted on the door. We were lucky and arrived just as the owner was unlocking the door for a small group who had called and then decided not to stay. the barn of old cars are in the midst of the chateau de sanxet, surrounded by their vineyards. Tom was in heaven.
We followed Dick and Jeanette to the annual English book sale in Campsegret. This is a fundraising sale for the animal rescue. People bring the English books they no longer want as a donation. The main room of the Mairie was packed with thousands of books which could be purchased for only 1€ each. There was also a lunch café. Outside were books in german and books in French and animals to adopt. There is an extensive British community in the dordogne and I think they were all at the book sale. We limited ourselves and only bought 10 books, had lunch, and enjoyed the hunt for books on our want list. How to pack them is the worry for another day.
The annual rando24 departed from Le Monteil, a village between Le terme and lamonzie st. Martin. You had a choice of three distances by bike or five distances hiking. One piece of the hiking went past dick and Jeanette’s house. The bike riders went through the vineyard across the street from Le terme. We considered joining in for the hiking, but decided to watch the bike riders, instead.
The air was clear, the sunsets spectacular, the food gorgeous, the gardening satisfying and we were really, really sad to leave, in fact, originally we planned to return to Paris September 29, but we delayed our departure until it was time for our dental appointments in Paris.
Our last night at Le terme, a Monday night ,we actually stayed at a delightful B&B la bonbonniere, at place de la Mirpe in Bergerac. We had washed all the linens at Le terme and hung them out to dry on Monday to ensure nothing packed away for the winter would be damp. We did spend Tuesday back at Le terme for some final figs and grapes and a very final spider patrol.
Can’t wait to return to Le terme.
Bisous, Debbi and Tom