Since my last entry I've taken a trip to the lovely 17th century town of Bergerac in the Dordogne region, south of here. The old town is full of half timbered buildings and there is an abundance of flowers in the streets, so unexpected in the drought. It is known for its natural beauty, its castles, a connection with Cyrano de Bergerac and of course, its wine.
I travelled by bus to Poitiers to take the train to Bergerac, via a change in Liborne. However, due to works on the train line between Liborne and Bergerac, we had a replacement bus (which will sound familiar to country train users in Victoria). While I was mildly annoyed that I would be on a slower and less salubrious form of transport, it was actually quite interesting. The bus took us through the pretty countryside with its vineyards and then to each train station along the way to collect or deliver passengers. We went through St Emilion whose wines I first tried in Bordeaux many years ago and which I really love. It was interesting to note how small such famous wineries are compared to those in Australia.
On arrival at Bergerac I was relieved only to walk a few minutes to my hotel because it was a hot day. After freshening up I was off to explore this beautiful place. I wended my way through cobbled streets and historic buildings, down to the river where I could visit the tourist office. As luck would have it, there was a wine centre upstairs in that building so I was able to have a free wine tasting. The woman from the winery was very generous with her pouring, so much so that I asked her for less. Well, I was trying seven wines and I wanted to be able to get home safely. I have known Bergerac's wonderful reds but I also discovered some surprisingly good white wines. Of the seven I tasted, I would buy five. That's a very high success rate for me. As I was travelling only with a backpack, I restricted myself to only one bottle, a Marquis de Gensac 2015.
I used my days in Bergerac wisely, ensuring that I saw all of the sights, churches, museums and galleries. The weather was very warm so I was glad that I had chosen a hotel with a pool which proved to be a welcome relief after long days of exploring.
On the second day I enjoyed wandering around the huge market that surrounded the Church of Notre Dame. One side held a large array of produce, craft beer and local wines while there was jewellery, gifts, clothes and household goods to be found on the other side. I bought some hand crafted silver earrings which are so pretty and delicate. I met a brewer of craft beer at the market who was really informative. He also told me about a local bar which features craft beers and IPAs so I paid that a visit in the afternoon. While it was enjoyable to try a couple of glasses, it would have been enhanced if I'd been with someone who appreciates beer so we could discuss the merits of each like I did with Penelope in Bologna in July.
There are so many places to eat in Bergerac with restaurants, cafes and boulangeries at every turn. They love their truffles so you get plenty of opportunities if that's your thing. There's also a plethora of crepes of all varieties. In honour of Lorri, I made sure that I not only had a cafe gourmand but also bought a millefeuille (vanilla slice). She had been craving one before she left France and we couldn't find one in any patisserie.
Back in Saint Savin I was invited to a dinner party at Betty's. It was to celebrate the visit by her nephew Mike and wife Suzy who have lived north of here for about 25 years. They were really interesting people. In his early career he was a sommelier and she was a solicitor so the conversation around the table was lively. Even at 82 and with almost no sight, Betty still managed to serve us an entree, main, cheese plate, dessert and coffee. I know she started preparing early and she has great perseverance.
Last Friday I finally had my appointments in Poitiers to complete my Long Stay Visa process. In the morning I had to go to the hospital for a chest xray to ensure that I don't have TB. It was a long and confusing process but after a couple of hours it was done. I then had to travel to the other side of the city to the Immigration office for my medical exam and interview. All of that took longer than you would expect but I emerged successful. Now I'm legal which is amusing because I've already been here more than four months when the legal time without the special visa is only 90 days.
Another highlight of the last couple of weeks has been the annual vide grenier (trash and treasure sale) which was held in front of the Abbaye on Sunday. I purchased a pretty little teapot for myself and some dessert wine glasses for Garry and Glenda as a welcome back present when they return in October. He is obsessed with vide greniers and they travel around the region on a Sunday to look for bargains. When I asked if I should look out for anything for them he replied that Glenda had been interested in some old false teeth she saw last year and he just wanted more of anything. I knew they were joking but I later told them that I had a surprise for them and left them wondering if I had really bought the false teeth.
Well, that's about it for me, other than to say I've become obsessed with baking and do it every week. Dick and Helen are now on my list of recipients as well as Keith and Hilary and Paul and Shaun. Dick and Helen are so appreciative and love everything. It encourages me to continue to surprise them with new delights. I've rediscovered baking as my form of creative challenge, harking back to the days when my daughters were little and I was home caring for them. Hey, I'm retired!
I hope this finds you well and happy or at least, content. Take care.