October-It must be France

Dick and Irene Craig
Sat 19 Nov 2011 16:00

It poured with rain as we left Terry and Wendy’s converted barn and set off to drive further north towards the Dordogne. Along with the rain, the air temperature was cool and we were a little concerned that the weather might get even colder as we traveled even further north.

To our delight, after about an hour, the rain ceased, the sun shone and the air temperature improved.

The autumnal scenery was stunning with the trees, bushes and even the fields, sporting the most amazing colors of red, yellow, rust, mustard and green.

We passed hundreds of acres covered with vines and apple orchards; the latter either covered with netting, or with netting rolled up waiting to be utilized.

Despite having been given directions by my niece Debbie, we used the tom-tom which managed to miss the turn off to the A89. This caused us to approach Moulin des Agneux from the opposite direction but the vista was wonderful and well worth having taken a wrong turning.

Debbie, Rob and their daughter Nina live on a small farm in the French countryside, where we arrived late afternoon on a warm, sunny day.

The farm has its own woodland as well as a lake which provides an ample supply of fish. Three ponies live in a paddock beyond the field where the goats amble and play fight.

Several times a day it becomes necessary to evict one or more chickens from the kitchen, or even the main living room. At night, dozens of chickens and ducks roost in one of the barns.

They inherited an elderly sheep with the farm which occasionally wanders around on very wobbly legs, to pick up and eat a windfall apple or munch on a patch of succulent grass.

Their dog Skippy, initially Debbie’s pet while she lived in the UK, accompanied them to Australia where they lived for six or seven years before returning to Europe and settling on the Dordogne border during August last year. Since their arrival, they have acquired a countless number of cats and two more dogs, all of which have just adopted them.

At present they live in the farm cottage but have plans to convert one of the barns to become their new home and to let out the cottage, as well as the six bed motor home, which is fully plumbed in and has all mod cons.

Next morning we bypassed Thiviers, twinned with Javea in 2006, en-route to Villefranche du Perigord and wandered around a local street market. When it came to snacking, Nina chose the snails.

After a delicious breakfast, cooked by Debbie using their own products, we set forth on Sunday morning towards Bouligne, near Sauze Vaussais, a journey of around three to four hours.

John and Jennie had only arrived from the UK on Friday night but nonetheless, their beautiful, converted barn was warm and inviting. At suppertime, we ate roast beef and drank fine wines; John even gave Dick a Cuban cigar and they puffed away together in harmony.

The following morning, after a scrumptious breakfast cooked by John, outside on the barbecue, although Jennie did fry the eggs in the kitchen, they took us to Rejallant, on the banks of the river Charente. We passed the old stone watermill and crossed several of many bridges. In warmer weather, this is a popular place to swim.

We drove to the picturesque town of Verteuil where the recently restored chateau stands on a rocky outcrop at the edge of the Charente. Nearby is the Moulin de Verteuil tearoom but unfortunately for us, it was closing when we stopped for refreshments so we moved on to Nanteuil-en-Vallee, another pretty village, where we walked around the arboretum before finding a bar which was open. It was the afternoon of the first day of November and while we were quenching our thirst, a small group of people, two adults and the rest children, came in to the bar in fancy dress, to trick or treat the proprietor.

Next day we drove to Alignan du Vent, near Pezenas, in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, to visit my cousin Valerie and her husband whom I hadn’t seen since they were married 49 years ago, having spent half of that time living in Australia.

There was a lot of catching up to do and in no time at all, it was time to be back on the road and heading home.

The first hour and a half of the journey was horrendous, with torrential rain and visibility down to less than five metres. By the time we reached Javea around 6.30 that evening, the weather had been fine and sunny for hours and the temperature was still 20º.

We stopped for a curry and then made tracks to our casa. It had been great to go visiting but is good to be home again.