Not a Trip Report - France

Old Sep 23rd, 2012, 11:17 AM
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Lovely non-report, looking forward to more.

Much sympathy over the ankle. I have sprained mine a couple of times, both while actually traveling, and still remember trying to tackle Turkey on crutches.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2012, 11:17 AM
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Looks like you've got a deal if FMT accepts to be paid in eggs and mushrooms!
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Old Sep 23rd, 2012, 11:19 AM
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I might be able to throw in a truffle...I know a guy...
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Old Sep 23rd, 2012, 12:28 PM
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Excellent.

Please, madame, I want some more.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2012, 01:49 PM
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May I ask how you discovered this area and wound up there? I'm reminded of Under the Tuscan Sun when I read about the work you have ahead. Feel free to post pics of anything (town, neighborhood, etc). This thread is terrific...

~Roberta
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Old Sep 23rd, 2012, 02:12 PM
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The days are taken up with getting small, incremental things accomplished, or not, and there's that big empty space in the middle of them, from noon to around 2:30 or perhaps some other capricious moment, when most everything is closed. I find myself using the little notebook I always carry with me on trips to write down when certain things are supposed to close, when to reopen. There is no system to it, except that everything but the churches shuts down on Sundays, and most everything is closed Monday mornings. Except there are exceptions to that too.

Though we're not here to tour, I want SO to see Font-de-Gaume, so we drive by. We're told that it's open from 9:30 to 5:30 every day, closed on Saturdays (not on Sundays, though), and to get a spot he should be there around 9. No possibility of advance tickets. English language tours usually, but not always, take place around 11 am. Coming back from FdG into Les Eyzies we will pass the Château Mazivert outdoor wine stand, where you can buy a vrac (5 liters, in a nicely packaged box) of nice, dry, white or red Bergerac for 13 euros, as well as individual bottles starting at about 4 euro and going up to around 30 euro: http://www.mazivert.com/articles.php?lng=fr&pg=53

Madame offers a dégustation of a red, a white, and a rosé. SO likes the rosé, and so do I, so we buy a bottle for 4.50 euro in addition to a vrac of white and Madame asks all about my foot, which I can now discuss in anatomically correct fashion in French. Then to Les Eyzies' tourist office to check email and do a bit of work, and before you know it, even though we were up and off early, it's noon and everything is closed. You don't really have any choice but to sit and relax, so we plunk ourselves down at the Café de la Mairie again and share an enormous baguette filled with tuna, tomatoes, lettuce, with a basket of condiments to accompany it if we want. The tour buses are grinding through town, and one stops opposite us in front of the tourist office and lets forth a stream of Americans. One of them points to the idiotic statue of a Crô-Magnon man that sits up in the cliffs next to the Prehistory Museum and says "Oh! Look at the monkey up there!!!" http://www.flickr.com/photos/milandes/3399770942/

We each have the set of clothes we spent 32 hours traveling in, plus a couple of drawers full of work clothes we are going to need that I found in one of the closets in the house, so laundry seems like something worth checking out before long, and the gorgeous campground where I've usually used the washing machines is on the way back to the house, so we're off to La Rivière: http://www.lariviereleseyzies.com/, and it never closes.

Same old proprietors are there, but brand new washing machines and dryers, plus, to my utter delight, handicapped showers! The owner won't charge us to use the machines if we bring our own soap, but it will be 2 euros to use the shower. AND, the entire campground is a free Wifi spot, and it's quick as lightning to get onto it. Works like a charm. And another bonus: for 2 euros you can buy a frozen ice pack, and we have a soft cooler, so even though we have no fridge, we can keep things cold. Now, SO is definitely not the camping type, so this all strikes us as très amusant, but we'll be spending a fair bit of time here, we imagine.

Back to Le Bugue about the time things will start to open up again. First to the Bricomarché to get gardening gloves and batteries for the flashlights and huile de lampe for the lanterns, and a new set of pruning sheers. Then back to the Intermarché for a few more provisions, as we are determined to keep our eating costs waaaaay down on the trip and make our own food. We stop by M. Vialenc's antique shop, as I want to ask him if he wants to buy stuff from the house (which is truly over-full of things I just don't need, plus I have yet to find out if it's likely to sell a fully furnished house, if I sell a house at all). But even though the shop hours are posted on the door and he's supposed to be there, he's not. But there's a pharmacy next door and I could use some Epsom salts for soaking my ankle, so in we go. I try asking for sel d'epsom, sel amer, sulfate de magnesium, but Mademoiselle says the only thing she has for ankle issues is a brace. I have those. I guess I'll get fancy and use up the sel de guérande in the kitchen.

Home around 5 and it's blazing hot, but we get busy in the garden again. I have rose bushes originally meant to frame the front door that are now easily 20 feet tall, with stems that are now 2-inch-thick trunks. I have a half-dozen baby acacia trees (which have tiny thorns)about 6 feet tall growing in front of the kitchen and living room windows. And more ivy - endless, endless ivy. And two rosemary bushes that are over 5 feet tall and about 4 feet wide. And that's before you get down to the smaller, invasive stuff that's under all this. I start sawing and ripping and clip away most of it on the kitchen side of the house within a couple of hours, only to reveal the plaque I put there years ago with "La C....," my last name on it. With stuff cleared out, it still looks elegant.

And then it reminds me that at some point my ex got himself a cheap, flimsy facsimile with his last name on it and installed it under the living room window. That area is still completely overgrown, but making pointed mental note to get a big screwdriver, remove that plaque, and toss it in the Vézère asap.

SO is dealing with the ronces - http://tinyurl.com/cjkgm48. We seem to have acres of them, and they'll rip the skin right off your body. Nasty, nasty things. He clips them as far down as he can reach, then pulls at them with a pitchfork to loosen them, an agonizingly slow process. But after a couple of hours there's a nice big pile of them by the pool, and the view is beginning to clear.

Time to mop our brows, get out a cold glass of wine, and park by the wall. We're not going to need a fire tonight. The interplay of sun and shadow on the cliffs across the valley and the tile roofs of the farmhouses below at this time of night (around 7:30) is just stunning. There's a boule game going on somewhere below us, bottles are clinking, men are shouting and laughing, home from the fields or their workmen's day and enjoying the calm of the evening.

We're having a spirited discussion about what we're going to be eating soon - will it be saucisson or jambon du pays? Cabécou or Tomme? Salad or not? White Bergerac or rosé, or a kir? Baguette or pain levain? Many important decisions are facing us. And while we're making this, we hear a "Cou-cou!" at the end of the driveway, and here comes a young Thai woman. Thai in the Périgord is most unusual. But she's our neighbor, just to the right and below the house, and she lives with her French husband, Franck, and they've only been here a year and they work as caretakers of the big manoir below, and she's just insatiably curious as to who we are.

We give her a glass of juice (she's pregnant, no wine), and talk for nearly an hour. People say folks in this neck of the woods are private and not forthcoming, but it's never been my experience (although admittedly Onamu, for that's her name, is Thai, not French). She's divorced, has a 15-year-old daughter we will later meet, a 5-year-old son, and is expecting another baby in November. They won't be going to Thailand this year. She tells me my neighbor Madame L. is still alive and well (I can't hobble down the lane to check quite yet), and I'm incredibly pleased to hear that.

Then Franck shows up, and he does have wine, and he is just as charming and effusive. Turns out he is a handy man but more important, a landscape guy - he takes care of les espaces verts. And he has tools, as in power tools. And he'll come and clear everything out for us over the weekend. For only 15 euro an hour if we pay him directly (instead of the company he works for). And when SO goes inside to get an oil lamp and a snack, he realizes we don't have electricity, and he goes home and comes back with about a 75-meter extension cord, and voilà! We are branché, sucking off his own supply!! Completely illegal, we surmise, but who will know? We've got enough light so that I don't have to crawl on the bedroom floor to get into bed at night, as I've been doing.

Eh bien! It's been quite an evening and the skies are massively populated with stars, and Madame L. is still here, and we have new neighbors. I'll have a bite of saucisson and call it a night.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2012, 02:19 PM
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Wonderful, keep going!
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Old Sep 23rd, 2012, 03:20 PM
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Hi, RobertaL.

I had already been to France about 25 times when I landed in the Périgord for the first time. Went there mainly because it was about the only part of France I hadn't already visited. It was love at first sight.

The following year I went back with my daughter on her kindergarten spring break. We'd had a bit of a windfall and I'd always wanted to buy something in France. The exchange rate was insanely good for Americans at the time. One day, after spending a fair amount of time with real estate agencies, we visited the Grotte du Sorcier and went for a walk up the lane, and there was a for sale sign. So I bought it.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2012, 04:05 PM
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May we see picyures of the house and garden?
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Old Sep 23rd, 2012, 04:39 PM
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<i>toss it in the Vézère asap</i>

Polluting the waters.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2012, 05:00 PM
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This is so much fun to read! You should, indeed, write a book.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2012, 05:23 PM
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jubi, I will keep going. I have a long history of never finishing trip reports, which is why I decided not to call it one! And there is nothing really chronological about this - just bits and pieces remembered, so I don't feel I have to do the usual careful chronicling that I feel compelled to do. Just a hodge-podge of stuff remembered from an unusual but immensely gratifying voyage.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2012, 05:26 PM
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Hi, cigale.

I have videos of all the work we (and Franck) did on the place and will try to find a place to put them up so you can link to them. But please, be kind when you see the pool
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Old Sep 23rd, 2012, 05:43 PM
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<<Polluting the waters.>>

You're right, Michael. We rethought that. It went to the dump.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2012, 06:35 PM
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One of the most precious moments at the house was finding the notebooks my father kept when he was there, and I was not, detailing what he had done to maintain and improve the place. In addition to being a school headmaster and speaker of many languages, he was a master woodworker and just handyman extraordinaire, and he delighted in going to St-Cirq and taking care of practical matters for me. I found several of his notebooks when there, including one he prepared with the French vocabulary for things like "long-handled tree clipper" and "wheelbarrow" and "storage door" and "stoop" and "pry bar," all organized in logical categories in his impeccable handwriting (which admittedly in a very few places got a slight leftward edge to it, suggesting maybe he was having a glass or two of Bergerac - not his style, but heck, he was in France having a ball, doing some of the things he did best).

In addition to the lists of vocabulary I might need, he kept detailed records of every single thing he did there, every single encounter with everyone, every bill he paid, every item in the house that might need repair, every assessment of things around the house that might need improvement, every trip he made to talk to someone about how to improve or repair anything. Here is a typical entry: "Can Opener: The most sophisticated military jets fly over every day, but the French seem unable to produce an effective can opener. There are three in the kitchen (always a sign that they don't work). In addition to those, I needed a table knife, a chisel, a hammer, and adjustable pliers (une pince) to open a can of tomato paste. How about shipping you a good USA model as soon as I arrive home?" This was an entry between "Efflorescence - Walls" and "Emergency Flashlights." Weepy time for me, sitting in the kitchen at the oilclothed table and remembering how much he loved this place, but what poignant memories!

Speaking of French military jets, I had warned SO that they were sudden and intense and incredibly loud, but you're never really prepared for them, and one day when we were fussing in the garden, they just exploded down the valley - which was in itself odd, because they used to fly over my house from back to front, directly across the valley, not down it. When they fly down the valley, you can see them for longer - black, wedge-shaped things going unimaginably fast, and so incongruous with the landscape. Training exercises? Don't know.

We went to la Mairie twice, after checking out the hours it was open, posted on the door. Not open. Twice not open. Third time a truculent young woman was there, and I asked her if the office kept the actes d'achats of the resident owners of property in the village. Non. Not even a non, Madame, just a brusque non. I have to go to my (useless) notaire for that. Village gossip is that the mayor's office schedule is all messed up these days because he's having an affair with this sour young woman. I love village gossip. It's beyond amazing how much of it there is in a commune of 300 people.

That's it for tonight. More later....
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Old Sep 23rd, 2012, 06:38 PM
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I am enjoying reading and trying to anticipate the end of the story. What a long and grueling day of travel, but I can see why you would be eager to get back to your house without spending a night somewhere en route.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2012, 07:06 PM
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We never spend a night en route. When I'm off and running, there's no stopping me, no matter how long the trip. And I'm used to this trip - done it probably 60 times, but not QUITE this slowly, and never handicapped. I just want to get there.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2012, 07:41 PM
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For the record, mesdames et messieurs, I stalled the car only twice in three weeks.

First, when pulling for the first time into actual live traffic 30 hours into the journey, first time driving manual for many years and, though needing all three of my feet to drive, was not sure where any of mine were.

Second, 32 hours into it, when first hitting the 110 degree turn (yes, sharper than 90 of 'em, and uphill, too) on the skinny, slippery, gravelly road on the way to the house, with the possibility of accidentally driving into the forest or being hit by a tractor, should one have been be rumbling down the same semi-road.

I rest my clutch.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2012, 07:45 PM
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Oh, look who's here! Hi, chéri!
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Old Sep 23rd, 2012, 08:21 PM
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There should be more of these 'non trip reports'; thanks for taking us along.

[Those military jets do have their uses. Last year, while waiting alone at a bus stop in the late afternoon in a quiet village in eastern France after visiting the grave of a Lancaster bomber crew (among them the boyfriend of a now 90 y/o aunt), I was reflecting on the day, when two of those jets suddenly appeared out of nowhere behind me and roared off down the valley towards the sunset.]
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