No more free-ways today! It was all country roads, tiny villages, historical buildings and beautiful, green countryside – so yes lots of wow moments along the way!
As we were driving along lunch of what I was seeing took me back to what I had always imagined France to be! In some ways I felt like I was being transported into another world! There were places we drove through where David was telling us about how small French traditional communities were being transformed because many people including non-French people were moving into these places due to affordability and for tree-changes such as Figeac. Of course many of the places that were most ‘affordable’ were those houses that needed renovating and that often proved too costly for some!
Our first stop this morning was a little village called Villefranche-de-Rouergue. Again a beautiful place. However, today also happened to be the Catholic feast day of the Assumption (of Mary into heaven) and for this village and the time we arrived everyone still seemed to be enjoying a sleep-in.
Like usual our focal point was the church square but in this square was a beautiful clock face made using water fountains and lights. As it happened Shirleen and I were sitting having our usual morning tea when it turned 11am. At the same time a dog was playing in the fountain trying to drink/eat/catch the water! She was having so much fun and we just laughed!
Up until this point I had not been exposed to crowds and crowds of people but that was about to change at Rocamadour.
One of the fabulous things about the traveling today was that we were driving along country roads rather than freeways and it seemed like around every corner there was something extraordinary to see. And Rocamadour was no exception.
To be honest, I thought I was heading to Gondor and in some ways it was a three level version of the seven levels of Gondor -and yes this is a LOTR reference! Neither was l disappointed that it wasn’t Gondor once we had arrived! At the top was the castle, then we took the lift down to the second level where there was the church/cathedral and down below was the village!
By the way, this guy cookingthe crepes was so funny and he cooked amazing crepes. When he realized I was from Australia he started singing ‘Old Macdonald had a farm’ which apparently is Australian – not American or English. Anyway he was from Turkey and the nutella crepe he made me was superb!
As we waited to enter the area of the church – which was located below the castle and above the village, Shirleen and I started taking photos of the village. As you can see, the village sweeps along the bottom of the valley and seems to wind its way back up to the the top again. The notion of a village being long and narrow is so different to what I perceive as the norm. Anyway, as we were taking these photos a butterfly flew past! Both of us immediately looked at each other and yes, I managed to capture an image of the butterfly. Just beautiful – and on the feast of the Assumption – the celebration of Mary’s ascension into heaven.
In some ways it felt like the place had become Jesus’ den of iniquity, den of thieves and I could almost here him raging at the the sellers – especially up in the church area – even though I think in the centre of they were actually just like an information office that provided people with water and information. To be honest, my very catholic tradition rose up in my memories especially as the tour guide told us the history and the stories behind Rocomodour. At every point she was able to trek about the historical information as well as the religious and hagiographic type of story that went with the imagery and depictions in the artwork. I did love this painting of the skeletons on the wall (and the timing of one photo could not have been better – and yes these people are all my traveling companions!).
The story goes that one day these young soldiers were riding their horses past a cemetery laughing and joking about how young, strong and healthy they were. Suddenly three soldiers buried in the cemetery rose from the grave and told are soldiers to beware – one day they too will become old and die! Of course I couldn’t help but think it was an early drawing of zombies on the wall of a church. You know in some ways, I was also reminded of today’s grafiti artists and the commissioning of artists to paint large paintings on the walls of buildings. Of course there is an irony in the description of what takes the form of art and grafitti in there too!
It is also here that we were given the opportunity to visit and pray with the Black Madonna. It wasn’t anything like I had imagined yet it was as it ‘should’ be – a white European looking statue painted black. That said, in amongst all the seemingly commercialisation of the place, There was a presence of holiness and calm when you actually managed to sit and be still. Our guide was awesome and extremely knowledgeable and she took us into chapels (and there were seven – one for each sacrament) that no-one else was allowed into; only two people had the keys! One of the bonuses of today was that it was a huge feast day and so in the cathedral there was a choir and orchestra practicing for the evening night’s concert and outside a choir was singing acapella style. The music was magical.
Next we were off to Collonges-la-Rouge – yes the red village; renown for being the most beautiful village in France and for its very red brick. And it was beautiful.
This was where David had booked our evening meal and yes, where yours truly had her first exposure to the infamous escargots!
And yes, as you can see, I ate all six! I can honestly say that I did enjoy trying them and they weren’t as slimy or rubbery as I had expected. Am I desperate to have them again? Probably not. Would I enjoy eating them again – yes! The food that was to follow was, once again absolutely delicious. I had the slow cooked duck followed by a chocolate cake filled with a chocolate mousse/custard.
Here are also some photos of the other’s food.
During our dinner we had thunder rolling over and lots of rain. One of the conversations I enjoyed was the tasting of the wine they had served on our table. It seemed that the people I was sitting near- Sai, Eunice, Matt, Ed and Catherine all decided to put our wine tasting skills to the test. We first dried the white and very quickly moved to the red where the reviews were much more favourable. Both wines had good fruit on the nose but tasted somewhat young or maybe the term is ‘short’. For some reason though, l went back to the white and low and behold, exposure to the air had opened up the flavours of the wine and voila! Magnifique! What I enjoyed most about this conversation was ale way we all contributed our impressions of the wine rather Than one person being and expert. It really was a shared conversation and a building of knowledge and learning.
Finally we arrived at Brive-la-Gaillarde. While the hotel was very nice, as has been the case everywhere we have stopped, one of the things I have noticed is the hotels charge an arm and a leg to do the laundry. While I was doing some hand washing I could not dry my jeans quickly and they needed washing. So, prepared to spend up to $100 to get four pairs of jeans and a dress washed l quickly raced down to reception. To my amazement and relief, the manager took my laundry and refused to charge me for it! I felt so relieved that I no longer had to worry about getting the washing done; and went to bed very happy!