Sunday, May 23, 2010

DORDOGNE WEEK 2

DAY 8
For more eating out in the Dordogne see http://corkfood.blogspot.com/

WEEK 2, DAY 8

This is planned as an easy day: marche, pool, lunch at gite, visit wine merchants nearby, dinner at gite (barbecue), Champions League final.
The Saturday market in Sarlat is huge: food, crafts, clothes, footwear.... two streets and connecting lanes, plus a square, all  full of stalls and people. We meet some very nice people: a young man that helps us choose melons for today, tomorrow and Monday; another young man in a shop where we get “strings” for my glasses and quite a few others, including a lady in a Tabac who doesn’t charge for a box of matches (for the barbecue).
We did pick up a souvenir or two but it was mainly food: strawberries (from a choice of three varieties), a pain complet, melons, mussels, and a couple of gorgeous pastries. Also spotted a traiteur with potential and we’ll be calling there after the weekend.
Back to the gite then for a dip in the pool followed by a lunch of mussels (we bought too many of them) followed by some of that bread with a local cows cheese.
Valette Foie Gras, 16 avenue Aristide Briand, 24200 Sarlat, 05 53 30 25 63.
Early in the afternoon found some handy shops within a few hundred yards of the gite, including a Lidl where German Pilsner was on sale for less than €3.00 for six 50cl bottles. Next door was a butcher with a huge selection and also a variety of readymade meals.
The gem though was Valette Foie Gras which, in addition to a massive selection of Foie Gras and related products, including chutneys and Cassoulets, has quite a range of local wines. I took the opportunity to make some progress on my list:
Madiran Cuvee de L’Ange 2005 €5.75;
Saussignac Chateau Tourmentine 50cl €13.30;
Cahors St Didier Parnac Prestige 2006 €6.00;
Pecharmant Chateau Tiregand 2007 €9.90;
Montravel Blanc Sec 2007 €6.70;
And, for this evening’s barbie, a Bergerac Blanc Sec Chateau Theulet 2008, €5.30.
Got their brochure on the way out, studying it at present and we’ll be calling there again.

By the way, that Bergerac Blanc went very well with the barbie and later still the introduction of a previously purchased Jurancon (Moelleux) went down very well with the dessert. It is a lovely medium sweet wine from the Basque country, also recommended as an aperitif or with the local foie gras and certain cheeses. Certainly, worth a look.



DAY 9
Photos: above pig roast, right band plays, below contestant trys to ring goose and bottom local dialect (umbrellas)


Walked in to the centre of Sarlat around noon today. They were getting ready for the start of La Ringueta, Fete des Jeux Traditionnels: all kinds of games, climbing greasy poles, a type of table football played with wooden “hitters” and a round piece of timber as the ball, spinning tops and many more.

Pigs were roasting on the huge barbecues, to become part of a 13 euro meal. But we didn’t wait, headed for L’Orangerie in the shade of hits huge “awning” to take their 14 euro four course menu. With duck confit for the main course, we had an enjoyable meal and headed back to the fun and games which were starting officially at two o’clock.
The crowds were now well up, all fed, and the fun had started. We enjoyed walking around and looking at all the pre-computer activities and we especially enjoyed the lively efforts of a noisy band that didn’t confine themselves to the one spot but moved through the length of the fete.
Later, in the afternoon we headed back to the gite to take a break and cool down in the pool. Later, we enjoyed a pork chop barbecue


DAY 10
Chateau de Monbazillac
24240 Monbazillac
05 53 61 52 52 and 05 53 63 65 00
An afternoon visit to the Chateau de Monbazillac was the highlight today.

Photos from top: the Chateau, Monbazzilac vineyards with Bergerac in background and bottles of the golden nectar at rest.

But first, some housework: rubbish to be taken to the communal collection point a few yards up the road and then all the empty bottles to be deposited in the “banks” at the nearby Casino Supermarket.
Today being a bank holiday, not on the usual calendars, many places were closed but Casino was opened and I took the opportunity to add to our collection by purchasing a Chateau Larroque Bordeaux Sec 2009, a Chateau Peyrettaille Pecharmant 2007 and also a Chateau Menate Sauternes 2005.
From one sweet wine to another as we arrived at the Chateau de Monbazillac after a 70 km trip. Built around 1550, the chateau stands today almost exactly as when built by the AYDIE family more than four centuries ago. This was a very interesting visit indeed, highlights including the Grand Salon, the Mouney-Sully Hall, the Grand Staircase and the Hall of Bottles.

The world renowned vineyard was first cultivated in the 11th century and is famous for using “the noble rot” method to make its sweet wines which draw thousands of visitors every year. We availed of the tasting service, naturally, and purchased some of the golden nectar along with some Bergerac Rouge and Bergerac Sec.
“In entering this place, you are entering a part of the History of France”. So says one of the chateau’s leaflets. Today, the Wine Cooperative of Monbazillac owns the chateau and makes every effort to look after the monument and open it as much as possible to visitors. For €6.40, we thought it was very good value indeed.


DAY 11 Gouffre de Padirac, Rocamadour

Photos:  Three views of Rocamadour and one of the hole in the ground by which you enter Padirac.
Gouffre de Padirac is one of the most visited places in France and takes your breath away. Via stairs and lifts, you descend almost 1000 feet before being taken on a boat trip through the magnificent galleries of this chasm.


Here you see the “Great Pendant” a 60 metre stalactite. After the boat, a circular tour, that includes some 84 steps, takes you  into and around the “Great Dome Room”. This is 94 metres high and here you see gorgeous lakes and more odd shapes of nature, including groups of beautiful stalagmites.
The visit costs about €9.20 for an adult and takes about ninety minutes. There is plenty of car parking in the area and also a share of restaurants which seem a euro or two dearer than elsewhere, maybe dearer even than those on the outskirts of the attraction.
It was in the middle of lunch time when we emerged and we sat down at the close at hand Restaurant Les Visiteurs where we each enjoyed Moules Frites (€11.50) and a Breton cider (€3.20). A thunderclap went off in the distance but the sun stayed shining in the area.
And it was still shining as we reached L’Hospitalet, the hamlet from which there is a great view, many say the best, of the medieval town, on three levels, of Rocamadour. The Chateau is on top, then the religious area and at the bottom, the housing of the workers, nowadays used as souvenir shops and artists’ workshops.
The Bunch of chapels that make up the middle area is quite impressive. Among others, we visited Chapelle Notre-Dame where, on the altar, sits the statue of the miraculous Black Virgin and Child.
It is tough on the legs around here but you may get refreshments along the way and some restaurants and bars have terraces overlooking the valley. Life is also made easier by the lifts that link the middle area with the bottom (€3.00 return) and with the Chateau.
Quite a tiring day! Now to hit Sarlat and see what the restaurants are serving. Most in the medieval centre are serving traditional fare – for the sake of variety we’ll have to get out of town one of these nights. In the end, settle for the Auberge Lys Or in place Andre Malruax (06 87 30 37 07).

From the 14 euro menu, we start with two salads, one a Maigret de Canard, and the other smoked salmon with a lemon sauce. Both okay, nothing special. Main course were Coq au Vin (house style) and Bavette de Boeuf with shallots. Again, each was fine without being outstanding (after all, this is the 14 euro menu).
Dessert was probably the best we’ve come across in this category menu. It was a lovely fresh fruit salad, mainly exotic fruits. A pichet (50cl) of Bordeaux rouge and an Espresso bought the total bill to €38.50.


DAY 12 Chateau Milandes
24250 Castelnaud-la-Chapelle
05 53 59 31 21
www.milandes.com



After a thunderstorm last night and the exertions of yesterday, a short trip was called for and, after lunch, we headed for Chateau des Milandes, the former residence of song and dance star Josephine Baker who died suddenly in 1975 during the run of a show celebrating her fifty years in show biz.
The American was a huge success sin Paris for much of the first half of the 20th century but never forgot her American roots and the discrimination against her fellow African Americans. She sacrificed contracts in the fight which saw her famously march in Washington in August 1963 with Dr Martin Luther King. Already she had made the Chateau a home for 10 boys and 2 girls of different nationalities.
The rooms in the Chateau, including her bedroom and bathroom, are among those on the tour and, in the Grand Salon, you see many of her famous costumes, also many photos and original drawings of her in the Folie Bergere.
A popular part of any visit to Milandes is the Birds of Prey Display under the charge of falconers Patrick and Steve. Birds put through their paces include a Kestrel Falcon, a Harris Hawk, a Barn Owl, an eagle owl, a falcons and an American fish eagle. Don’t miss the show, usually on twice in the afternoons, not always in the mornings.
No visit to France is complete without a call to Leclerc and no visit to a branch of that supermarket chain is complete without a call to the wine corner.  Further filled my shopping list by adding a Bergerac Moelluex, a few bottles of Buzet, some Fronsac, one Fronton (by error, maybe  a happy one) and finally a bottle of Banyul, the sweet fortified wine, like port, from the deep south.
The morning visit to the market, where purchases included a big lump of delicious Tomme de Perigord, a lovely cows cheese, ended with a call to a branch of the Valette chain where a purchase of Sarlanoix (liquor) ticked another box. Primary use is as an aperitif but we tend to use it with barbecued banana. Do your banana, quickly lay it on a layer of ice-cream and quickly add a tablespoon or two of Sarlanoix and then quickly eat it!


DAY 13 CAHORS VINEYARDS

Today made the trip down to the Cahors Vineyards. Started by visiting a couple of sleepy villages. In the bastide town of Montcabrier, pigeons cooed while children babbled contentedly in the school. More sounds of contentment in Duravel where the local café was doing quite a lunch-time trade.
Then onto the River Lot and the quayside of Puy-L’Eveque, once a river port. Fine views here of the river and the old town and vineyards in the near distance. Views kept getting better. High up in Belaye, we had stunning views of both the Lot and Cahors Valley.
And even that was outdone when we called to nearby Albas which overlooks the Lot from a cliff. A few kilometres outside the town we got a magnificent view as the river formed a huge shape in the valley below.
Then passed through the ancient Cathar fiefdom of Luzech and its imposing 12th century keep before getting down to business in the little village of Parnac. Here the Cave Cooperative du Vignoble de Cahors (you see Les Cotes d’Olt on the signs) have a massive cave with a fine shop.
After a few tastings we settled on a Château Les Bouysses 2002 (€7.40 a bottle) and a Cotes D’OIt Malbec 2005 (€4.00), some rewards for a hard slog in the car. As was an excellent dinner of Poulet Basque from the local traiteur, something of a welcome change from the local cuisine to which, let me hasten to add, we’ll return.









DAY 14 LA ROQUE ST CHRISTOPHE
La Roque Saint Christophe, 24620 Peyzac Le Moustier
05 53 50 70 45
www.roque-st-christophe.com
“The guide is in Irish”, joked the receptionist as he handed us a returnable trail leaflet as we entered La Roque St Christophe, a must visit site if you are in this area. This sheer rock face, some five terraces high, has been inhabited since prehistoric times.

It was such a secure place, above the Vezere river, that man made it a troglodytic fort in the 10th century and that these early efforts were added to throughout the middle ages when the fort, really by then a high rise town,  often held as many as 1000 people.
A little reconstruction has taken place and one can easily imagine how the medieval town worked, how it continued to supply itself – full size working models of big lifting machines have been constructed here - and how it defended itself against attackers. A marvellous and worthwhile experience.
Not too far away, hidden in a wood and also on the bank of Vezere, is the La Madeleine site. Findings here were and are of such an importance to the understanding of the Upper Palaeolithic period that the Magdalenian culture forms part of such studies.
Physically, the site is not as impressive as Christophe but the collection of underground rock shelters, where remains of a chapel, walls and shelters and workshops are visible, and the site above the Vezere, all combine to give one a feeling how life was lived here for century after century. Many of the ancient buildings outlived the castle that was built above them.
Next visit was to a much more modern establishment, for dinner. We had been recommended Le Bar Code, just outside Sarlat on the Josephine Baker Road. Newly opened on this site, it had brought with it from its former Sarlat centre site, a reputation for Meat on the Rock, rather appropriate given the day that was in it.
At present, it opens for lunch every day but for dinner only on Fridays and Saturdays. Our first courses were Charcuterie (€6.00) for me and Salad with Gizzards (€4.00) for herself. Both were substantial and it took us a while to polish them off.
They were big but nothing prepared us for the size of the main course. Both of us had chosen Beef on the Rock. The hot rocks were served smoking, the beef sizzling, all accompanied by a salad and chips and a couple of dips. All you had to do then was “cook” the beef to your taste: rare, medium or well done!
The size of the piece of meat was astonishing. In each case it was at least three times the size of the normal fillet steak served in Cork! All for 15 euro.
A good while later, we were asked, with no real expectation of an affirmative answer, if we wanted dessert. We just said we'd stick with the wine and finish it off, a very enjoyable Bergerac rouge which cost us €10.00 for the bottle.
Full. You could say that. Tel: 05 53 28 56 14. C.C. Pre de Cordy (face au lycee) 24200 Sarlat.

Pics. Model of La Roque (top) and then Church at La Madeleine