Saturday, June 5, 2010

WEEK 4 DAY 22



WEEK 4, DAY 22
Twenty three degrees in the pool, thirty three outside of it, so we enjoyed a welcome dip at noon after a short visit to the bustling Saturday market in Sarlat.
With the weather so warm, we had decided to stick with the barbecue and take a couple of steaks out of the freezer in the garage. Bought a few bits of fruit and veg to make up the meal – no need to buy wine, though I was tempted by some Rosette moelluex from the Bergerac AOC area.
The wine eventually used with the steak was a Bandol rouge 2002, a smashing wine, made mainly from the Mourvedre grape. Cost €7.00.
Wasn’t all that keen on heading to the market but should have known better as there is always something different. And, this morning,  that something different was provided by a ten foot dancing bear who came to the market on his bike, advertising a day long Fete.
Surprised then to see the actor get off the bike and stroll around among the market customers. Everyone was keen to take a break and have a look. The stallholders were just as keen as anyone else and even stopped serving while the “bear” slowly made his way through the centre.
Les Cabanes du Breuil
St Andres – Allas
06 80 72 38 59
Cabanes-du-breuil.com
A shorter trip was needed this hot afternoon and Les Cabanes du Breuil fitted the bill to perfection. Following a “mysterious origin” (typical French brochurese), these huts, not dis-similar to the beehive huts seen in Kerry, were the rural residence of the Sarlat Benedictines 'til the middle of the 15th century. In the 18th and 19th, they were used by craftsmen and, since 1950, this remarkable heritage has been preserved within a working family farm.
This is a pretty genuine farm as goose and ducks wander around with their young and are indeed housed in the cabanes themselves. The old barn is now the video room and there is a collection of old farm machinery including tractors, movers and harrows.
The huts are apparently the traditional dry stone buildings of the area but this original preservation and presentation is certainly well worth the four euro entry fee. Indeed, the display by the farm’s pea-cock was worth that much.

Pics, from top: Sarlat Bear, Duckling at Breuil and Ancients Huts


WEEK 4, DAY 23

Very dull morning here in Sarlat, livened up by a solitary peal of thunder and a short shower and more pleasingly by the purchase of some Bandol Rose from the local Casino where we’d gone to dump the bottles of the previous week and stock up on essentials such as bread and milk. The Bandol cost €6.50. Was on the lookout for a red and white from the area but no joy here.
In the lazy afternoon, walked through a different part of Sarlat, including the public park, and came back through the town centre, checking the restaurants for this evening. The weather is dull and there are few people out and about even though the temperatures feel as if they are in the low 20s.
Despite checking out a few “new” venues, we ended up at our “old” favourite Auberge de Mirandol. And what a meal we had for €18.00 each. Their suggested wine was a Percharmant, a 2004 R du Roi for €16.00. It was absolutely excellent and perhaps our favourite wine of the three weeks so far.
We started the meal with Foie Gras mis-cuit with three different relishes, including a Monbazillac jelly. Second starter for me was the Marinated Salmon (with Salad) while the other one was a well presented half Melon with a fair dash of that Monbazillac wine in the centre.
We agreed on the main course, not very substantial but gorgeous: Breast of Duck in a  truffle sauce with Sarlandais potatoes and haricot vert. Then followed he usual cheese course though this time it was cabecou (with salad) rather than Rocamadour.
There was an extra in the dessert line-up and I went for it. It was the melt in the mouth French classic Isles Flottantes. We also had Crème Brule and that too was excellent. A big crowd in to the Mirandol on this unpromising Sunday night and that is a good sign of an excellent restaurant where the food and the service is always top class, always friendly, despite the odd language mix-up.

WEEK 4, DAY 24
Chateau de Hautefort
24390 Hautefort
05 53 50 51 23
Chateau de Hautefort is best seen from the near distance. This imposing fortress is seen clear above the village for miles around.



From Roman times, there has been a fortress here and today the oldest part is the 14/15th century Tower of Brittany. On paying the admission of €8.50, you undertake a self-guiding tour though various parts of the often restored castle, seeing many of the rooms with their furniture and wall hangings.
In the immediate area around the castle, you have quite impressive French style gardens, mainly trimmed box with, here and there, a few concessions to colour with the use of flowers. Another attraction is supposed to be the English style gardens but this has been better days as you will see from the empty water-garden and other missing bits.
The Chateau, now run under the rules of a foundation, obviously rents out its facilities to pay the huge costs. On the day we visited, we saw vans and cars at the entrance making deliveries for a reception that evening. A marquee had been set up in the main courtyard, a drinks reception was being arranged under the hedge tunnel and an “orchestra” was also being set up.
You could come a long way and pay your money and then find the close-up views you wanted of the castle spoiled by the parking of the tradesmen and suppliers. But don’t worry, the best views are from the near distance. Of course, if you are interested in the gardens, the tapestries, ornaments and furniture, and many of you are, by all means come and do the tour. Otherwise, take your photo down the road and carry on.
The sunshine helped today which started with a walk into Sarlat to our traiteurs but disappointingly, and you often find this in France, they were closed on Mondays. Should have known better. Still all was not lost. Called to a corner shop Epicerie on the way back as we knew they also do prepared dishes and here we picked up some pork in a Madeira sauce.
Returning from Hautefort, we called to the Carrefour supermarket in town and bought some other bits and pieces. Now, with a bottle of excellent Buzet just opened, we are all set for a fine easy going meal in the sun. Must make the best of it. A petrol-lady, close to Hautefort, when I remarked in basic French that today was fine, told me: “Ajourdoui oui. Bad Demain!”
Photos from top: Walnut trees, Hautefort and Box hedges at Hautefort.