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from … Saturday April 24

Another glorious day, for our passage to Brantôme. In the developmental stage of our holiday, we’d planned to stop en route and visit the mighty Castle of Commarque — about which you can read a great deal on the Web — and now we duly do so; for this is our shortest travel leg.

Commarque is a totally different proposition from a place like Taillefer; it is still being uncovered, and maintenance of it in current state is being undertaken. It has walkways for tourists, and it provides reading material in various languages. None of this makes it any less marvellous, especially if you have the whole place to yourselves as we do (not counting the workman trimming the grass with a whipper-snipper the entire time); it’s not until we’re actually starting to leave that a couple and two young daughters arrive (and the kids are noisy). What luck !

Memory: the good manners and general niceness of the young man in the little ticket-booth there (yes, they are obliged to defray some of their costs, and who could possibly resent it ?!). The French are, by and large, utterly charming !

Brantôme is as pretty as all the pictures you’ve seen on the Web, and our small gîte equally so. It has one of the best things of all three gîtes in which we stay; a little back deck in the sun, where I love to laze in garden chairs and do absolutely nothing — and also hang washing to dry. It’s absolutely charming, and provided with everything you could possibly need (except a TV on which to watch late afternoon game shows …). In total contrast with our previous place, these owners welcome us with a vase of tulips and a bottle of wine on the kitchen table, have posted helpful hints on the little notice-board and provide a guest-book in which stayers write things useful to those following !

The very best things about Brantôme are the boulangerie and the boucherie-charcuterie, which happen to be in the same street, and actually opposite each other ! Each of these provides wares of the highest quality, and each is a place you feel you would like to spend a lot of time in; in the former, watching the bakers bring out wonderfully-smelling and appetising goodies from the many ovens in the very next room, looking on and drooling as they’re put into the counter display; and in the latter, just wandering about and marvelling at the enormous range of delicious-looking meats and small goods before trying to decide which to buy (and inflicting horrid French on the good-natured folk behind the counters). Well … we do spend as much time there as we think we can get away with …

Memory: passing fields where charolais are grazing, a not infrequent occurrence, we find at least some of them lying down the way kangaroos do, kind of on one elbow, you know …? An amazing sight, these great, powerful, silvery and smoothly muscled beasts just … lolling about !   :-)

We, too, laze in Brantôme, more than anywhere else. Perhaps this is really what one should do when holidaying in France … perhaps when holidaying anywhere ! The weather is almost always good and the sundeck inviting; why rush off continuously …?

And we read a lot, here … There are many paperbacks left by fore-runners, and we want to save our own for times when we might really need them, so we read from this collection. I find some Len Deightons (I can never read any Len Deighton without visualising Michael Caine in the protagonist’s rôle), and am reminded how easy it seems to be to write books that become absolutely dated, and very rapidly, by changing political events.

Memory: sitting out on the deck reading. I look up to see a little bird in the lattice, watching me with a bright eye and a chocolate-coloured splash on his breast. We stare each other out for a while, and then he gets bored, sings me a quick song and flies away.

Today CS cooks bolognese sauce for tomorrow; now the house smells right !

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  Forest path - en route to the Chateau de Commarque
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