Monday, 3 August 2009

From Compact Living to the Best B&B


From Compact Living to the best “B&B” in France!

“Where’s the loo roll?” “In the oven!” Compact living is amazing! You find space in the most unlikely places- Space for round things. Space for long, narrow things. Space for squidgy things. It’s incredible what you can fit into a 6m van and also what you can do without for four weeks! We’ve not really missed anything yet and the facilities in French camp-sites really are first rate, so that washing-up and showering is not done in the confines of the van, but in the ample facilities of the sites.
However, it’s been our plan for some time to visit our neighbours from a couple of years ago, who have moved to France for six months or more, to see how it feels. We were looking forward to catching up with them for a couple of days, and began our trek into unknown territory. We’d never been to the Gers region of France before, which is roughly south of the Dordogne and within sight of the Pyrenees.
After several hours trekking west, through Mende (capital of Lozere), over the spectacular Millau bridge (architect, Norman Foster, who also designed the “Gherkin”/Cornichon in London), on to Albi and finally to Montauban. About 300miles brought us to a little, provincial village called Gaudonville. We passed through fields and fields of sunflowers, and roadsides decorated with exquisite wildflowers- poppies, daisies and cornflowers. This area seemed to have adopted a more natural approach to becoming “fleuried”, rather than the more colourful, garden annuals chosen elsewhere. The village is very pretty and the area totally uncommercialised. Not a pottery shop, or tea-towel stall in sight. Very agricultural and unspoilt. The house which Glyn and Caroline were renting was stunning. In need of some work and money spending on it but exciting and delicate, none the less. Massive barn attached with timber frame, although rotten in places. We sat in the garden and drank Cremant sparkling wine and the second night enjoyed a great barbecue under the stars, sitting under a mulberry tree. Glyn and Caroline have created their own “potager”/veg plot and in the brief time that they’ve been there have kept themselves supplied with courgettes, tomatoes and beans, as well as enjoying kilos of plums from the fruit trees in the garden.
We visited nearby villages like Fleurance and Lectoure, with its Roman and medieval architecture, which sits comfortably alongside upvc windows and concrete. Authentic but still lived-in! All the trip I’d been bursting to visit a local market and so to Fleurance, a very pretty village. Fruit and vegetables in abundance and much cheaper than in the shops. There are markets at most villages on specific days of the week, and no shortage of fresh produce. So different from UK with our weekly and sparse markets.
As always when we stay with Glyn and Caroline, we ate fantastically well, emptied their fridge of beers, and slept well. Only disturbance were the church bells which rang out enthusiastically at 7am, and were accompanied by the local dog who tried to sing along! On the subject of loud noises, whilst we were in Fleurance, at twelve noon, there was an almighty racket as a siren, which sounded like the sirens at the quarries in Stoney Middleton, prior to blasting, went off at full volume. The busking singer stopped playing and crooning, and waited for the row to pass. Caroline explained that, in the absence of church bells, the siren told everyone that it was time to stop what they were doing and have lunch- 12 noon!!!
They both looked really healthy and happy in their French pastoral home, and feeling very relaxed ourselves, we set off for the Dordogne area.
A very big thankyou to them both.

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