Sunday, December 22, 2013

Bergerac and the Bastide towns

The whole idea of this trip was to potter our way from village to village, from cafe to cafe, stopping whenever it took our fancy. What we learned yesterday was that some of the scenery was so beautiful it really takes your breathe away.

We had our coffee on the square in the old Bastide town of Lalinde, which is right on the Dordogne river. Our plan today was to visit a few of these Bastide towns, which are wonderful examples of medieval town planning. Built as new market towns that were also fortresses, they had big squares for the market, defensible walls, and a sturdy church to act as a bastion. The English and French each built them during the Hundred Years' War for defense in depth but also because the markets provided tax revenues that could go to the king rather than the local barons.

Our next stop was Bergerac which was founded on the banks of the Dordogne as a major navigation centre. The gentle river allows the surrounding vineyards to thrive and produce excellent wines. We wound our way from the Christmas market, through the narrow streets to the colourful statue of Cyrano, which stands amid half timbered houses.

I stopped to admire some polar fleece in the window of a shop and then decided to drop in. I was looking for a polar fleece vest. When I asked the owner why you couldn't find them, I was told in no uncertain terms that vests were not elegant or sophisticated. Oh dear! I did try on a very nice jacket in a lovely blue colour. After being assured that I looked very chic, I succumbed and bought the jacket, only to find out that all the polar fleece was made from recycled plastic bottles from Canada.

We had lunch in one of the lovely half timbered houses. It started with langoustines, followed by thinly sliced duck breast, potatoes and yet another glass of lovely red wine.

Walking back to the river we stopped to admire one of the traditional river barges. One of the things to do in the summer is sail in one of these on the river.

With what remained of the afternoon we drove along quiet country roads visiting the Bastide towns of Eymet, Issigeac and Beaumont. Each had their own unique characteristics but all had stunning central squares that we stopped to enjoy. It had been another lovely day.

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