Camping on a hill above the vineyards of Bordeaux, we have an amazing 360 degree view full of vines and woodlands, dotted with tall, white water towers. Since leaving Rosi’s, in the south Vienne the weather has mostly be kind to us with only one day of showers. The countryside has been undulating giving us ample opportunity to get in some hill training ready for the Pyrenees. All the rivers in this part of France flow east to west and as we are tracking south we are climbing up and over the watersheds before dropping down to the next burn or river.
Both of us have had our low moments in the last few days, mostly I think, because life was so lively and full-on celebrating Rosi’s 60th birthday with lots of her family and friends over from England. Jerry was exhausted on the first day after lunch and so we decided to treat ourselves to a campsite and stop early. Whenever we are stealth camping, we wait until late before pitching and leave early in the morning so it was a real joy to finish riding early and be able to pitch our tent knowing we were totally legal. Leaving our bikes and gear at the tent, we went off for an afternoon ramble around the surrounding countryside doing a spot of bird watching. Our best sights were a hoopoe and a Montague’s harrier. The latter was making best use of the recently mown hay field to swoop in on unsuspecting small rodents scampering about in the short grass. Over night in the tent, we listened to a nightingale giving it laldy.
The next afternoon was my turn to feel flat. I had hoped to be heading to Canada around now but, for various reasons, we are continuing to explore Europe for another year. On our way down to Santiago de Compostela, which is where we are headed just now, I wanted to call into Plum Village, where the famous Buddhist monk and teacher, Thich nat Hahn, lives, to join in one of their open days of meditation. Unfortunately, our arrival in Bergerac was badly timed as, due to long retreats, there are no day meditations held at this time of year. Both of these disappointments hit me at the same time. So with little enthusiasm I went with Jerry to find us a pitch for the night. After walking some way down a track into a woodland we came out onto some clear felled land with the most amazing view across the Périgord countryside. Despite the sloping terrain, this was our spot for the night and we sat watching the gloaming creep towards us across the yellow flowering rape fields and the leafy oak woodlands laid out before us. ( We only had to push ourselves back up the tent about twenty times during the night!)
The next day we were both back into the groove. Good job too as there were frequent showers coming across from the Atlantic coast to the west. We made good progress and had reached a picturesque, stone built village, St Severin by elevenses. Here we stopped by the church and a parishioner passing by asked if we needed water. She took us inside to refill our bottles from a tap hidden behind a small wooden door in the nave whilst chatting away contentedly in French.
By late afternoon we were in Bergerac, an ancient town standing on the banks of the Dordogne. Famous for giving its name to the literary character Cyrano de Bergerac and, of course, for its wines. Time for a day off and a chance to wander around the medieval old town with its timber framed buildings and church named after St Jacques.
We also visited the ‘modern’ 19th century church just at the end of a service and got to see a real live cardinal as well as hearing the organist ramping up the rhythm and volume on the 150 year old organ. In the afternoon, we strolled down the Dordogne river watching swallows skimming the current for insects and enjoying the chestnut candle blossom which is just reaching its zenith here.
Today’s menu started with an educational visit to the Maison du vin, followed by lunch alongside the Dordogne with noisy Canada geese. The dessert was a breezy ride through continuous vineyards in warm sunshine and was topped off with a fascinating conversation with a retired vineyard owner out for a ride around the countryside on his tractor. He is the proud President of the local hunt and regaled us with stories of hunting wild boar and hare. In addition, he takes in a local brocante (flea market) or two and makes some money from selling on some of the things he buys, including recently a sabre and bronze statue. He doubled his money on the sabre and made €300 on the statue that had been thrown in for free. He was a delightful character who we were honoured to pass the time of day with.
So we are settling back into life on the road, enjoying being warm and looking forward to adventures to come.