La Vallée du Dropt
Le Puy is a tiny hamlet located in a valley two-thirds of the way southwest between Bergerac and Marmande. The area has rolling hills, fields of vineyards, wheat, sunflowers, and another meandering river, the Dropt. While distances between major cities are relatively close, drive times are much longer because of the speed restrictions on the narrow two lane country roads. In our post about the gîte life, I mentioned that there is a great variation in accommodations according to size, location, and price. On our arrival to our current accommodation, we were almost ecstatic to find a beautifully appointed, large, and modern gîte with a very large new swimming pool! Compared to our last accommodations and experience, it felt like paradise. As in a previous gîte where we stayed, the first thing we did……jump in the pool!
Sunday was a day for rest. France is experiencing a heat wave that it hasn’t had since 2006. Three years ago when we were traveling throughout France, we had rain and cool weather for the major part of our stay. This area of France is rural, very rural. Many small towns and villages abound. If you look at a map of the area, it is crisscrossed by hundreds of narrow country lanes. Although the area isn’t forested, you do get to enjoy the many trees that line many of the roads and ridges and stream beds.
Today we are visiting a village situated on top of a hill, Duras. It is the largest village in this area and hosts a farmer’s market on Monday mornings and Thursday evenings. It is the site of an ancient chateau around which the village is situated. It has a beautiful view of the surrounding countryside. Shopping for some vegetables, we got to speak with a farmer who was very proud of his produce and told us all about it. Some of the tomatoes on display were as big as a small melon! He gave us a slice of one to taste and it was excellent — rich in flavor with a meaty texture. He told us that while many larger farms grow produce to export, he grows everything he sells and sells it at a different farmer’s market every day.
Also crowded into the farmer’s market were full-size carnival rides! Mind you, this is a typical village that was built hundreds of years before the advent of the car so the streets are very narrow, twisty and without a view of oncoming traffic when you are at a “T” juncture. It is amazing how 18-wheelers can maneuver into these tight village spaces let alone drop off a full size carnival ride!
After doing our shopping, we stopped in at a local café and relaxed, enjoying a coffee while people watching. After some time, we realized that we were hearing more and more English, both American and British. Seems that the broader areas here have a greater number of Brits and Americans.
Since we needed to stock up for the week, we headed to Marmande about twenty minutes south. When we arrived at the Leclerc, we weren’t in a hurry to do our shopping so we settled in at the cafeteria and had………hamburgers! French ones of course. Sometimes, you just have to have a burger, with fries.
So we’re on our sixth week of traveling, getting used to different gîtes, locations and landmarks. We have stayed in, visited, and traveled through dozens and dozens of places. Many of our trips were planned to include not just the larger cities but the surrounding towns and villages as well. As we traveled to various locations, we started to develop a “sense” for where we were. It is impossible to stop in each location and walk around though we did plenty of that and in doing so, the sense that one develops takes in the geography of the terrain, the type of economy of an area, how dense or sparse the population is, climatic conditions, lay of the land, cost of housing, and many other considerations.
Initially, we had planned to select two major areas to come back to next summer and stay for a month in each area so as to have enough time in each to thoroughly select a place we would like to live after Cheryl retires. It seems that we have reached a consensus about one area we might stay in for two months next summer. France is about the size of Texas and the area we have explored is about one tenth of that size. Since we have narrowed down our preferred area substantially, it looks like we can stay in just one place next summer and easily go to the surrounding areas we will look at closely.
Between our first summer in 2012 and this summer, we have been to more places than the French themselves. And so, we are slowing down the pace. Later in the week, we are going to go look at a house that is in the center of the area we are most interested in staying next summer. If it checks out, we might have our house.
So, it’s back to the pool! Stretching our legs, relaxing, and looking forward to the rest of our “vacation”.