Following on from my last blog our time house sitting in the Dordogne as come to an end. The house was situated on the north side of the Dordogne in the quiet and largely ignored village of Coux-et-Bigaroque. It’s a renovated stone house set within extensive gardens and amazing views towards the river. With entrances to the front and back we were able to park our motorhome amongst the array of fruit trees.
So after clearing out the motorhome and getting organised we set about settling into what was going be our home for the next 8 weeks. And it doesn’t take long for us long to fall into a routine so here’s what we have been up to.
This house sit was slightly different from the others we have done. Being as this is a longer sit we are responsible for maintaining some of the garden. So along with mowing the grass a few times we also spend a couple of hours most days weeding, dead heading flowers, sorting the fallen fruit or nipping down to the local ‘Décharge’ rubbish tip, to drop the garden waste off, all be it John lead me to believe it is called something else!
Once again John tracks down the local cycling clubs at Le Buisson and Siorac – en – Perigord they are a friendly bunch who love a beer back at the club house. Between the two clubs John cycles at least 5 days a week normally doing around 50 miles each time. So not only does it keep him fit he also gets to know the area really well.
With a range of countryside walks straight from the front doorstep it was also easy to keep active with Frisbee the dog we are looking after. Frisbee is of mixed breed with a fun, loving nature she will walk for miles. We either walk down to what is known as the beach ( the river really) or along one of the many’s roads that lead us to all corners of the village.
From the house it’s just a two minute walk to the heart of the village where I call into the boulangerie for fresh bread most days. Along with the bakery there’s is a restaurant, a Post Office, a cave (selling excellent wine) and a magasin de producteurs ( farm shop selling locally produce) and my favourite thing, a book exchange.
If like me you had an idea in your mind of what a stereotypical french village might be like well i think we have witnessed some whilst being here. Old men armed with freshly baked baguettes marching back to their homes from the local boulangerie, couples sitting at a cafe enjoying a late morning glass of rosé to women spending ages deliberating at a market stall over which cheese she should buy.
Most days I see the same faces whilst out walking. Jen and Janet (brother and sister) who must be in there 70s soon start referring too me as Madam Karen, and the young lad in the bakers who encourages me to speak more french. Thankfully the locals here are friendly, helpful and actually quite jolly towards us.
Having said that when you speak very little french walking in to any shop and making yourself understood is a challenge. And even when I manage to piece together a simple “Une baguette, s’il vous plais” I normally get stumped by the rapid-fire response from the person serving me.
In the summer months, the farmers supplying the magasin hold a ‘Marche gourmand’ where their delights can be sampled (both food and wine) accompanied by live music. One takes place every Tuesday just across the road from us so we go along. Sitting down at one of the long trestle tables, enjoying the convivial atmosphere with the locals we join in with the chorus of ‘Aux Champs-Elysees’. It’s a great atmosphere where we are made to feel welcome.
To some degree this whole way of life becomes infectious and so there’s only really one solution, and that’s to just join in. It doesn’t take long for us to realise how slow life is in a French village. Nobody’s in a hurry, but then what is there to rush for?
It’s whilst out walking that I discover damsons growing wild just a few feet away from the house so out come the step ladders and I hold the bucket whilst John clambers up the tree. Along with the bounty of fruit growing in the garden I set about making Damson brandy, Jam and the odd crumble or two. All this gathering your own food soon becomes appealing Tomatoes , lettuce, plums, oranges, limes and peaches to name just a few. If we had stayed here to long I could see us turning into Tom and Barbara from The Good Life!
Away from the village back at the house the large windows face towards the river looking across farmland filling the rooms with sunlight every morning. So even though it feels very private we also still feel like we are at the heart of the what ever is going on.
We spend time in the garden cooling off in the pool, reading or sunbathing. Once again we forgot about the heat that comes every August so some days were unbearable but at least we had the pool to take a late-night swim or dangle our feet in.
In the evenings dining was ‘al fresco’ whilst watching the sunset. When the last of the sun had gone we would watch the bright stars light up the garden, it’s amazing how clear the sky is here.
Our time here as also been a great opportunity to meet up with family and friends that were on holiday in the area.
The house is also ideally located to take advantage of all the area has to offer and with the use of a car we were able to drive to parts that might have been tricky in a motorhome. Which ever direction we travel there is a town or village with a labyrinthine of streets or large Château looming imperiously up above. So we are never far from stumbling upon a village that as a real authentic french feel to it. From Sarlat-la-Canéda which I can’t help thinking would be a sandblasters dream with all It’s honey stoned archways to Domme where virtually nothing as changed in years.
We have witnessed just how much of a magnet the Dordogne is for tourists, who are prodemtly british. So unfortunately during the summer months the area is no longer a sleepy part of France, but despite this the area still retains all its bygone charm. With lively colourful markets, stalls laden with local delicacies, the aroma of basil and Camembert is just too tempting.
I had previously said that this wasn’t my favourite area of France but with our time here coming to an end I’ll be sad to leave. It’s been an amazing experience staying in such a beautiful house and being in a french community that’s made us welcome, even if it was for just a short while, hopefully we will return one day.
A big thank you to Sophie for allowing us into her lovely home.