Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Saturday, 7th October – Sarlat

Saturday is market day in Sarlat, and we had made sure that we would be here on a Saturday. Market Days are a big deal in rural France, and nowhere more so than the Dordogne. The whole of the Old Town is closed to traffic and there are market stalls everywhere, selling everything from fresh farm produce to exotic liqueurs to clothes, books and bric a brac. We enjoyed the food stalls the best – poultry (especially duck), meats, pâtés, cheeses, sausages, cèpes, garlic, strawberries, spices, and everything made from walnuts (cakes, biscuits, cheeses, liqueurs, oils, vinegar, soap, caramelized walnuts, chocolate-coated walnuts…). It was fun wandering around, having strange conversations in (our) broken French, and tasting food fresh from the farm.

We bought ourselves a delicious lunch at various market stalls (pâté, cabécou, baguette, strawberries & spiced honey cake) and headed back to La Roque-Gageac for a river cruise. They use boats called gabares, based on the old flat-bottomed boats used in the days when the Dordogne River was the main transport route for the area. The cruise was only one hour but gave a different view of some of the places we visited yesterday, and the guide filled us in on the history of the river and the town of La Roque. After the cruise (at about 4pm) we sat by the riverbank and enjoyed our pique-nique, accompanied by some Bergerac wine. Bon appétit!

From the boat we had seen another lookout which promised yet more spectacular views, so when we finally had enough of sitting in paradise we headed up the hill. We didn’t quite make it to the lookout (it was in the grounds of a chateau, so cost money) but had a pretty good view from the car park. As we looked we saw two montgolfières (hot air balloons) about to take off, so stood for a while and watched them – a magnificent sight, and something I’d love to do one day – if they could figure out a way to fly and stay on the ground at the same time. If I was tempted, this neighbourhood would certainly be the place to do it – the scenery is just sensational (or did I mention that already).