Bonjour. Bonjour Madam. Bonjour Monsieur. Everyday. Everywhere. Everyone greeted us as we walked along the street or entered the Patisserie or Boucher or waited in a queue at the Banque or walked the dogs. Everyone greeted each other. Old women
wearing thick black tights would bend, touch the dogs and chat while I stood, smiling, unable to understand what they were saying except for one or two words and so I would reply “oui, adorable” in my best French accent.
We spent four weeks in the small town of Rochechouart located in west-central France at the junction of the Vayres and Graine Rivers. Current population is about 4000. The house in which we stayed was built in 1511 and was the Coach House for the Chateau de Rochechourat now the Museum of Contemporary Art.
The town is situated in a crater caused when a meteorite crashed to earth over 200 million years ago. Upon reflection, the fact that the house was built 200 years before Captain Cook discovered Australia is itself incredible. Most of the interior of the house had been recently renovated. The self-contained apartment we stayed in was obviously the servants’ quarters with very low tongue and groove ceilings supported by huge beams. Walls in the lounge room were decorated with silk wallpaper while the spiral staircase leading to the first floor was carved and curved solid timber.
In the centre of the town is the Holy Saviour Church famous for its twisted spire tower.
We explored on foot, wandering along the cobbled streets, amazed by the stone buildings which were irregular and interesting. Homes were heavy with wooden shutters, some open, some shut tight. Streets were narrow and unpredictable and often difficult for vehicles to manoeuvre. Shops and offices closed in the middle of the day which was my favourite time to explore with my camera.
Most days the weather was mild and sunny making the L’Oree des Valles Hotel a favourite place to sit, either al fresco at the front of the pub or in the delightful beer garden downstairs at the rear of the old building. Friday Night’s menu of Fish ‘n Chips or Beef & Guinness Pie & Chips was the highlight of the week for locals, expats and tourists.
At the end of our stay, we departed from Gare de St Junien and being the only passengers waiting it felt deserted and un-used. Our journey to Paris lasted about 4 hours passing through lush green pastures, farming communities, sleepy villages, flowing rivers and streams.
Our journey continues . . .