Les Bournizeaux (14 May - 28 May,  2002)
New Zealand

Les Bournizeaux


Les Bournizeaux You'd need a pretty good map to find Les Bournizeaux. It is near Bergerac, about an 1½ hour drive east of Bordeaux. We are staying in a delightful converted stone barn (which was having an addition constructed at the time we visited) that belongs to Sarah's sister and brother-in-law. Sarah's parents are here on holiday too, so we got to see 'Gran and Grandpa'.  Janie and Simon, family friends from England, also visited for a few days.

I love all the houses in this area. Our North American disposable culture seems to build wood and shingle houses that are replaced after 50 to 100 years when they age or the design falls out of fashion. Some of the stone houses we've seen in this area date from the 1200's.  I am not the only one who likes this area - the Dordogne is in demand as vacation property for the English. I looked in one of the real estate office windows and it is easy to tell what sells: listings highlight the age and number of stone buildings on the property. We could get a 16th century chateau that needs renovating on about 150 acres of land for about $1million Cdn. I'll have to buy my lottery ticket when we get home!

We settled into the house for two weeks, and spent our time painting the high ceilings and new addition, exploring the local area, going to the local markets, and hanging around playing croquet, boule,  reading.... and eating. The food in France is terrific. Bread is always a hit with the kids and I, so we had baguettes for lunch and breakfast on almost every day. We had lots of delicious local cheeses, and it was strawberry and cherry season. This is also an area known for duck, so we had paté and confit de canard. I think we've had a year's worth of cholesterol during our two week visit.   

La Roque Gageac

La Roque Gageac

Trebuchet at Castelnaud

There are some truly spectacular castles and cliff side or cliff top towns on the Dordogne river, particularly in the Beynac and La Roque Gageac area. We visited Castelnaud which dates from the 1200's and saw some trébuchet's (sort of a catapult) which spurred Mark and Chloe to make their own out of wood and elastics. 

We also visited Les Eyzies-de-Tayac and went to the cave paintings and Museum of pre-history. The paintings were done between 14,000 and 20,000 years ago. This is about the same period as the aboriginal cave paintings we saw in Kakadu National Park. While the Kakadu paintings were more 'stick figures', the paintings in Grotte de Font de Gaume were works of art. The artists had mixed colours to get shading, etched some of the features of the drawings, and used the natural bumps on the cave wall to accentuate parts of the drawing. Our guide said that they had used 'spray painting' for some parts of the drawings, as indicated by hollowed out bones that had been used to blow colour at the wall. The result was almost three dimensional drawings of animals. The purpose of the caves is not clear - they did not live in the caves, and all the drawings are of animals (no landscapes, stars/ moon, etc.) Some people have speculated that the caves had some religious or ritualistic purpose. 

We've remembered enough of our high school and university French to be dangerous. We managed very successfully to buy tickets for our TGV train tip to Paris over the internet. However, when we got on the train, we found out that we had bought a wrong fare and needed to pay some extra. We knew why we were being charged extra, but could not successfully explain why we thought we were right. Anyway, the TGV is wonderful - we had not been that fast in a train since the shinkansen in Japan.

Off to Paris.