Wednesday, April 04, 2007

the wind and the willows (in the Perigord Noir, France)

In a moment of foolish hope, I purchased the other day a book of balades (walks) in the area. Balades for the timid, the moderates and the boisterous.

This morning I picked, ambitiously, a boisterous balade. Four hours of boisterous walking, how good is that! And I am so full of foresight that I am even checking directions to make sure I understand all the French. What the hell is goudron?

I set out. First, a brief pop into the town of the starting point – Montignac.


Need that café-bar jumpstart of a noisette and chocolatine.

Okay, now out I go.

And then in I return. My, it’s blustery. Sure, the Net said it would be on and off showers and a rather cool high of 50, but that’s what they’re told to say. Who believes these dudes anyway.

Still, I don’t think this is the perfect weather for balading, especially boisterously.

I sit in the car and contemplate at which point in life I became a weather wimp. Alright, no boisterous hike. But that doesn’t mean no hike at all.

I drive to the village of St Leon-sur-Vezere, the starting point of a timid one hour jaunt. St. Leon-sur-Vezere is one of the thousand or so villages in France with the designation of “prettiest village in France” and so I take time to stroll through it.

And I find it nice. Really, quite nice.

a trio: the shed, the chateau and the church

Oh, people are eating at the local Restaurant de la Poste (or is it a bar? or a tabac? or all three?)! I can vaguely see them through the window!


But is it lunchtime already? I just finished my chocolatine in Montignac! Well now, maybe a small lunch would warm me up so that I would be raring to go balading.

I enter. Oh, such hot and yummy looking soup! What is it? Onion? I see egg in it as well.


And a cepe omelet, yes, perfect. I have such fondness for eggs here (happy chickens, happy eggs). And cepes – who can reject a cepe in an egg dish? With a French salad. Can’t get enough of the omelet and the salad. Think how much we would accomplish in this world if we served French salads at every important occasion. Yes, sure, a glass of red wine de Bergereac would also be great.


Hold on, let me take stock: the intent was to eat a light breakfast and hike for four hours. It is already 2 p.m. and thus far I have eaten a delicious chocolate croissant, a fantastic farm lunch and hiked not at all. And I am contemplating whether to break down and order the one dessert on the menu – a tarte tatin (a version of an apple up-side-down cake), wouldn’t you know it, a real favorite of mine!


I order the tarte tatin. Everyone does. And I am certain as apple pie and taxes that no one else in the restaurant is contemplating a boisterous balade for the afternoon. We all sink in the juices of French food. What a way to go.

Five minutes later, the heavy hand of guilt pushes me up from the chair, out the door and points me to the wind and the willows. A timid balade for timid me.

And it is a lovely little walk. Along river banks and past 12th century churches with interiors that have no distractions. Stark interiors. Beautiful in their simplicity, so long as you’re not the one who has to find physical comfort in it on a regular basis.

stark within

...not so outside

I walk the river bank, past weeping willows and stone huts, past meadows and orchards.



…into the woods and up a hill and -- what’s this, rain? Really? Not even just a wee shower?

A shame. But it’s not as if you can escape a balade once you have begun a balade. I walk through tall grasses with lovely dandelion flowers, I wrap my arms around my camera to protect it from the wetness and I forge ahead. Dripping, I reach my wee little car and I exhale.

A good day.