For me Easter is not coming soon enough…. No, we’re not desperate to get home to rejoice that we can’t get within 50 metres of Fell Foot Park due to the crowds of bank holiday visitors. No, it’s the thought of all that guilt free access to chocolate! Yes, whilst away we’ve had M&M’s plus Lindt Chilli and Mars bar ice creams etc. but you just can’t beat the memories that come flooding back with the smell inside half a chocolate easter egg shell.
I only discovered fairly recently that part of the reason why red wine glasses (in particular) are much smaller in diameter at the top than around the bowl, is to intensify the smell in the nose and compliment the flavour signals experienced on the tongue. So it must be the curvature of the Easter egg halves that intensifies the aroma of the cocoa, forcing the smell to your nose and exciting your taste buds. Just a mmmmmm sniff does it for me! Oooh the anticipation.
Amongst us francophiles we will all have our own favourite places or regions, mine is probably the Dordogne. I particularly like the area around Sarlat-la-Canéda and the medieval town of Sarlat itself.
As part of the Aquitaine region the Dordogne went though extremely turbulent times during the middle ages.
Eleanor of Aquitaine inherited much of Aquitaine, and married the King of France, Louis VII. But this marriage was annulled after 15 years, and Eleanor married Henry Plantagenet. Henry then became king of England, and a large part of France thus fell under English rule. Not surprisingly this caused some tensions! The problem was compounded when Eleanor and Henry had a troublesome son – Richard the Lionheart When King Henry died, Richard inherited the throne of England and all its French lands.
Chateau du Beynac which was captured by Richard the Lionheart and used as a stronghold by his men. In 1337 Philippe VI ordered that the lands of Aquitaine be taken from the English. In 1340 Edward III declared himself King of France. Thus the Hundred Years War began. During the Hundred Years war there were numerous ‘famous’ battles including the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. The castles of Castelnaud and Beynac were also both heavily involved in the battles of the Hundred Years War.
The beauty of the area for me comes though the irregular honey coloured stonework on the medieval buildings, making it a magnet for tourists like us. This time we are fortunate to here be out of July – August main holiday season and accidentally chose to visit on a Monday when almost all businesses are closed.
Wandering around Sarlat, like children following the pied piper we followed an internal stone staircase as it wound its way up a five storey tower. At the top found Adrian Kenyon and his esoteric art gallery in the eaves. After 30 minutes of thought realignment surgery, discussing with him the motivation and inspiration for his political, environmental and spiritually engaged oil paintings and collages, we made our excuses….. The art was thought provoking – certainly. Some his more extreme theories? not so sure….
During previous holidays in the area we have rented canoes, both on the Dordogne and the Vézère rivers. It’s a great way to spend a lazy afternoon letting the river carry you along whilst looking for a place to stop for a picnic.
We left Charlie in La Roque-Gageac and hired a two person Canadian canoe. Launching up stream there’s no real need to paddle too hard, you just need to steer.
Two very relaxing hours later at a pre-arranged spot you drag the canoe out of the water and are picked up and taken back to your vehicle. [Just a thought, I wonder what happens if you miss that paddle disembarkation marker]
Now the French know something about wine (they seem to produce and consume enough of it). As experts tasters therefore why is it then that when they produce their very decorative and elaborate chocolate Easter products, few offer the opportunity to excite the nose with sniff-er-roo?
Dave & Lesley