|Roughly translates to "in the style of the housewife, or "housewife style". I'd love to know what it once sold.|
I love the markets in France. They offer a choice and quality that you just don't see here unless you visit a farmer's market. Towns and villages, big and small, have a market on one designated morning each week. Roads are closed and the place is packed and bustling with people holding large shopping baskets. The ones we visited tended to fall into two types - they catered for locals, or for tourists. The photos above are from a morning in Barbezieux in what was very much a market for locals. Absolutely no English spoken, lots of French voices all around you. The stalls offered everyday essentials like bread (of course), fruit and vegetables, cheese, fish, and the most wonderful haberdashery stall I have ever seen, consisting of three huge tables groaning under the weight of buttons, zips and cotton thread.
And then there was the equally delightful but very touristy market in Riberac. A huge, colourful, bustling affair, with as many English voices around you as French. It still sold the same everyday things but in a more packaged, souvenir-y way. Honey, soaps, lavender plants, hats.
We visited a beautiful town called Aubeterre-Sur-Dronne which had French charm and views of the countryside in abundance, as well as an impressive (and pretty creepy) church that was built directly into the cliff face. I'm really not a fan of spiral staircases, especially the narrow, sloping, uneven sort you find in ancient buildings - I imagine the walls closing in on me, or that I'll trip and keep falling and never be able to stop. I'm not normally a claustrophobic person but spiral staircases give me the heebie-jeebies. It was a relief to step back into the bright sunlight.
There was a wonderful sandy beach on the river Dronne, just below Aubeterre, and we spent a happy afternoon there.
Children just love paddling.
We had some lovely walks alongside lakes and rivers, seeking the shade where we could.
We were dazzled by a town called Brantome, in the Dordogne. It is nicknamed the "Venice of France" and it's full of canals, bridges, cobbled streets and beautifully kept buildings. Hanging baskets and lovingly maintained flower are displays everywhere you look.
And I saved the best till last. Remember that bike ride I mentioned last week? This is your reward if you made it this far.
Too many? Sorry. That was after I edited them!
To answer your questions - yes, we drove. We took the car ferry from Portsmouth to Caen then drove down to the house, which took about six hours. We found the driving fine, once you get used to being on the right hand side. The French toll motorways are generally smooth with little traffic and we spent about €30 each way on toll charges. Where we stayed was quiet so we never really encountered much serious traffic. Diesel is much cheaper in France which is nice (We paid €1.28 or £1.09 per litre at the French supermarket pumps. We usually pay around £1.39 per litre here). Things did feel expensive, but then I think that the UK has felt expensive for the last few years, as the price of everything slowly rises but salaries don't. Supermarket shopping trips and coffees seemed about the same as here. Eating out is more expensive perhaps, but if you avoid touristy areas it's certainly cheaper. We actually came home with leftover euros which is very nice, and very unexpected! (They will be changed back into pounds and go in the pot marked "Christmas".) Wine is cheaper, so long as you buy French.
One last thing - THANK YOU for all your comments. I feel bad that I just haven't had time to pop by your blogs and say hello yet but, as the fabulous Miranda would say - bare with...bare with...I thank you.