2014 France, Spain & Portugal Letter 8

Thursday, 9 October 2014 1:39 pm

We have been to “a lovely Party!” *


Well it’s time I pulled the finger out and just got on with it! Find yourself a magnum of wine and start reading, (after this week 1500ml magnums are the new 750ml bottle).

When last I wrote we were departing Spain (and I was younger, slimmer and drinking 750ml bottles), slightly pink but happy and relaxed. We did manage to fit everything, plus Himself, into the car and we took off exceptionally early for the Museum Salvador Dali at Figueres, just south of the border (the Spanish/French one that is).  Being Dali it’s called the Dali Theatre-Museum, we all know he’s a tad theatrical, so he set up a gallery in the remains of the local theatre (well it was empty, as it got burnt out at the end of the Spanish Civil war. It’s OTT (over the top) and to save me, and you, a heck of a lot of time go to this link and do the ‘virtual tour’ http://www.salvador-dali.org/media/visita-virtual-dali/figueres2/figueres2.html

There, I have saved you the 12 Euro (9 if you’re a senior) entry fee and the cost of an air ticket!


Museum Salvador Dali at Figueres, not much more to say really!

Moving right along, we (me) drove the rest of the 704.1kms to:

Saint-Yrieix-la-Perche in The Dordogne, France. Try saying that one without a drink!

Our home for the next two nights was a 400+year old house in the very centre of town. For once there were no driving issues and Ms. Sat Nav did exceptionally well, but she could not say the town’s name either.

Masion Marcal was divine. I had not done my homework as well as I should, and discovered when we arrived it is run by a couple of boys! We had a little ‘suite’ on the top floor, massive bed, then a sitting room and a cute bathroom. We were sort of in the roof, so we also got some walnut beams and chestnut floors, all older than Methuselah! We as well had a little stone terrace. Domingo greeted us and cooked for us, poured us wine (too much but who am I to say “No”?) and such a naughty boy with a wicked sense of humour. His partner Sandro was in London sorting new plants for the garden (as you do) but we met him on our last day.

Our friend Suzanne, and her man William, from Los Angeles joined us on the second night, so once again we had playmates. We all dined together on Domingo’s simple but amazing food. Pumpkin and chorizo soup with a few white beans was then followed by a super fillet of beef with caramelized eggplant; and now I’m having a senior’s moment, but I’m sure we had a chocolate dessert (this is why I should not leave it so long to write). The previous evening we had dined with Domingo in his kitchen, on my request of a ‘simple’ supper after the drive. He served us little individual potato and chorizo frittatas with bowls of tomato salad. Next up was a chicken and mushroom risotto like no other, and because he likes making desserts we had a very rustic apple cake with ice cream. Himself was in dessert heaven and I was just feeling very sated and sleepy! His breakfast leave Thorn Park by the vines breakfasts wanting! Huge bowls of fresh fruit, three different juices, smoothies, several different French breads, plates of cheeses, hams and smoked salmon, then a ‘cooked’ number: scrambled eggs on day one and omelet-like frittata the second!



Masion Marcal at Saint-Yrieix-la-Perche, front courtyard; bedroom; entrance hall



Masion Marcal, some of the breakfast choices; Dinner with Suzanne & William; the sitting room

The holiday was about to move into overdrive and commence with five days and nights of wine, food and song. I had given myself the role of advance party shopper.

I have no French worth talking about; I barely have enough English to get by, so dear Domingo took me around the picture perfect village to meet the suppliers of choice.

First I met ”Madame de les Fromages”, then onto “Monsieur le Butcher”, followed by ”Mademoiselle de les Tartes” Then he pointed me in the direction of “Boulangerie Superieur” (that’s the French bread maker) and in the most romantic way possible he told me the best veggies came the ’hyper’ supermarket up the street. So off I went and shopped till I nearly dropped.

I am now Madame de les Fromage’s newest best friend, as I passed over wads of euros for far too much fromage.

Monsieur le Butcher went from downright surly to Mr Smiley with my sausage orders, and chook requests. Plus I all but bought out the terrine and pate division.

The Boulangerie gave me the ‘you want HOW many baguettes?’ look.

Sadly, Mademoiselle de les Tartes was my downfall. I should have known better, but I had grown over confident with my “Bonjour’s” and my charades and thought I was invincible. My order for six tarts for four people somehow turned into one tart for six people, and as I had left them last to pick up it was what you say in France, a crise! Luckily I had 15 minutes before the compulsory shut down of nearly all shops at midday to 2pm for ‘luncheon’.

Thankfully I managed to score a selection of tartes at several other Patisseries in town. Dessert was saved!

The supermarkets are like supermarkets the world over; they did not give a stuff if I mangled the language; ‘Just hand over the euro’s and be off with you!’.

I also had a deep and meaningful relationship with a very nice man at the bottle shop who introduced me to some very nice wines.

With all that retail done, we packed (we could not have fitted in a single baguette more. I have never seen a car so ‘full’. Seriously did think of leaving Him behind) and moved 20 kms down the road to the village of Lanouaille and nearby Chateau La Durantie; our ‘home’ for the next five nights: “Party Central” – as we celebrated a significant birthday for our girl “Steffie”. Very much a ‘family affair’ with Steph & Jeff’s combined three children, their partners (well Georgie missed out as her beau was home studying, but he sent his mum along instead), and a gaggle of New Zealanders, [our party girl was/is a New Zealander, and seems to have more brothers than she has cases of wine]. We all practiced speaking “New Zealand”, and there was not one “sheep joke”!

The Cooking Sub-committee took over the kitchen on night one and produced a welcome meal.


Chateau La Durantie, the front door; The Cooking Sub-committee; Hazel in charge of getting those glasses STRAIGHT!

Bubbles on the terrace was followed by superb terrines and pates. The stand out was the Chestnut one! Then followed the only thing we really did cook: a baked chook, sausage and fennel number with waxy spuds and crisp salads.

Moving right along was the world’s biggest cheese platter, followed by the tarts with crème fraiche. It was ‘bring a bottle’ night, and the size of choice was magnums, [less corks to pull!]

Our days were spent meandering the countryside visiting some totally amazing Dordogne villages. Some are known by the colour of the stone,

Sarlat-la-Canéda does everything in yellow/gold.

Collonges-la-Rouge is rouge/red.


Turenne; Collonges-la-Rouge is rouge/red; Brantome had a very good market; The gates of heaven! 

Places like Brantome had water features everywhere, whilst Jumilhac-le-grand has a fairy story chateau that every princess dreams of finding her prince in (or princess if she’s so inclined).

Turenne is not Tureen, but my favourite. It’s small, tumbles down a steep hill under the watchful eye of a now crumbling castle. Only a dot on the map, but of great beauty; and besides we had a bloody nice lunch there.

Speaking of food, Brantome had a very good market (every village does a market one day of the week) and we found one of those OMG moments when a small group of us ‘did’ lunch. Everything sort of indicated it was going to be a ‘touristy’ spot. It was a hotel restaurant, on the river, stunning views but just a tad ‘commercial’. None of us had expectations other than the view and the company, and we only wanted one course. How wrong were we!

Most of us thought of having just one course, but even before we had ordered anything, a platter of ‘tastes’ arrived – tiny, tiny club sandwiches of dark bread with jambon and mustard, and we think a bit of goose fat. Some Canele’s accompanied. These are small batter cakes, normally sweet but the ones served to us were savory. Finally some pate of sardine with wafer thin crisp breads. Rose was the wine of choice, of course!

Then came what we finally were able to order!

Several shared a very speccy entrée that included a mini disc of steak tartar with a fried quails egg, new season’s chanterelle mushrooms and sort of ‘spring roll’ thingy of fine ham stuffed with mushrooms. So the rest of us were not left out, they served us a tiny complimentary dish of mushroom ‘cake’ with puree of pumpkin; a sort of quiche without the pastry.

The mains included His grilled foie gras on a bed of savoy cabbage, my pan fried cod on risotto and foam sauce. Others had stuffed pigeon, sweetbreads, and even a very fluffy omelet appeared. Again most chose not to have dessert as we were dining out that night, but with coffee they served burnt butter tuiles with roasted hazelnuts.

A seriously wonderful lunch, and thankfully not too heavy or too much food!








A very speccy entrée that included a mini disc of steak tartar with a fried quails egg, new season’s chanterelle mushrooms and sort of ‘spring roll’ thingy of fine ham stuffed with mushrooms; Pan fried cod on risotto and foam sauce; A very fluffy omelet with mushrooms and potatoes

We dined out at a local restaurant one evening, which was good, but could have been better, but it was fun to have a night ‘off’. The other nights we either cooked, or on the ‘big’ night, caterers were brought in.

A sausage sizzle might sound a tad lame, but the butcher at Saint-Yrieix-la-Perche knows his sausages: Laurent Barris: http://www.boucherie-barris.fr/boucherie_barris.php makes the best duck and chestnut snag you will ever find.

We even did the equivalent of a ‘poached egg on toast’ meal on the last night. Chorizo and potato frittata with salad, and all the left over wines was the way to wind up our stay.

The Actual Birthday Party!

We all looked ‘très elegant’. I did colour, Steph did black. She looked stunning! I looked loud! Himself was ‘be-bowed’. Everyone looked very smart.

I was ‘out coloured’ by the Birthday Girl’s brother, “Dodge” [read, “Rodger”] He took variations of dark pink to excess, even the hair had rouge highlights; or was that mauve? Mind you when you are called Dodge you can get away with anything, and he did!

The huge dining room was candle lit, and the food was very, very good. Canapés and super nice bubbles on le terrace got us going and in the mood. The salmon entrée was perfect for the Mount Horrock’s & Polish Hill Rieslings. Rack of Lamb was amazing; pink, juicy and just right for ALL those reds. It was a “magnum night” and we did them all justice.

The Cordon Cut hit the spot with dessert.

Then came time to sing and dance. [What happens on the dance floor stays on the dance floor, despite what is shown on Facebook!]

Alexander’s girlfriend, Sarah, ran a daily ‘boot camp’ to help strengthen our bodies and loose our minds.

Many of us did morning walks or jogs, but on occasion it all just got too hard so we slept in! Suddenly, before we knew it, it was time to leave and head to Paris!


The birthday girl and her beautiful children; Colour & movement; Jeff, Gary & Tim; Stephanie J & Darren all with glass of bubbles



Hazel, Michael & Stephanie; The less said about the dancing the better…….

Thank you Stephanie! We have been to “a lovely party!” *  * [Legendary Clare figure, Olga Knappstein’s favourite expression.]

Paris will have to wait; things to do, places to go, food to eat!


Au revoir

Moi and Moi-ette xo

Ok, for those that just have to see our little chateau here it is http://www.chateauladurantie.com/index2.php#/home/

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