In some rural French gîtes, there’s a certain quality you don’t find elsewhere. A silence that rings in your ears, so powerful that a cow lowing, way across the valley, sounds as loud as a car close by. The warmth of croissants fresh from the baker’s. Ripe Camembert, eaten with Pain de Campagne and vin rouge under a hazy sky. Last year, in the Dordogne, we found this silence.
Our three-week road trip through France began with us driving to our destination in Finistère, Brittany. It ended in a delicious week at La Garangeoire, in the Vendée but in the middle, we hid ourselves away from social media at a relative’s gîte near Ribérac, in the north of the Dordogne.
North Dordogne is much quieter than the south of the department, with fewer family-based attractions. It was with some trepidation that I arrived at the gîte. Our last stay there had been when I was pregnant with our son. The blissful isolation suited a couple about to have their first child. Would it be as appealing for a family with a four- and six-year old?
I needn’t have worried. After the stress of London life and the long hot journey, we slowly unwound into a rhythm of life that began with cockerels crowing at dawn, and ended with the buzz of cicadas.
Having our own pool as a source of entertainment helped while the days away.
So, we mainly spent our time there splashing and swimming in the welcome chill of the pool. Temperatures hit 38 and 39 degrees over the week. We did have two trips out, to Aubterre sur Dronne, officially named as ‘one of the most beautiful towns in France’. But even that involved cooling down in the river.
The children played, swung from the trees, and drew pictures in chalk on the patio. We all spent time picking succulent plums, which had ripened just as we arrived. One afternoon, D and the children used them to cook up an enormous batch of jam.
Up the hill, D’s uncle and his partner lived with their dog, chickens, and goats, who took kindly to our visits.
It was a week of reading, sleeping, and switching off the drone of everyday life.
I’m aching to go back there.
Do you have a favourite place, where you can rest and switch off?
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