Soul of honey, heart of stone

We have spent a couple of weeks wondering through some inner departments of France, namely Limousin, Dordogne and Lot. In all of them the pace of time seems to be slower and tranquility seems to have a higher quality, like filtered through the leaves of the trees and the soul of the stones.

These regions have a lot to offer and we have looked at it through a couple of handfuls of different angels.

Medieval towns built in stone. For the first time we are actually thinking that having a heart of stone is actually a really nice thing, because it means that you can endure time and be a witness through history and a testimony of human events. Castles and walls built with defence purposes, houses destined to give shelter, palaces to display power, bridges to go across rivers. All of them accounting for an awful amount of hard work, built one stone at a time, currently adorning the landscape with its soft honey tones, rusty red or grey. Wonderful.

Architecture. Of course the cities didn´t stand still and kept on evolving, growing and developing through  new architectural styles, be it Renaissance, Art Deco or whatever the trend at the moment, but always taking care that the result is long lasting and pleasant to the eye.

Churches and Cathedrals. They are also witnesses that human faith survives through time, overcoming ups and downs and adapting to new times. From troglodytic churches carved in stone, to romanic, gothic or byzantine style cathedrals, everything is present in this region. Many of them quite impressive, most of them displaying lots of candles burning.

Rivers. But of course humankind needs more than faith to survive. They also need water. Therefore it is no surprise that most of the cities are settled next to mighty rivers, that historically have provided them with water, but also fish and means of transportation. The Vienne, the Dordogne and the Lot are the main bodies of water in the area. The Dordogne river even housed some of the scenes of the film Chocolat, where Johnny Depp took Juliette´s Binoche breath away, floating away on its mild current. None of the two to be found here at the moment.

Shops and Markets. In this region food is much more than a means of nourishing your body, it´s a way of reaching heaven on earth. This is probably way there are so many street markets and shops where you can buy local produce in many cases directly from the producer. Be it seasonal fruits and vegetables, nuts, local cheeses, the controversial foei-gras and other delicacies made of duck or geese, honey, marmalades, pates, terrines, ceps, and also wines. At every corner new opportunities to fall into temptation.

Food. If you feel like you want to enjoy what the local cooks make with these great ingredients, we recommend you drop by at restaurant Charbonnel  ( at the Chabrol hotel in Brantome. For us it was a hint from our friends Alberto and Frans, who are great connoisseurs of this area and it didn´t disappoint, au contraire. It was a great evening, thank you guys.

Cafes. If there´s something that seems to be common to all countries is this journey so far, is the love for coffee and for sharing a cup with some friends at a local cafe. The warm weather here also allows for this to happen on the street, sitting in terraces or squares.

People on the street. Probably also a result of the mild weather is the fact that people seem to spend much more time on the street. Just chatting with some acquaintances, window shopping, enjoying the sun while sitting on a bench or breathing some fresh air from the balcony.

Signs. Maybe coming back from medieval times, when the merchants and artisans advertised their businesses displaying metal or wooden signs in the facades of their shops and workshops, the tradition continues today.

Autumn colours. Yes, it´s that time of the year when the leaves of the deciduous trees are painting the landscape in warm tones of yellow, red or brown, the walnuts and chestnuts are ripped and falling down, the grapes are ripped, the ivy is turning red and the mist rises from the earth as it gets warm by the early light of the sun.