After the fascinating but necessarily sombre visit to Oradour-sur-Glane on Monday, normal sightseeing duties resumed on Tuesday with a visit to Brantome about 45 minutes south.
According to the map it was on the road straight through Nontron so I decided the sat-nav app would not be needed. Hmm. Having traversed the town though all signs for Brantome had vanished so I had to reluctantly admit defeat. I pulled into a car park and put the sat-nav on, which sent me back in to town, only to try and direct me down a road which was shut. Great. I performed another reverse ferret, the sat-nav caught up and proceeded to send me down the road we were on in the first place!
We found the town without any trouble, and soon found ourselves driving past the old Abbey and across the river in search of a parking space. We didn’t have to wait long. Its seems whilst the tourists are looking to park for a few hours or all day, the locals are just popping in - probably for bread. Once again, there were no parking meters - and this is in a town centre. Astonishing - for us anyway.
Brantome was every bit as picturesque as we were promised. It sits on an island in the River Dronne with the old Abbey being an impressive focal point. Little traditional wooden boats are available for hire and we contemplated for a while but decided to come back later. A mistake as it turned out.
It’s a small town and doesn’t take long to walk around but it’s a very pleasant place for a stroll around shops geared for both tourists and locals alike. Having exhausted ourselves perusing the shops for the necessary fridge magnet we fuelled up with caffeine before marching off again.
Somewhere further around was obviously renting out canoes and we watched a number of people negotiate the weir by one of the bridges. The clever ones got some speed up and went straight over. The more timid got stuck and had to wiggle themselves free.
There was a company offering a river cruise starting near the Abbey and with sun occasionally showing putting in an appearance it seemed a very agreeable way of spending an hour. I like river trips because you get a different perspective on a place and very enjoyable it was too. Commentary was mostly in French with some English but an information sheet was provided too. It was here that we learnt that Brantome wasn’t originally an Island, but that a canal was dug by Monks linking the river. Once again the boat was electric, and apart from the gentle wash from the small propellers, was silent, making for a very relaxing trip. All in all well worth the seven Euros and fifty cents.
On the way back, the decision about the wooden boats was made for us as they were all out on hire. Oh well, there’s always another time I guess
Also on our site info and in the Rough Guide was the village of St Jean-de-Cole, a pleasant twelve mile drive northeast of Brantome. It seemed largely deserted - so nothing unusual there then - until we found the central square where a couple of restaurants and cafe’s were ticking over. There was a twelfth century chateau deserving of a couple of lens clicks too.
Wednesday was a day ‘off’ at least partially. The rain came Tuesday night as promised and was still lingering in the morning, which meant blog time. Lunchtime, as the weather cleared we drove in to Nontron - not only for the supermarket but to actually have a look around too. Whilst not endowed with the same beauty as Brantome it’s a likeable enough place and has some great viewpoints as you will see. It’s also well known for knife making and there is a workshop where you can watch. They must be good judging by the prices in the shops.
Once again the BBQ was fired up for dinner - in fact we’ve cooked outside all the time since we’ve been away. Our neighbours Robert & Peter are always up for a chat and it’s been good comparing notes on places we’ve visited over a glass or two of er, research. Having been here eight times they know the area pretty well.
Right, part 7 done and dusted. Just the one video this time:
Look out for part 8 very soon. Until then….