Our last night in Argentat seemed to become a bit of a farce; firstly we got swept into last night silliness and our one beer in the sun became two, so by the time we realised there was virtually no choice for a meal out the supermarkets had also closed! We are no strangers to wandering around French towns searching in vain for somewhere to eat, but so far on this trip we had been lucky. How come a town in the middle of nowhere with under 900 inhabitants (Meyrueis) could give us such choice when Argentat with over 3000 was offering so little? Our hotel did have a restaurant, but it was out of our price range – I do find it annoying when a 2 star, reasonably priced hotel feels the need to have a very expensive restaurant. It also proudly boasted to be a member of ‘Friends of the Tripe’ association and therefore most items on the menu were not to our taste! Wandering back to the prospect of eating our snack reserves of crisps, chocolate biscuits and bruised bananas that had been travelling with us for a week, we found another hotel with a sensible menu, phew! We were reluctantly shown to a seat (after they discovered we hadn’t made a reservation) and given a menu. The food was fantastic, especially the walnut crème brulée, but the service was something else. Thankfully we got in before the main rush, but one waitress for 36 covers with a next to useless patron popping in every now and then wasn’t ‘service’. Our hotel seemed to be popular for business customers as well as tourists as alarms, toilets and showers started buzzing into life at 6.00am and by 8.42 the cleaning lady had unlocked the door and burst in! She then proceeded to hoover the corridor outside the door (bashing the wall as many times as possible) at 8.55. We left, and took a walk around the market, buying some local goats cheese and some new season garlic, and not buying a pair of live chickens (very restrained of me)!
We followed the Route des Noix, where orchards of walnuts still looking wintery and stick like, lined the roads into Beaulieu sur Dordogne where the coffee was really cheap and the sun was shining. The last few days had taken us past many of the Beaux Villages de France, but Collonges la Rouge with its red stone houses was one of the prettiest. We lunched on Puy Yssandon (342m) looking down onto Brive la Gaillarde and with the Auvergne Mountains just visible in the distance. We had been much higher this trip, but the view from here was just as lovely and it seemed higher than it was. Our picnic was peaceful; birds, butterflies, a fairytale ruined tower, sheep grazing the walnut orchards and not much else for miles.
By early afternoon we were back to limestone houses with terracotta roofs, so we knew it would not be far before we were back in Poitou-Charentes, where we saw and smelt our first bright fields of rapeseed (colza/canola) for many days.
It was a fantastic trip, but it is nice to be back home. Ed (and the dog) had a great time with his grandparents, everything in the garden has grown (especially the grass) and it is now time to wean myself off croissants for breakfast and a pre dinner beer everyday and get back to working in the garden. If you would like to see some more photos of our trip you will find them here.!(upload://nj6IHlPuVyLl6yRQuTF2guczDkL.jpg)