I've just returned from visiting my parents who, as you may know from previous posts, live in the "France profonde," "the deep France" or back-country France.
This is not the France that one would read about or tend to visit. Away from the touristic itineraries, one can experience the true France as it was once. Rich in history, the first Paleolitic paintings dating 17000 years were discovered in ancient caves near Lascaux in Dordogne, the Hundred Years war ( 1336- 1453) ravaged through the Bastides (fortified villages) when the region was the frontier between France and England. Joan of Arc finally led France to victory, until she was captured and burned by the English.
This region is famous for being the playland of Henry IV who became king in 1589 and was the most popular French monarch of all times. In Lot at Garonne, he built his summer retreat in Nerac, as well as numerous castles and hunting lodges for his lovers for which he was so famous. The French do admire this quality in a leader.... this is the home of the famous Alexandre Dumas character, d'Artagnan of the novel "The Three Musketeers".
Lot et Garonne was described by the French writer Stendhal (The Red and the Black published in 1830) as the Tuscany of France for its red tiled houses, its golden sunlight, fields of sunflowers and its beautiful villages. Monet came to Lot et Garonne to buy water lilies for his gardens. Lot et Garonne is famous for its classic rich french food with Foie Gras, superb wines, Armagnac, Magret de Canard, fresh vegetables.....
If you are ready for a trip beyond time, where history awaits you at every turn, where the country side is there still in its raw beauty.....book a flight to Toulouse or Bordeaux or Agen, rent a car with a map in hand and start your adventure. I'll be happy to answer questions about the area within my ability. Meanwhile, I hope that you will enjoy what will be a series of short posts of a few places I just re-visited and wanted to share.
The streets of Port Sainte Marie where I walk to in the mornings from my parent's house
Nerac: so peaceful to spend the afternoon on the river
Henri IV's Summer Chateau
Small street in Old Nerac
Barbaste: The river powered mill was one of Henry IV's fortified homes which almost became my mother-in-law's 2nd home. She came very close to buying it while visiting the region during our wedding celebrations.
The mill with its 4 towers
The mill is now a cultural center and the starting point for wonderful hikes along the river
This is a wonderful book that truly capture the essence of the SouthWest of France. The american author Marcel Sanders spends a year in a small village in the Lot and befriends the owner of the local restaurant as well as other local in dividuals. A treat for anyone who wants to discover the small pleasures of French country life.