Iris Day in Brussels
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France Road Trip! Castles, Gardens, and Foie Gras









D was asked to speak again this year at the Aeronautical University in Toulouse, France.  It was the Tuesday after a three day holiday weekend, so we decided to take advantage of the long weekend and drive.  In total, we covered 1800 miles, driving with only quick breaks from Toulouse to Brussels, took us eleven and a half hours.

Toulous map      

As we got further into France, we started to see the yellow rapeseed fields.  They are the most intense yellow when they are fresh in bloom.  This photo is one of my "in motion" shots" meaning I took it while D was going 100mph on the highway. 


Our first stop was the Dordogne also know as the Perigord region.  I really love this area of France, it has a very apecial charm.  It is know for the white and yellow stone houses and villages.


We stayed in three very charming chambre d'hotes (B&B's) on this trip, the first one, La Roche d' Esteil, was a stone farm house from the 18th century.  Marc and Sandrine, a very nice young couple bought it 8 years ago and lovingly restored it.  It took them 5 years to restore.  The "before" photos were unbelievable.  It did not even have a roof. 


If you are wondering about the pose in this photo below, I watched a special about how they teach movie stars to twist their bodies slightly when being photographed to make them look thinner......


humm.......I think it may work, what do you think?


We stayed in the single room cottage above.  Absolutely adorable!  And a fireplace - ahhhhhhh.  It was chilly that evening so a fire was just perfect.


They offered an evening meal the first night, which we did have.  A very nice duck dinner.  But the best part was that D got to REALLY practice his French as very little English was spoken.

The next morning we started our day by visiting the medieval town of Sarlat. 


Here, D loaded up on his foie gras, cassolet, duck confit and duck fat. 


On to the the Gardens of Marqueyssac, listed as a national historical monument. 


We barely got through the gate and there he was - Mr Peacock.  Quick, get the camera out, he was in full strut.  Not fast enough.  Missed him. 


So I inform D to get comfortable as I REALLY need to get this photo.  I have always admired peacock photos and I wanted one!  We settled in front of his cage, cameras in hand.  Sure enough, within a few minutes, full spread. 






We were clicking away for 10 minutes when we finally popped up to see why he was putting on such a show for us.  And there SHE was, right behind us, oh la la. 


We were between the two of them......and I thought it was my coat.   Really!  Doesn't it look like the female peacock?


But he was the BRILLIANT one!


We still had energy so we headed to the Beynac Feudal Castle, dating from the 12th century. 


I thought the parish church was very beautiful and believe it or not, it still holds service every Sunday.


Not only was the castle very beautiful...


but it also had spectacular views of the countryside.  


From Beynac Castle, you get a lovely view of the Castle of Castelnaud, also founded in the 12th century.  We visited this castle on another trip, so we skipped it this time. 


Remember how I told you about the movie star twist?  D teased me at first, but you can see here, he is trying this method out to see if he too can look skinny.


and his attempt to show you how the royal toilet worked back in the days...


Maybe a bit too much wine for D at lunch!

After a very full day, we had wine and cheese in the garden of our chombre d'hote for dinner.  A lovely way to end a lovely day!

Friday (YES, up until now you have only seen one day of the trip as Wednesday we drove 9 hours straight), we headed west to the Bordeaux Region.  But first, a stop at another garden, Les Jardins du Manoir D'Eyrignac. 


It is a private estate that has been in the same family for 500 years, or 22 generations. 


a fun fountain.


We also stopped at the immense Chateau de Hautefort, also listed as a National Monument. 


It was built in the middle of the 17th century, but fell into disrepair.  Baron And Baroness de Bastard purchased the chateau and renovated it over several decades. 


Sadly, in 1968 there was a very bad fire.  But this did not stop them, they resumed work and renovated the chateau to it's current grandeur.  We did get to tour the inside.


Our next chambre d'hote, Moulin de la Virvee, was an old water mill.  Etienne and Michelle were the sweetest innkeepers.  They were an older, retired couple. 


This was the smallest place we have stayed, meaning they only had one room they rent.  The room itself was quite large and was off the side of their house with a separate entrance. 


It was set among the vineyards of some of the best Bordeaux wines.  As a welcome gift, they gave us a bottle of wine from their neighbors vineyard D is standing next to it here.  We drank it that evening, it was a very nice bottle.


Michelle served us a generous breakfast in their kitchen on a beautifully set table. 

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Thirty minutes from our place is one of our favorite towns from a trip we took 10 years ago, the wine town of Saint Emilion.  They say Romans planted vineyards here in the 2nd century AD. 


We had to go back to St. Emilion to have the most delicious Macaron cookies we have ever eaten!


We we lucky as on the day we were visiting the vineyards were having open house were you could taste the wines and buy them direct.  In France they do not have open tastings of the wine like they do in California.  So we headed for one of our favorite small wineries, Chateau Pipeau. 


We had a tour (all in French), tasted the wines, and here is D as happy as he can be with a half case of wine!  Pipeau 2002, which we can drink now.  He has several bottles of this wine in his "cave" back in Virginia otherwise known as mom's basement.


Our hosts at the chambre d'hote recommended Abbaye de la Sauve-Majeure.  Etienne is also into photography and thought we would enjoy taking photos of this site.  He was right!



Look closely, that is D in the tower. 


It was a Benedictine Abbey built in the 12th century.  It is one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites.  Side note....D printed out the list of UNESCO World sites and checked off how many we have been to.  After this trip, we have visited 50 in Europe.


 We could not have ordered prettier clouds!


Next stop, Toulouse.  D was very sweet and drove me out of the way to try and find a flea market.  The flea market was a bust, but we did discover that the town was Bergerac - home to Cyrano de Bergerac (1619-1655) the famous poet and play-write, known for his very large nose.  Several movies have been done on him.

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Not only were the flowers in full bloom for the season, the grass was vibrant green and there were lots of babies in the fields!



Lamb pie

Well, this cow looks more like a teenager  :  )


We stayed at the beautiful artsy La Pradesse Chambre d'hote for the second time.  Christine and Frederic also renovated an old farmhouse.  This one one of our favorite places to stay.

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On Monday, we spent the early afternoon in Toulouse.  It is the forth largest city in France and is known as "la ville rose" because of the color of it's brick.  We had to hit one of my VERY favorite ice cream shops.  I would have to put it in my top three best ice creams EVER.  I had violet and carmel de sur, D had sheep cheese and chocolate with hot peppers.

On Tuesday D had his presentation.  It  went very well.  We had a nice dinner that evening and then hit the road on Wednesday for an 11 hour drive back to Brussels.  But oh so worth it!

Would you like to see a few more photos?  Please click on the peacock in the upper right hand corner on the front page - album titled France Road Trip.



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