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FRANCE | Saturday, 10 October 2009 | Views [550]

Headed off this morning for the other side of France, some 550 kilometres away. After Italy, Paul thought driving was a relative breeze on the French roads. Arrived at our destination of Belves in the Dordogne region in the mid afternoon. Belves, is a medieval village perched high on a rocky ridge (to the Edna’s dismay) and is brimming with magnificent gothic and renaissance homes. Our accommodation is a little 14th century cottage overlooking the beautiful Nauze Valley and a view of Belves township with its turreted houses and bell-towers, although two members of the group thought it was a smelly old house! A bit of dissension in the group. We headed up to the village for a quick walk and look, and three beers later and a gastronomical feast we waddled home sometime after 10pm. Jo suggested that we just needed something light for dinner, but we found a gorgeous little French restaurant called ‘Le Home’. Due to the fact that we couldn’t read the menu, Jo, Paul and Mal went with the 20 euro set menu. It was the liver screaming cuisine. The entrée was the foie gras, followed by duck confit and chocolate fondant to die for. Jo claims that it was the best fondant ever tasted. Paul and Mal declared it the best meal eaten for a long long time. Now, for those who don’t know how foie gras is made or forgotten let me remind you…Cute little ducks and geese live a carefree life in the fields, eating tender grass for the first three months of their life. Then their diet drastically changes. For three weeks they have a funnel down their throats and force fed a corn mush, three to six times a day at fixed hours. As a result their livers become enormous weighing between 400 and 1000 grams and voila a luxury food! Jo’s liver went into shock at all the fat she was eating. Made the scarmorza cheese look like fruit salad. Up mid morning, hustled everyone up and headed to the St Cyprien food markets. These would have been the best markets ever. Jo, who declared at breakfast that she was on a liquid diet was a bit slow to start. She declared she had a food hangover and was not going to buy anything but 30 minutes in and she started making up for lost time. We were in foodie heaven again. Fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs, olives, honey, jam, foie gras (Jo couldn’t look) , every meat in existence, sausages, pastries, bagettes, walnuts, oils, oh and the cheeses… it was all there. The most amazing food was the pork ribs, quails, chickens and ducks being cooked on a rotisserie. Underneath were small potatoes, so all the fat and juices from the meat dripped on them while they were cooking. Jo tried a potato on the way home in the car and all we could hear were sighs of ecstasy! Paul finally found the rabbit he has been keen to eat and loved every morsel, while Jo cringed behind his back. Only problem with the French is that they can’t make coffee, it has been very ordinary, I guess you can’t have everything. Oh yeah, and the buildings were cute and old. Headed back to Belves for a quiet afternoon. Some of us headed up to the village for a walk around. In the Place d’Armes, in the centre of the village were the Bell -tower and the covered market, both 15th century. Paul was fascinated by the neck cuffs displayed on one of the pillars. They were used on the miscreants, who would be collared and left to stand for either days or hours depending on the crime in the square. We continued walking along the western part of the village, and saw the Gothic Church of Notre-Dame-de Montcuq, which used to be a Benedictine priory. Totally different in style to the over-the top, gaudy Baroque style of Italy, we found the rustic simplistic realness quite refreshing and loved it. For Jo it was her favourite church so far. Seems we just can’t get enough of churches! A little further down another alley we chanced upon a tree of figs that tasted like fig jam they were so sweet. Perfect!

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