Well, we find ourselves at the end of our little break. It’s been cool – relaxing, peaceful, and I can honestly say I have worried about work exactly once, when my phone told me I had voicemail. Luckily it wasn’t work, so I could get back to holiday mode quick enough 🙂
Today we went to the castle at Castelnaud-la-Chapelle. For €6.60, you get to wander around, look out of the canon holes, and marvel at the medieval weaponry, small and large, including an array of pikes (“stupid boy”) and possibly the biggest crossbow I’ve ever seen. They also had a small collection of siege machines – or, as they’re more commonly known, “big slingshots”.
If you look at the pictures, you might see a familiar looking castle in the background now and again. That’s because Castelnaud-la-Chapelle is about 5 mintues away from Beynac, the castle we went to last time. Seems a little strange to me to have so many castles so close to each other. Maybe that part of the Dordogne valley is particular important. Or maybe it was just a case of keeping up with the Jones on quite a grand scale.
(These castles were all English up to the 15th century, by the way… when do we get them back?)
We got back to the gite around 6, and had steak for dinner. Drank wine, listened to music, and I got stuck into Northern Lights a bit more – those poor dæmons!
Lasting impressions of France?
• Strange driving. Old Renault estates that seem to be limited to 25mph. Older renault hatchbacks driven by 12 year olds that seem to need the slipstream from the car in front to keep going. Roundabouts that sometimes work like those at home (only back to front) and sometimes don’t. A culture of “overtake because there won’t be anything coming”. There usually isn’t.
• Unhelpful banks. See earlier post.
• Rolling countryside. Some people just see France when they hop over to Calais for cheap beer and nicotine. The real France is much prettier.
• Spare land. It just seems like there’s land to spare. In England, it seems that every spare square foot of land is being used for something – farming, housing, commerce, industry, *something*. Here, it seems like there are whole fields doing nothing but looking nice. Strange. And it seems to apply to the towns, too. Agen, for example, seems to be quite a prosperous little place – about the size of Canterbury, I’d say – maybe a little bigger. But there are empty shops, closed cafés… maybe it’s the season, maybe it’s that the population of France is so much less dense than the UK – places feel big and empty.
• “There’s a hill – build something on it!” 🙂
I found myself sitting at the table this evening reading some leaflet or other, and realised that I wasn’t consciously translating it as I read, but understanding anyway. “Picturesque walks in the forest, kayaks for rent, good food”. Simple stuff. I got to thinking about how long it would take before everything was like that – conversations, newspapers, novels, everything. Language is so deeply embedded in our psyche – how much of ‘you’ do you lose when you take it away. How much do you change when you replace one language with another?
Maybe I’ve had too much wine 🙂
Well, we are supposed to be out of here by 10am in the morning. Looking around, I can’t really see that happening… there’s stuff to clean, stuff to pack… 10am is a bit optimistic, I think. And anyway, I doubt there’s anyone here straight after us – they can cut us a little slack after making us stay at a hotel the first night 😛
Bon soiree la France – au revoir.