All posts tagged: Dordogne

How to cook Paella for 100 guests in one easy step: hire the local experts

We’re here in the Dordogne for a weekend of family, friends, fun, and the long-awaited 50th. Saturday evening was the big gathering, with long wooden tables and benches spread under the trees outside: We hung fairy lights, tiny candles in jam jars, and foraged greenery from the woods and fields around us: Someone even came up with a creative solution to that dangerous rusty farming implement right near where we’re sitting: The views completely sucked: It was a pleasant 22 degrees or so, and the sunset was as always stunning (such soft light here compared to Australia; I can’t describe it any other way than it looks like it’s been smudged or half rubbed out): There was a mojito bar set up in the ruined BBQ area, plus trestle table bar inside with kegs of wine and champagne bottles. And then of course, everyone had to be fed. So the triumphant organization of this celebration peaked with the Paella King & Queen. We cleared a space in the centre of the Barn, and they just …

Long haul air flights: an utter privilege which sucks

It started so well. Good house/petsitters; efficient packing (roll don’t fold); timely train transport to the airport. The cute gay boy at the check-in counter asks me if I’m staying in Paris? No I’m not. Since 1980, my favourite Aunt ‘M’ (who lives in Sydney) has owned a 300-yr old barn in the French countryside. For years, we have all travelled to and from The Barn (Australians are so good with names aren’t they?) in the Dordogne region; Dad first took me there when I was 15, and I took my son there a couple of years ago when he was 15 (we sat there for 2 months, reading/eating/playing badminton LINK HERE & HERE TO OLD STORIES). Now we’re all gathering again, for my cousin’s 50th celebration weekend July 14-16. She lives in Sydney too, but has been telling us about this party plan for 3 years, supremely organized being that she is; thus approximately 85 people are turning up- mostly from Australia! A HUGE EXCITING EVENT. But first, I have to get there. It …

“France is a desperate party girl.”

I thought that yesterday, as we drove home from the local village with fresh bread. Autumn is really here: all the trees are red, gold, yellow, throwing their leaves onto the road in front of us. France has become a fraught, older ‘woman of the world’, throwing one last drunken ‘soirée’ before the lonely slam of Winter. She’s piling on her jewels, strings of rubies and gold chains, wrapping round and round her big bosom, as she leans forward into our space, spilling cheap champagne, desperate for us not to leave yet. She’s talking too loudly, her perfume’s too strong. She’s painted her toenails Tangerine, clinging to the last cotton dress of summer, her last green lace petticoat. She’s straining to throw bright sunsets, ignoring the bite of chill in the air, laughing hard at our more introspective moods, which lower on us as the darkness comes sooner. France has a population of 60 million, and her visitors number 76 million a year. She’s busy, receiving them all, mostly from June-September 30. And now her …

I seem to have packed my routines as well

Ah yes, the freedom of Travel with a capital T: being ready for anything, meeting anyone, changing plans in an instant. No work commitments, no diary appointments, no regular routines getting in the way of spontaneous adventure… When we first arrived in the Barn, I was finishing a 2-month ‘cleanse’ of no sugar, almost no wheat, minimal carbs, and various herb concoctions before and after eating (on the advice of both a doctor and naturopath, trying to deal with a water-borne parasite I’d picked up somewhere- Hello Blasto 😦 ). Within a week I was having fresh bread spread with unsalted butter and homemade jam for breakfast, or croissants and pain au chocolat; incredibly rich and varied omelets for lunch followed by more cheese and bread; chicken or fish with garlic potatoes for dinner, finished with more cheese of course. The other day I even drank a glass of champagne in the afternoon, which honestly for me is the equivalent of Keith Richards going on a three-week bender. So we can say I’m letting loose …

Périgueux- home to perhaps the dodgiest Airbnb listing you’ve ever seen

Glorious day last week, with blue skies to rival Australia’s. Time to visit the mediaeval town of Périguèux, 40 minutes drive away, including its cathedral, built in the 6th, 12th, and 16th century: Time to be enchanted by the surrounding laneways, leading to the marketplace where son ‘15’ ate “…The best ribs of my whole life, even better than Dad’s, I’m sorry to say…” (no pics allowed, but let me assure you, there was Grease Chin, sticky fingers, and complete carnivorous delight): Time to take my favourite picture of the trip so far: Time to marvel at the unwelcome front doors they make round here: A chance to picture Juliet, calling down to her love: And then, walking along the river, we saw this- The Place You Don’t Want To Stay: We were flabbergasted. ‘15’ kept giggling, and imagining having parties inside, and getting everyone to run from one side to the other to rock it [Oh the way teenagers’ minds work huh?!]. Let’s look at it one more time shall we? Imagine turning up …

Our last swallow has flown South for summer

We arrived 2 weeks ago in the Dordogne (rural France at its best), down by train from Paris through late summer fields and villages. Old stone walls glowed gold at sunset. The air was warm, thick and welcoming, like a fresh baked cinnamon bun straight out of the oven. The ‘Barn’ has stood for more than 300 years, and been in the family since 1981, thanks to the pioneering and determined spirit of Aunt ‘M’ (she of the infamous parking fine in previous post HERE). The solid stone building was full of energy and chatter: twin girls here with their Dad, an Uncle from England, cousins, partners, ‘M’ the matriarch, a visiting octogenarian, old friends and locals alike popping in. Badminton games and barbeques. Loads of washing taken in and out, beds made up, beds stripped down. Wine bottles brought home, and emptied with loud laughter. Old stoneware bowls filled with baked potatoes, garlic, cheese and cream, matching the smoked salmon and rosemary baked chicken. Various neighbours invited for afternoon snacks, as we piled chips, …