Louise’s Column – Issue 66

Posted by in July's Magazine

A part from receiving the very sad news about Tam White’s passing, our recent visit to France was a good one, with just the right combination of relaxation and sightseeing. My folks bought a wee run-down building a few years back, complete with dilapidated barn and wild garden that came with a donkey and flea infested goat – now with new owners, mum couldn’t quite get used to the idea – in a relatively unknown area of France, north of the Dordogne.

We’ve been regular visitors over the years, experiencing the house at various stages of its development, from a single brick, draughty build- ing with a huge hole in the roof, to the perfectly tiled, well insulated and solid ‘home’ that it is now, with gingham curtains (mum’s crea- tive touch) and log burning stove, everything done by my parents’ fair and now very calloused hands – spurred on by their love of France and desire to live the French way of life.



We are Scotland
So, where, just north of Dordogne, have my parents called home for half the year? It featured once on A Place in the Sun, and was described as a ‘hidden gem’ by the presenter. Curious as we were to watch the programme, we were a little nervous at the time that it would open up the floodgates. Thankfully, it remains undiscovered, and with the dip in the Euro, not as many Brits have been tempted to buy up the many neglected buildings that make up a lot of rural France. But I think I’m ready to divulge ‘the secret’ to the readers of The Leither as long as you keep it to yourselves.

The region is Limousin, which is composed of three departments Correze, Creuse, and Haut-Vienne. The capital of the region is Limoges, which you also fly into. My parents live in a wee town in Correze, called Uzerche. We Scots are particularly good at pronouncing the ’U’…’ooo’. But you have to be careful not to sound too guttural or you’ll be mistaken for German – not a good thing, it would seem, in this part of France. So, mum is forever trying to drop into the conversation that they are Ecossais or as she some- times says – Nous Sommes Ecosse (We are Scotland) but they understand, even if they are left rather amused.

More duck
Uzerche is often referred to as the ‘Pearl of Limousin’. The old town sits high on a rocky outpost overlooking the Vezere River. St Peter’s Abbey sits at the very top overlooking the green valley below. It’s pretty quiet even in the tourist season, though lunchtimes are busy – and long – with local work- ers knocking back the Rosé wine before returning to work. It has a few hotels and Chamber d’hôtes (B&Bs), and around five good places to eat including Chez Denise, which has a wonderful terrace with views across the valley. Her signature dish is ‘Confit de Canard’, with a starter plate of local delicacies including foie gras, maigret of duck (more duck) and chestnuts. Delicieux!

The area is dotted with lakes and gushing rivers. We usually visit the lake by Vigeois, a village outside of Uzerche. This is one of my favourite places, with its very own stretch of beach, and shaded picnic spots. We’ve spent many lazy afternoons there, paddling in the cold water to cool down whilst dodging the little schools of fish swishing about our ankles. There is a rarely used path around the lake with terrific views back across it, so mum and I usually follow it when we’ve had too much sun, wandering by fields of wild flowers that attract the most amazing butterflies.

Brive is the nearest large town to Uzerche – famous for its rugby – only 30 minutes away by car. Saturday and Tuesday are market days where you can buy fruit and vegetables from across the entire region, with the most amazing strings of garlic, local bread and cheese on display. There are lots of places for lunch including Chez Jose, not far from the market, where as soon as you pull up a chair a basket of crunchy bread and soup arrives, followed by a main course, some tangy tart, the smelliest and most delicious cheese and the best bit of all (for some) a large bottle of red wine, that arrives even before the soup…all for just 11 Euros!

WWII France
If you want to immerse yourself in WWII France then you have to visit Oradour-sur-Glane north of Uzerche. On the 10th June 1944, over 600 of the village’s inhabitants were rounded up by the Germans and killed. The town was then looted and every building was burned to the ground. The village has been left as it was, and the new town has grown up alongside it. Eerie, but very powerful.

So, if you fancy a weekend away, you could do worse than spend time in the Correze region. And, if you happen to come across a little dark haired woman and a white haired man in the local super market, discussing the merits of a two or three Euro bottle of Rosé wine, it will probably be my folks. Be sure to say bonjour!

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