8. May, 2022


So a bit about Brancome:

The commune started to develop on an island encircled by a sweep of the river Dronne next to the Benedictine Abbey of Brantôme, which was founded in 769 by Charlemagne; according to legend he donated relics of Saint Sicarius (Sicaire), one of the infants in the Massacre of the Innocents. Those relics attracted pilgrims to the abbey, who also brought a certain affluence to Brantôme, but in spite of St. Sicaire's protection, the abbey was laid waste in 848 and in 857 by Viking rovers who had advanced along the Dordogne and Isle rivers to the Dronne. The abbey was rebuilt towards the end of the tenth century and again in 1465 and in 1480 after the end of the Hundred Years’ War.

Its Romanesque bell-tower is a competitor for the title "oldest in France" and developed a high reputation. Here Bertrand du Guesclin, battling the English Angevins, apprised that he had been made Constable of France by Charles V. Pierre de Mareuil, abbot from 1538–56, built a right-angled bridge, the Pont Condé, over the river, which connected the elegant Renaissance abbot's lodging he built for himself with its garden, which lay on the opposite bank. He was succeeded by his nephew, Pierre de Bourdeille (abbot from 1558–1614), a soldier and writer better known by his title as Abbé Brantôme, whose diplomacy saved the abbey and its commune from the Huguenot forces of Gaspard de Coligny on two occasions in 1569 during the Wars of Religion. At the French Revolution, the abbey was secularised as a bien national, the last seven monks pensioned and its rich library dispersed.

Brantôme is a network of caves with 13km (8 miles) of galleries, filled with fascinating rock formations and prehistoric paintings.

It didn't take long to walk the short distance to the town centre, though really it's a village, and not a very big one at that.

Lots of people were sat both inside and out of the numerous restaurants by the river's edge enjoying their Sunday lunch. I've no idea what a traditional Sunday lunch is in France, but I doubt it would appeal to me.

When it comes to French cuisine I have my own opinions. I consider the French to be the European equivalent of Asia’s China, in that they’ll eat anything. It doesn’t matter whether it hops, flies, swims, runs or slithers, if they can catch it and get it in a pot, they’ll eat it. Yet somehow we Brits have allowed them to browbeat us in to believing they are culinary experts with a refined palette.

They have chefs like Guy Savoy, Anne-Sophie Pic and Albert Roux who they idolise, yet few of them are aware that one of their culinary saints was in fact a Brit.

Back in 1877 a fish fryer working in a chippies up in Whitby, Yorkshire, decided to move to France and introduce the French to the luxury of proper food, and within two years had managed to open his own fish & chip shop in Brittany. People would travel from miles around to sample his cooking as they’d heard his fish batter was to die for. This was around the time that food snobs in France were dining on fresh dog turds, baked of course. It was only peasants who fried them, served with a side salad.

Then one day during a busy ‘Fish Friday’ service, the chef from the restaurant next door came in all hot and bothered saying that he had a group of French aristocracy in, and they were complaining that the food was dry. He asked for the chip fryers help.

The fish fryer looked down at his large bucket of white batter, then, grabbing a jug scooped up a generous amount. Passing it to the chef he told him to just heat it through then serve it in place of the salad.

Later the chef came back and was full of praise for the inspired solution he had been given. His VIP guests had so enjoyed their fresh dog-turd-in-white-sauce served with a glass of chilled white wine, that he was going to name the sauce after him, and indeed he did. And the fish fryer’s name?................................ Albert White, or, as the French call him - Bert Blanc.

We'd soon done the town, ending up with a quick look inside the church which was pretty gloomy and smelled strongly of incense, and was a bit foggy, presumably leftover from church services this morning.

We wandered back along the river to the Camperstop where we spent the afternoon relaxing, which was nice.

We seem to have one or two 'mummy's little yappers' on site, which is no surprise, but we get nothing like the number we have endured in the past when far more dog-owning Brits came south. A lot of them don't seem to bother now as I think it's quite expensive anda lot of grief to gets their dogs registered and vaccinated, so that's one good thing to come out of Brexit.

I think as we have spent this afternoon with some grass under our feet we may now forego our night on a local campsite and instead spend a couple of days after a visit coming up mid-week. That will give us time to get any washing done as well as enjoying lovely long hot showers in somebody else's bathroom.

I'm going to try and keep each 'chapter' shorter on this trip so that they are easier to navigate , so tomorrow I'll start a new one.