Pigeonniers / Colombiers / Fuies / Dovecots de la Dordogne

DSCF0530The Dordogne has a wonderful variety of pigeonniers  (dovecots in pigeonnier sketchEnglish)…introduced to France by the Romans, they have been a source of food, manure, status and architectural flair for almost 2000 years. Until the early 14th Century , anyone in France could own a pigeonnier, but during the middle ages, they were restricted to people of high status with many rules and regulations determining their physical size and capacity. The higher the social order of the household or church, the larger the pigeonnier could be. The typical pigeonnier has an open interior with small nests suitable for a pair of nesting birds, some of the largest pigeonniers could house up to 2300 pairs of pigeons, I wouldn’t want the job of cleaning out their boxes !  For the poor peasant farmer trying to sow his crops,  swarms of pigeons ( generally owned by the aristocracy ) descended on the freshly tilled and sown soil and devoured his valuable seeds. Up to the French Revolution, many of the ‘ citizens complaints ‘ to the local governor were related to this issue, after the French Revolution,  in 1789,  the laws were changed and  again, anybody could breed and own pigeons, but there were regulations decreed to enforce the containment and feeding of the birds during certain DSCF0515periods of the year, including sowing and harvesting time. The name colombier and fuie is used to describe a pigeon house in early writings but  in later centuries, a colombier tended to be  a stand alone building and colombine was the very rich and nutricious manure  produced by the pigeons. In the Middle Ages, the possession of a colombier à pied ( on the ground and accessible by foot) constructed seperately from the main house was a privilege of the seigneurial lord. He was granted permission by his overlord to build a colombier on his estate. For other constructions / designs the rights or permission ( droit de colombier) varied between provinces. They had to be built in proportion to the importance of the property, placed in a floor above a henhouse, a kennel, an oven, perhaps their wine cellar ( thanks to Wikipedia for some of this info). Today many of the larger pigeonniers have been converted into stand alone accommodation or become part of the main household building. I’ve photographed a few from around the local area of Maison Porte del Marty

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Pigeonier interieur

Eglises de la Dordogne / Churches of the Dordogne

DSCF0386Like most of France, the Dordogne has a wide variety of beautiful small and large DSCF0443village churches.  Most have been built since the 11 century as the Vikings made frequent raids up the Dordogne River plundering and burning many of the Roman churches .  During the War of Religion ( 1562 – 1598 )  many Aquitaine  churches were destroyed or damaged in the  fighting between the Catholic and Protestant  rulers . But fortunately, most were rebuilt and today  retain their charm, peacefulness and simplicity.

The Dordogne Valley was one of the many pilgram paths to  St Jacque de Campostelle / St James of Compostella  in Spain with literally millions making the pilgrimage to Compostella during the middle ages.  Many came through the Dordogne Valley and the Church had  Abbeys  and hostels along the way to offer a simple meal and a bed for the night to the weary travellers. Cadouin, today a World Heritage Site claimed the ownership of the Shroud of Jesus until 1934 when it became apparent the Catholic Church supported the existence of  perhaps too many ‘ Shrouds of Jesus ‘ .    This particular shroud came from the fall of the ancient Eygptian city, Antioch in the year 1098 and was a death shroud, but not of Jesus. This shroud was brought to Cadouin by Knights of the Templar who were a very influential  in ancient Aquitaine.  Testing by an Arabic Scholar in 1931 confirmed the shroud was engraved with Arabic symbols and writings of the 9th century. The Turin Shroud was also brought to Turin by Knights of the Templar.  Their piety and devotion to their Christian beliefs was the strength of their order. The wide variety of attractive local church architecture  creates an opportunity to spend  a leisurly day driving around the area and enjoying  the scenery of  the villages. Today, some of these villages are almost empty with no school or boulangerie, yet judging by the size of their local church, in past years these villages supported a large and wealthy local population.

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Tobacco, the (ex) cash crop of Dordogne – Things to do and see from Maison Porte del Marty

DSCF0453 The Dordogne has experienced great wealth in  past centuries. JustDSCF0409 looking around at  the large number of beautiful Chateaux, country estates, very substantial and attractive  farmers houses, often with their own church and multiple staff quarters, you are talking real money. Since the end of  WWII, successive governments have proved very efficient at slowly taxing these properties out of the hands of  their family owners. With a wealth tax on assets  over 1M€ (and there are no property or family trusts in France)  plus death duty above a very low starting point, through necessity, many of these properties end up being sold, often to international owners. In the past 150 years our immediate area has enjoyed real wealth from high quality paper manufacturing and tobacco growing, both industries have now collapsed. Quality hand made writing paper has been replaced by mass produced printer paper  and a change of ownership of the Gauloise and Gitanes cigarette brands sent the growing of the tobacco and manufacture to Spain, home of the new owners. Bergerac was the production site for DSCF0454the cigarettes and the local Dordogne farmers grew, harvested and dried the tobacco for theDSCF0452 factory. It was big business and a very high value crop that created a lot of wealth and work in the region. The surrounding area now has  100’s of empty tobacco drying sheds, many are now a barn, some converted to holiday homes, others just derelict.  Until 2012, there was a modest subsidy to keep some tobacco growing in France, but with smoking  officially discouraged, a government subsidy was hardly supportable, so the photos attached are probably one of the last crops that will grow in the Dordogne.

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Châteaux of the Dodogne / Châteaux de la Dordogne

DSCF0422Château / Châteaux can be a confusing word for English speakers. It’sDSCF0368 associated with vineyards, but it is also a term to describe a grand home, manor house, castle, or the British ‘ hall’.  In France a fortified castle would be more correctly called a Château Fort,  a modern Château a ” Château grand “.  Generally a Château should have gardens, farm land, outbuildings and  be self sufficient in produce , poultry, meat, fish etc. A very grand city house could be called a Palais or Hôtel particulier, but this does not translate directly to Palace as in the English sense.  In France a medieval period Château would have been built as a heavily fortified property as protection from the dangers of the time, after the 19th century, in safer times, many of the outer protective walls were removed and the properties opened up.

DSCF0407The Dordogne has many many 100’s of beautiful properties that areDSCF0393 called a Chateau, but in an English sense are a Manor house , fortified Castle,  Grand Country home,  Country Estate…..and so forth. Many properties are ruins that remain from the  ” 100 year war ” of 1337 to 1453 and the Wars of Religion 1562 to 1598. Generally the  older houses built around these ruins are built from the stone from these old Châteaux, this is ancient recycling ! Our Maison Porte del Marty is correctly called a Maison de Maitre  (a Master’s House) in English, this is  a Manor House. The 1st known building on our site was a Roman Fort, the 2nd building was a fortified Chevaliers or Knights  Chateau and the village and inhabitants were his property and he would have been known as the Lord of his domain.

The photos here show a range of properties all within 15 minutes driveDSCF0402 of Maison Porte del Marty, as you can see we have a fairytale castle,  the more gothic Château de Lanquais, some handsome village Châteaux plus ruins remaining in Banueil, Sauveboeuf and Cause de Clerans. All help create the atmosphere of living in this beautiful region.

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Beaumont Marché Nocture – Night Market – Street Dinner

PICT0001Summer has arrived along with the wonderful night markets or marchéPICT0009 nocturne. Dinner in a village square with friends, good music, a glass of wine and a band. From late June to early September many of our local villages have a weekly night market offering an interesting selection of food for sale. Beaumont offers the local mobile butcher who sells any and all cuts of meat or sausage which his family then cook for you on a charcoal grill. In addition to your selected cuts, they also offer ready to go pre-cook roasted pork knuckles /hocks, pork spare ribs (spicy or plain), duck sausages, chipolatas, merguez sausage, potato PICT0011gratin, courjette gratin,….next door a family offer grilled duck breast, PICT0010grilled confit duck, fresh fried foie gras( duck liver), forestier potatoes, cepe omelette, truffle omelette, gezier salad ( cooked duck gizzards on lettuce drizzled with walnut oil – delicious), their neighbour offers fresh canteloupe /rock melon with local proscuitto style ham,  along side this trader a fromage vendeur offers a wide selection of cheeses. Close by the local baker has a delicious selection of wholemeal and sour dough breads along with fig or walnut bread to share with your cheese as well as a nice selection of small or large fruit tartes for dessert. Our next vendor has fresh strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, red currants, black currants….either  by the punnet, a mixed fruit salad, in a cone with ice cream and/or cream,  perhaps a sorbet.. hhmmm, one of the  local cafes is selling french PICT0013PICT0015fries, deep fried squid or chicken wings along with a nice cold draft beer, next door the local pizza shop is in full roar with his wood fired oven cooking the typical very thin crusted pizzas that are so popular here. The next vendor is selling chicken fajitas ! his neighbour is a vineyard selling a nice selection of their local wines, his neighbour is selling Thai food plus another 2 cafes offer their typical a la carte menu for people who don't desire to queue and sit amongst the masses and this is all accompanied by a local band, usually playing blues or international rock and roll ( sorry very little traditional French music, this is party time ! ) They start at around 18:30 and tend to wind up by 23:30,  these are very enjoyable nights and as you can see from the photos, a great setting ! Come and enjoy !

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Dordogne Car Club day @ Cresse Hypermarché

Today, Sunday July 7 2013 is a real scorcher,PICT0012 34C in the shade, clear blue sky and perfect for PICT0017cruising around the beautiful Dordogne region in a convertible or motorbike. Here in Lalinde we see a wide range of car and bike clubs cruising by on club outings. 3 weeks ago there were literally 1000's of Vespa's from throughout France meeting in Perigueux for their annual get-to-gether with Lalinde being on one of their club excursions. Today, one of our local supermarkets, Intermarché Hyper in Cresse opened up their carpark for a meeting of most of the Dordogne Car Clubs.  I'm guessing a good 1000 cars were on display.  I was brought up in Titirangi, up in the hills behind Auckland, New Zealand. I'm not sure why, but as a young kid, Titirangi was full of interesting European cars…Simca, Peugoet, Citroen, Panhard, Lancia, Jowett Javelin, Facel Vega, Fiat 500's and 600's, Talbot , Messerschmitt,  BMW Isetta, among the more standard Vauxhall, Ford, Holden, Hillman, Humber, Sunbeam, Rover, Triumph etc. The French cars were more exotic looking and generally very interesting from an engineering perspctive. Having a nice slow walk around the car park today is very much a walk down memory lane. Share some of  the interesting cars on display today

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Swans in Lalinde / Cygnes dans Lalinde

Swans in Lalinde

One of our local English Newspapers published this article about the swans in front of Maison Porte del Marty. To be honest, we didn’t know a lot about them, we just enjoyed the view of these graceful birds feeding and resting below our house. This article suggested there are around 210 white swans, plus 2 black swans, we did see 2 some months ago but we seem to be down to 1 at the moment. Our local white swans are known as ‘ mute ‘ swans, so very quiet. I looked up Wikipedia to find out about black swans and learnt that they are originally from Western Australia and New Zealand, but in NZ they went the way of the very large Moa bird and were eaten to extinction by the NZ Maori . The black swans we now have in NZ have been imported from Australia. The suggestion in this article is the 2 black swans have escaped from a zoo….. France doesn’t have any regulations like UK where the swans are owned by the Queen / Royalty, up until 1976 they were able to be hunted, but are now a protected species. One of the most graceful photo’s you could desire to have is watching a swan land on the water, or soar past our house under the bridge with the sun shining on their back, it’s a magnificent sight. One of the many reasons we enjoy living in our little piece of paradise

 

Cycling – Biking in the Dordogne – Aquitaine


The Dordogne is one of the prettiest areas you could ask of for cycling / biking. With 100’s of chateaux, lush virgin forest, endless fields of grapes, sunflowers, maize, grain…..meandering rivers and streams, well placed villages for that deserved pitt stop or lunch and a reliable and regular train service. You can base yourself in one place and use the train for those farther afield destinations and enjoy a leisurely ride back to home base, or spend 3 or 4 days at one place then move to another part of the Dordogne. The landscape is very level from Lalinde towards Bordeaux and rolling country from Lalinde towards Sarlat. With plenty of secondary roads in good condition and usually with a cool forest section the choices are endless for day trips. The most pro-active cycle hire company in our area is Aquitaine Bike Hire www.aquitainebike.com with excellent alloy or carbon fibre road and/or hybrid bikes it’s pretty difficult to go past Robert and Amy Owensmith for service, professionalism, reasonable prices and careful preparation of your routes…….all based on your fitness level. We have enjoyed hosting a range of people who have booked their bikes through Robert and Amy and from an outsiders perspective…… what delightful, warm and efficient people to deal with. Sometimes after a few days out on the road, it’s nice to take a day off the longer trips , especially to recharge the batteries and give your ‘ seat ‘ a rest. Our local area has many short and level rides that can fill in the morning or afternoon leaving plenty of time to relax. Staying at Maison Porte del Marty is a great base to enjoy the beautiful Dordogne region on a bicycle, you can arrive by train at Lalinde with a regular service from Bordeaux or Sarlat with connections from the South of France through Toulouse and Agen, from Spain through Bordeaux and the North and East of France through Paris or Limoges – Perigueux. If you were thinking about heading in our direction, ask us for some travel choices. Bergerac airport has daily flights from many UK cities, Holland and Belgium.
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If you see this, you have found us!

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If you see this, you have found us ! Maison Porte del Marty and French Mode !

Si vous voyez ceci, vous nous avez trouvés! Maison Porte del Marty et French Mode

Pricelist and basic information – Maison Porte del Marty Lalinde 24150