There is nothing like a proper map for when one wants to visit somewhere for a couple of weeks. Satellite navigation devices are fine for getting from point A to point B, but they don’t give the big picture, they don’t give contexts. Holidays are not holidays without proper maps and a departure for France on 31st August means checking our stock now.
The Michelin map for the Dordogne, tucked away for a decade, is again to be pressed into service; medieval French villages do not move much in ten years. It is a map that evokes many memories.
Tucked away in a little hamlet, at a point where the departments of the Gironde, Lot et Garonne and the Dordogne meet, the house we rented was at a meeting place of councils and cultures. The car number plates bore evidence of the borderland nature of the place, 33s, 24s and 49s passed up and down the narrow road. The house had been the farmhouse of a domaine with its own wine appellation; the wine was still produced, bottled and labelled in sheds on the far side of the road. The hamlet contained a cross section of people, local Parisian and foreign.
There wasn’t much to do in the evening, mostly trips to one of the local towns for an ice cream and a walk, or to one of the night markets. The beautiful bastide town of Eymet was an easy drive and was filled with interest. The journey went through the little village of le Sauvetat-du-Dropt, a village that would have seen countless journeys over the centuries.
On the left hand side of the street driving eastwards was a terrace of houses. Each summer evening, at the doorway of one of the houses, a lady would place a chair from her kitchen and would sit and watch the affairs of the evening. Usually, one or more neighbours would come and join her, passing the evening in conversation and watching the passing traffic. It seemed a perfect picture, France at its best: the close knit community, the fine summer evenings, the contentment expressed in being able just to sit and watch the world.
It is ten years or more since we last passed the lady, sitting in the warmth of a French August evening, perhaps she is no longer there, but, if she has gone, perhaps someone will have taken her place.
To enjoy time, and enjoy company and to enjoy a place, are traditions too important to be lost. Given a chance, I would go and sit there myself.