We spent two nights at the delightful Aire in St Dizant. We seemed to be on a big piece of land belonging to the village shop and the shop sign included a welcome to visiting motorhomers. We were happy to buy our daily bread, some fruit and a box of ice creams from the lovely man who owned the shop. He spoke no English but very kindly spoke slowly and clearly in French to us so that we could understand him and even manage to reply.
Outside our chosen parking spot there was a picnic bench and ample room for us to take out our reclining chairs, so, after walking the dogs around the town and along the edge of the vines we settled down and enjoyed a fabulous sunny afternoon.
It is October of course and a clear blue sky during the day means waking up the next morning to low temperatures. We put the heating on, only to discover that our leisure batteries were depleted and the big fans that run the heating wouldn’t work. We were confused. We have a 120w solar panel and two big batteries so yesterday’s sunshine and the long drive here should have topped them up nicely. We resolved to get some advice once we can get online. In the meantime we empty waste tanks, fill up with fresh water and set off south for a couple of hours to get the batteries charging.
We arrived at St Romain la Virvee and pulled into the Aire beside the tennis courts to put the hot water on, eat breakfast and have much needed showers. This Aire provides free services so we could dump waste and fill up again before we went on our way, giving thanks to the local commune for their generosity.
Next stop was La Bastide D’Armagnac. We chose it from the book All the Aires because it looked as though we could pitch on a large plot of grass close to the town and there was mention of the Voie Verte being nearby. Sure enough as we rolled up we found five motorhomes parked up on the grass, one of them with UK number plates, and a signpost in the direction of the Voie Verte. Unfortunately it was raining heavily but the dogs know the routine. The van stops and they get to go for a walk. Simple as that. No rain shower was going to stop them claiming their rights. So we got on our raincoats and out we went into the deluge. The Voie Verte was a disappointment. It was the farming equivalent of the M1 with tractors and trailers racing by every few seconds and there was no footpath, in fact barely enough room for the tractors, so we gave up and wandered into the town.
Wow! This is an extraordinary place. It is a 13th century village with a town square apparently untouched by modern architecture. No vehicles are allowed in the square and it appears completely authentic. There were two or three Brasseries, a shop selling Armagnac, a Bibliotheque and Tourist Information all in the original buildings. We wandered over to the Church where to our surprise we saw adverts for Tai Chi and Calligraphy demonstrations and a violin recital, both to be held the very next day. We decided immediately to stay another night and to repay the town’s hospitality by having a meal in one of the Brasseries.
At around seven we wandered back up to the square and into the only Brasserie that appeared to be open. It looked warm and inviting and the rain was still falling steadily so we were glad to find that it was almost empty, being early for the French to consider eating.
Being a compulsive people watcher, I clocked straight away that the woman working behind the bar was not very happy. She was clearly relieved when we managed to ask in French for a table and then talk to her about the menu but her somber mood remained. After a while a younger male version of herself came in to the bar and joined her. Just as well as she was serving tables, cooking food and working behind the bar. Another man, obviously part of the team, was sitting at a laptop with headphones on, oblivious to everything. Younger man, possibly her son, was not greeted with open arms, in fact she barely acknowledged him.
We wondered what domestic troubles had caused this bad feeling. Had he been late for work? Were they worried about their profits?
Moments later another couple came in with their little Westie dog and asked permission to bring him inside. They settled down to choose from the menu and their dog eyed us thoughtfully. We wondered if he recognised doggy people.
Next came the British couple from the other UK motorhome and we struck up conversation with them, helping them decipher the menu and chatting about our travels. They were coming to the end of their 6k mile trip and on their way north. It struck us that we hadn’t had a conversation in English with anyone other than each other for over a week. We were surprised when the British man declared that the town needed a lot of money spent on it. Our thought was that an incredible amount of effort had gone into keeping it looking and feeling authentic. But we didn’t argue – each to their own opinion – and anyway the wine had made us mellow so we wished them all ‘Bonsoir’ and trotted back to the van for coffee and a long sleep. Ten hours in fact, despite a raging thunderstorm during the night.
Shirley: Warm goats cheese salad, roast leg of duck with chips, ice cream
Margaret: Bacon and egg crepe, white fish fillet with rice, ice cream
Carafe of local red wine
Total bill: 36€