Squirrels of the Dordogne


Last week we had a squirrel in the garden. Not so common for us. We usually see them as road kill between the river and the forest – not so nice. But this one was alive and free to admire.

We have the benefit of having some walnut trees in the fruit orchard. Simon, as we call our new garden pet, was munching away on the nuts he could find. Simon, however has a big appetite, no let us rephrase that; a huge appetite. After we noticed him around -it was hard not to constantly hear his teeth gnawing on the hard shells-,  no nut has been found since. The other theory is that the late frost we had this year damaged the budding flowers on the trees and therefore the fruit could not grow. We can blame Simon.. or mother nature. Anyway we have no nuts this year. (but still 125 kilos stored in the barn from last year. Hope Simon cannot open barn doors.)

This brings us to the best find we had this year.

Monpazier is voted number 11 on the list of France’s 20 most beautiful villages. To be honest, the first time we visit this village in march 2015 we were not very  impressed. At all.

We send guests to the places we think are special, remarkable, full of history or a must see. We have read Monpazier was voted one of these nice places. Not saying we agreed. But we totally changed our mind! Monpazier is back on the list.

With some investments made, the market place looks great (or we got used to the French ‘forgotten glory’ state of buildings) There were flowers, there was life, but above all we were happily surprised with new cafes and shops.

The village sits on a hill looking out onto lush valleys. In the distance you might get a glimpse of Chateau Biron (a must visit). You drive into the ‘centre ville’ through the stone gates of forgotten times and you end up in the market square. Which it is; a square. In virtually every corner you find something. We have Balthazar de la Bastide, a deco and interior shop with pottery and goodies for your garden. You can go back in time with a “Portrait photo en costume 1900” for men, woman and children. Another ‘Antiguites’ shop called La Petite Credence is to be found a few meters away and for your real French decoration stuff you have to walk in at Gaya. A feel good place where you find country style clocks, metal wired chicken, hard wood tables and everything for a French touch in your home.

A few years ago we ended up in the only open place in town. A restaurant with a white stone floor, with an atmosphere of a dead fly and after 2 pm almost nothing to eat, except soup.. Time has changed, big time.

Outside this October-sun kissed our skin, blue skies above and mild temperatures surrounded us, well mild; we talk about 25 degrees in autumn.. Tourist are happily eating and drinking on the market place at the different cafees and restaurants. The food smells good and people seem genuinely content.

But we want to point out one cafe in particular. Outside there are nice tables and chairs lined up. Inside behind the glass entrance we find a Starbucks-like-cozy-coffee place. Chesterfields seat, red stone brick wall, matching styling on the walls, all in theme and you understand the concept straight away. A nice bar with a school board and chalk paint writing. They have real cappuccino, Latte machiatos and everything inbetween. (Normal cappuccino in France means it’s with wiped cream and a coffee with added milk: you order as a cafe crème. It is not with cream but with milk. Just to complicate things..) We are happily surprised with the coffee choices and the mugs that its served in. And then we find out they also have smoothies and organic food! And a brunch on Sunday with pancakes, sandwiches and cheeses.. What in the world…? So yes, it is possible. It is possible to have a modern place in the countryside of France called the Dordogne.

To check our (bad) French: ‘Doesn’t Ecureuil means Squirrel?’ And yes it does! We are complimented by the nice staff. So also for that reason: Check the Ecureuil Cafe in Monpazier for GOOD coffee and breakfast/milkshakes/smoothies/snacks/brunch/lunch. Our best find this year.

Ecureuil Cafe | Place central 24540 Monpazier | 0553616217 | lecureuilcafe@orange.fr



Maple tree in autumn colors

Everybody knows about the phenomenon Indian-summer and some are even ready to fly across the world to the North American continent to watch nature over there. Maybe it is in advertising or maybe simply because people don’t know that Indian summer is a ‘period’ and not a place. October is probably the most beautiful month in the Aquitaine region. Because of this period of warm and dry weather after rain, the colors are truly mind blowing. Even in the Sixteens-chapel in Rome, you will never find so much gold as here in the autumn season. The forests go from green to red, yellow and golden. If it were a painting you would bet it can never be real.

End of summer brings also freshness and coziness. The days are still nice and warm, sometimes with a cooling breeze. Around diner time you walk around with a scarf or light jacket and in the evening you drink a beautiful local wine in front of the fireplace. Because evenings and nights are getting cooler.

The grapes are picked – we are waiting for the new wines – there is an abundance of ready to be harvest other fruit. We would call it: ‘overkill’ especially our figs. (Can somebody just please come around and eat some. And then some…?) And no nuts – no glory: the hazelnuts and walnuts are ready too.

So if you have time and you love to photograph, you are a food l-o-v-e-r, you love touristy places but not the tourist.. Then this is your cue. October will not let you down. We call it Aquitaine-tober, because we think the Dordogne is as pretty as the American this time of year!