Today being Sunday it is time for a French lesson on church bells and why they ring so much in France. In rural France, before iPhones, high tech farm machinery and the 30 hour week, farmers used to work in the fields from dawn to dusk. The church bells rang at 7.00am, Noon and 7.00pm to call the men in from the fields for their meals. Different areas of France still ring the bells today to honour old traditions. Our apartment is four doors down the road from the clock tower which rings once on the half hour from 7.00am to 10.00pm. It also rings on the hour, the number of times of the hour and then repeats it a few minutes later, for example at 10.00am it rings ten times, has a random pause and then rings ten more times. If that isn’t bad enough, there is a church three doors down, in the other direction, that rings its bell on Friday nights and Saturday mornings to tell you it is the end of the working week and the beginning of the weekend. I read some interesting comments about the bells; some say the size and number of bells is determined by how far away the churches are from each other, therefore how much farmland they had to cover. Another said it was a religious war between the Protestants and the Catholics; a display of relative wealth perhaps.
Today we are having a market day, but not the normal car-boot sales; we are going up market only attending ones with themes. First on the list is >Lévignac-de-Guyenne’s Spring Market which promised “a thousand blooms”. We got there at 11.00am and there were still hundreds of flowers and lots of food stalls.
The next market was at Monteton which had a hat theme. The quaint village is on a hill, has a market full of craft and artisan traders and food stalls with no car-boot sales. There were, of course, plenty of hat stalls and a geocache. We had our taste of France for lunch; I got six oysters and bread for €6 and Roger had three sausages, chips and a token bit of lettuce for €8. We also got free wine while walking around, but noticed in the dining hall that the French buy a bottle and sit for a while over lunch; the English may buy a glass and whine verbally and the Kiwis drink the free wine, scoff and move on. Lovely market, so we gave them more patronage by buying some strawberries and prunes.
Agnac’s market was promoted as a three-day event with braised ham and Petanque competitions, however we searched high and low in the town of six buildings and found absolutely nothing, so thourghly bewildered, we moved on to the Bastide town of Eymet. Most of the towns in the area were once medieval walled fortress villages, however as the towns have expanded and the walls deteriorated, it is a matter of reading the signs and observing the remains to imagine what was once there. Unfortunately for us an old engraving on a sculpture didn’t yield Eymet’s multi stage geocache.
Last on the list for us today is the 15th century Chateau Bridoire in Ribagnac. Probably not my wisest decision of the day to go to a popular castle, with games being held for the whole family, on a weekend in 30deg heat. The chateau was a little crowded and pricey at €9 each, however it offered a treat for geocachers in that it had a golden egg treasure hunt. Children under 6 only have to hunt for eggs hidden throughout the chateau and grounds, people over 6 have to answer 18 questions based on things they observed and could solve about Henry IV’s visit to the Chateau. Although the clues and hidden hints in the Chateau were in French and English, the question sheet was only in French, hence one of us gave up and the other wrote random answers, sometimes cheating off the French kids.
On the way home we found the broad beans in the vineyards, today’s French word ‘feves’ = broadbeans, to be avoided at all cost. However not to be avoided is our local pub where we go to escape our cold apartment and soak up the warm air created by the stone walls reflecting the sun away from the houses. These eco-friendly houses may work in summer but not spring. The TV at the pub was playing the highlights of rugby games in France and featured many New Zealanders including Victor Vito and Tawera Kerr-Barlow. We didn’t see Dan but he got a bad write up in the Press “as not being the man”.
A couple of people who decided to try living in France for three months, to absorb some of the culture and to try a diet of Baguette, cheese and wine.