Image: Nérac not Condom!
Last month we jumped on a plane from Edinburgh to Bordeaux to go on a mission to hone in on the areas we have been looking at online for the creative retreat.
Everything looks amazing from Scotland, but we don’t want to risk choosing an area that won’t be just right for the business. It has to be picturesque and peaceful for our visitors, so that they can focus on a little research and development time for their art (whatever form that might take!). There also has to be enough around and about to stimulate those who need a little external boost of inspiration, be that stunning architecture or landscape, bustling market squares or extraordinary people to talk to.
After a great night in vibrant Bordeaux (we loved it, especially Bar Brun, which was jumpin’!) we drove for an hour and a half South East to start exploring the Lot et Garonne department (region). We chose to avoid the main road and took the high road, stopping in Marmande, Agen and Condom (it’s true! and actually very tempting for a location as it’s GORGEOUS!) in order to end up just outside Nérac (pictured above) where we stayed with a friend in his stunning Chambres d’Hôtes, Hourné (www.hourne.com). There, we also met the lovely Raquel and ‘Yoga Dog’ who were on a Work Away to learn English (Raquel, not the dog!).
In the morning we went to the market in Nérac to experience a typical Saturday in the life of a local. We sampled organic Armagnac, the oldest brandy distilled in France from one of the first organic producers, drooled over mountains of fresh strawberries, giant tomatoes and wheels of cheese big enough to act as a spare tire on my car, before drinking coffee with Lionel’s friends outside a local café whilst basking in the sunshine… it was confirmed… this IS the life!
Once the Armagnac had fully worn off, we said our goodbyes and headed north towards the Dordogne department, stopping for lunch at Pujols (pictured above), then onwards and upwards until we hit the Dordogne river with a splash! We had not planned to stop in Beynac (pictured right) but as we drove through we just couldn’t take it all in quick enough!!! We stopped the car and got out with eyes jumping from houses built up the steep rock to wide clean river to castle towering over the village to blue skies… waaagh! An excuse to sit down and soak it in with a cool beer methinks!
I was aware though that this place must be hoaching with tourists in the summer time and this was one of the huge attractions of Nérac (pictured top). Our friend had told us that he doesn’t think the people who live down there really know what they’ve got and just how stunning it is and, therefore, don’t really market the area heavily. Our experience in Nérac felt genuine and that’s exactly what we want to be able to offer visitors.
We did continue further north, right up through Limousin to Saint-Junien, Chabanais, Poitiers and Blanzay, where we met friends Jean and Dave who treated us to a delicious lunch and some play time with their two new puppies, then down again through Charente.
All very lovely indeed, however, we were so sold on Nérac, we believe we’ve found the right patch for Studio Faire in the Lot et Garonne:
Long hot summers and fairly mild winters; the pace and space to think, breath and relax; French neighbours and friends to compare notes with about our different cultures…