The journey over was possibly one of the easiest in the history of travel. Exiting the leafy kingdom of Oxfordshire and motoring along the M40 and M25 without a single hold up had left us suitably jubilant, and not a little surprised. Then, being able to stretch out on the plane, as it was only half full, was nothing short of astonishing. And to top it all off, ours was the only plane at Bergerac airport, which is not much more than a large corrugated shed, so passport control, namely a smiling official in a small plywood booth, was an absolute breeze.
|A few snaps from the trip as a bit of a taster. Here my esteemed colleague wanders blithely through my shot.|
Picked up the hire car, well more sort of half a car, it was that small, in about 10 minutes flat, and after 50 minutes of gentle motoring through golden late afternoon sunlight, along empty roads we arrived at our campsite.
We were staying in one of their mobile homes for the next few days, and not having stayed in a mobile home in a French campsite before, I’m quite sure neither of us had imagined the type of rigmarole this would entail.
After a ream of paperwork was completed, we were shown the accommodation itself, which seemed fine, nice and clean, plenty of cooking equipment etc. not that we would be needing it that evening, time was getting on and we were eager to sample the local cuisine before the restaurants closed.
Unfortunately our ever vigilant proprietor had no intention of releasing us yet. It was clear we had only just got to the most important part of the whole installation process. We thought it was odd that all the cooking equipment was set out on the table when we arrived, rather than in the ample cupboards that lined the walls. The reason would soon become tediously clear.
|The medieval town of Beynac|
We were given a comprehensively, you could even say an intimidatingly, thorough list of everything the mobile home contained and told we would have to check it off against the actual contents, and present it to camp headquarters the following morning without fail. The list was encyclopaedic in its scope. Demanding confirmation on anything from the number of forks in the cutlery drawer, to things like chairs, tables and beds.
Neither of us speak particularly fluent French, so while items like verre and chaise were pretty straightforward, articles like étendoir à linge and tire-bouchon (clothes horse & corkscrew respectively it turns out) were going to take a bit of research. This was not a five minute task.
|Looking along the Dordogne and the houses at La Roque-Gageac|
Once we’d agreed on the basic parameters of our assignment, it was time to move onto the next phase of the induction. After telling us we should clear the table of the cooking equipment but we were free to place it in any of the cupboards as we saw fit, which was nice, it was time for the cleaning instructions.
Everything had to be cleaned with a special cleaner, to make sure no calcer remained, I’ve no idea what that means, but it was vitally important it not make a home on the utensils. We were fully instructed on how each item should be washed and dried, although I noticed after that they didn’t supply any tea towels.
One particularly strange aspect of the schooling was how our host would make light of the task, with a smile and a ubiquitous gallic shrug, yet when we would politely smile or laugh along, he would turn very grave and say how important it was that we paid attention. This happened a few times, which was very confusing.
|The impressive Chateau Montfort|
By the time we had been through all the rules, including which way I should park the car (despite the fact we seemed the only ones staying there), it was gone 7.30 and the restaurants in Limeuil, the nearest village, all closed at 8.00.
Thankfully we managed to get there in time, and we soon found ourselves sat on the terrace of Au Bon Acuel enjoying a meal of roast duck, washed down with a local red, all of which went down a treat.
|The river Dordogne and accompanying chateau|
By the time we got back it was pitch dark, and I spent some time sat outside looking up at all the millions of stars. It was so clear I could even see the faint stripe of the Milky Way smeared across the night sky.
I was looking forward to exploring this beautiful region over the coming days.