Our fields of gold

Suddenly, as April began to warm up and the rains started to slow down, the Greater Daglan Area began to be carpeted in fields of gold. Well, okay, the colour is actually yellow, but gold sounds better.

At the moment, two plants have taken a leading role in these displays. One is the humble dandelion, which sprouts up in all kinds of fields that aren’t being actively farmed. Here’s one such field, just beside the road that runs between our village of Daglan and the village of St. Cybranet, just to our north:

They may be weeds, but they’re pretty.

A much more commercial crop is the canola, or rapeseed plant, from which an excellent cooking oil is extracted. (In French, it’s huile de colza.) Here’s a large field of it, on the north side of the Dordogne River, across from Castelnaud:

Where cooking oil comes from.

Of course the real gold star of the GDA plant world is the sunflower. Later on, in the summer months, you’ll see sunflower fields all over the area. As a sort of coming-attraction feature, here’s a look at a huge field of sunflowers that I photographed a few summers ago, south of Bergerac:

If it’s sunflowers you want …

It’s just an impression I have, but I think crops of sunflowers are much more numerous now than they were a few years ago, while fields of tobacco are much more rare. Probably a good thing.

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Posted in Agriculture in the Dordogne, Flora and fauna, Life in southwest France, Weather in the Dordogne | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A toasty day for a hundred K

Clear blue skies. Barely a breeze. Temperatures hovering around 28 Celsius (82.4 F) at 4 in the afternoon. Perfect conditions for a long run, you say?

Not if you’re running distance — and yesterday’s race in the Greater Daglan Area was a distance run, and then some. In fact, it’s what is called an ultra-marathon. (In case you’re wondering, I’m not running these days, but I used to run long distance, and have one marathon under my belt.)

This sign, just as you enter the village of Castelnaud, about 10 kilometres north of Daglan, tells the essence of the story. Have a look:

What it’s all about.

Yes, yesterday was the date for the 42nd edition of Les 100  km de Belvès, featuring both the 100-km run and a 50-km run. In fact, the race is considered the 100-km championship of France.

The village of Belvès is perched on a fairly high hill, so it means that the 100-km runners go down into the Dordogne River valley, and eventually make their way to the medieval town of Sarlat. Then they return, on a slightly different course, and are forced to run back up the hill to finish in Belvès.

Phew. I got tired just typing that.

Starting time for the event was 8 a.m. for the 100-km runners, and 9 a.m. for the runners (and walkers) who were doing half that distance. So you can imagine that when my wife Jan and I saw them, at 4 p.m., they weren’t exactly sprinting.

To watch the runners, Jan and I stood in a parking lot across from the restaurant Le Tournepique (one of our local favourites, with excellent Basque and Périgourdine food) and saw the participants cross the bridge over the Dordogne, and then make a sharp right and head up towards Château des Milandes (formerly Josephine Baker’s home).

To orient you a bit, here’s a view looking up from a table at the café La Plage, where I eventually headed for a cooling Perrier. At the top of the photo is the formidable Château de Castelnaud, while Le Tournepique is in the centre, at the level of the main road.

Looking up, towards the turn where we watched.

And now for the runners, many of whom were accompanied by friends or family members on bikes. Here’s a male runner, preparing to make the right turn in order to head north:

Off the bridge, ready to turn.

And here are two more male participants, already making the right turn, followed by a photo of a female runner, who’s accompanied by a cyclist:

Runners making the turn.

A female runner, with a cycling companion.

Remember that this was around 4 in the afternoon, which is just about the hottest time of the day, with a temperature around 28 C (82 F), and that from our vantage point the runners still had another 25 kilometres or so to go. With a final long stretch uphill. So if you’re thinking of entering next year’s run, I’d start training now.

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Posted in Bicycling in the Dordogne, Exercise and fitness, Life in southwest France, Sports, Sports in the Dordogne, Walking in the Dordogne | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The curtain goes up (2018)

Here in the Greater Daglan Area, we are at last, after a miserably rainy late winter/early spring, walking on sunshine. Lilacs are blooming, cafés and restaurants are open, and my wife Jan and I haven’t had to fire up the wood burner in our living room for several days.

The Season (when the hordes of tourists arrive) may not have truly begun, but the curtain has gone up. Just to give you a glimpse of the sunshine, here are a few photos of life today in the GDA.

On Monday of this week, we decided to take advantage of the weather and drive up to Castelnaud (about 10 kilometres from downtown Daglan) for a coffee on the terrace of our go-to afternoon spot, La Plage. Sorry folks — fermé le lundi. Closed Mondays.

So we continued driving on, over the Dordogne River, to the lovely and unusual village of La Roque-Gageac, carved into the limestone cliffs along the north banks of the Dordogne.

And here’s my view as I walked from the car park to an outside table at l’Auberge des Platanes:

The view towards our table.

And then, once seated, with a coffee poised in front of me, I swivelled a bit to the right and took this photo of some houses and the village church above us:

Another view of La Roque.

Then on Tuesday afternoon, as I was returning from some errands in Sarlat, I tried again at La Plage in Castelnaud, and found that it was not only open for business, but moderately anxious for my business. (A Perrier.)

Before I show you how it looks now, let me re-post the photo I published last October 31, when the terrace was torn up for some serious construction work:

 

Lots of work ahead (from October 2017).

Now here’s an up-to-date look at the terrace of La Plage, where I was happy to join friends Rosemary and Richard, who were having a refreshing drink after riding their bikes up from Daglan:

The newly completed terrace.

The weather is so nice that, as it happens, Jan and I will be heading up to the terrace at La Plage again this very afternoon. For us anyway, The Season has begun.

Posted in Cafés in France, Life in southwest France, Tourist attractions | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

We’ve gone up by a flower!

Every January, our Mayor leads a public meeting  in the Salle des fêtes in which he updates villagers on accomplishments during the year just ended, and plans for the year ahead.

His remarks are quite detailed, covering everything from road repairs to personnel changes to enhancements in providing high-speed Internet services in Daglan, and they’re supported by a large number of slides.

This past January, he revealed that Daglan’s status as a Village Fleuri was going up by one notch — a recognition of our progress as a place to live and visit.

To refresh you, the Villes et Villages Fleuri competition is a national program created in 1959. Over the years, the program has evolved. While the name suggests that villages like Daglan are full of flowers — which is true — it also signifies that the village is generally trying to improve the local environment and encourage a high quality of life for residents.

Cities and villages which qualify can be awarded from one to four flowers, which are displayed on signs as you enter the community. When Daglan was first recognized, we had one flower on our signs. And now, we have two flowers on each of the signs posted at the three main entrances to the village.

For the record, here is how our updated signs look, featuring the sign that you see as you enter Daglan from the north, coming down from St. Cybranet:

Look, we’re up to two flowers!

Given the energy of our Mayor and his council, I don’t doubt that we’ll be aiming for another flower before too long. And over the next few days and weeks, I’ll be showing off some of the changes taking place in Daglan. It’s all good stuff.

 

Posted in Flora and fauna, Life in southwest France | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tough love (on a vine) pays off … a little

For quite a few weeks, as winter ended and spring seemed just  around the corner, my wife Jan and I were worried — about our glycine vines (which you probably know better as wisteria).

We have two of these vines growing on the front of our house, and we had pruned them rather dramatically last autumn, in an effort to get them to bloom more in the spring. But as 2018 unfolded, no buds were appearing. I was preparing to write a parody of the famous Dead Parrot sketch, but featuring a vine.

For background, here’s some of what I wrote in the posting “Tough love for our wisteria,” on October 21, 2017:

This past spring, the wisteria vines at the front of our house in Daglan grew leaves like champions, but failed to flower. What could have gone wrong?

The answer, according to a French friend of ours with substantial local knowledge, was that we had failed to prune the vines the previous autumn. So now that October is here, the days are getting shorter, and the nights are getting colder, we decided to follow her advice.

Well, today we had good news, although a rather small sampling of it. As I drove back home at around noon, Jan stopped me in the road in front of our house, and proudly pointed up to the end of one of the vines. And yes, there it was:

At the end of the vine, a beginning.

Okay, I admit it’s not (yet) a prize-worthy gardening gem. But at least it’s a start. Fingers crossed.

Posted in Flora and fauna, Life in southwest France, Weather in the Dordogne | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Burning Man, the 2018 edition

On Tuesday of this past week (March 20), I was away from the village for most of the morning, but Radio Free Daglan’s Chief Staff Photographer — my wife, Jan — was not only at home, but on the ball.

So she was able to attend that springtime event for school children from Daglan and surrounding villages, which always ends with burning an effigy of a bad person — yes, le méchant Pétassou.

I’ve written about this annual event several times, so I’ll keep the details to a minimum here. My first postings on the subject were on April 10 and 11, 2011, in a two-part piece called “The judgement of the children.”

Here’s what I wrote back then, as Jan and I tried to figure out just what was going on — as costumed children marched past our home, following a strange figure perched in a tractor:

Believe me, it wasn’t easy finding a coherent story, and I checked newspaper articles, other blogs, Wikipedia, our Mayor’s newsletter, and more. What I learned is that Pétassou is a sorcerer, a prototype of Harlequin (Arlequin, in French), a legend, an evil man. He is often associated with rags, and may be pictured as a man covered in all sorts of rags. In one blog, the Pétassou made by the school children in another French village was an octopus. In some stories, Pétassou is responsible for all the crimes that have taken place in an area for a whole year.

But whatever the details, whatever the truth of the legend, the central point is that Pétassou is a bad character, and must be punished.

With that background, here’s a look at this year’s event, starting with the parade down Daglan’s main street:

And here they come!

In the next photo, you’ll get a closer look at the Pétassou figure, including tree branches for arms:

A rather leafy creation, followed by bees and butterflies.

And here’s a look at a small part of the parade through the village, with parents and teachers walking along with the school children, all in various costumes (but including a fair number of insects):

A nice selection of costumes.

The participants, young and old, really seem to get into the spirit of the event. Here are two teachers from the kindergarten-level school (nursery school) in the village of Castelnaud:

Having some fun with costumes.

As you can see, there was quite a crowd for the event, when all the participants gather at the village’s Salle des fêtes and start singing traditional songs — and putting the blame for all-things-bad on you-know-who:

A real buzz in the air.

This year there was a special participant in the songfest — one of Daglan’s better known senior citizens, who is regularly seen walking slowly through the village using a cane in each hand, and keeping a close eye on his little black and white dog as they go. Here he is, singing into his own microphone:

Joining in with the school children.

Eventually the crowd was treated to the sight of the Pétassou figure starting to burn — a consequence, of course, of all his crimes. Here the flames begin:

Lighting up the Pétassou figure.

And then the flames rose up and consumed Pétassou completely, as you’ll see:

Daglan’s own Towering Inferno.

I have to say that a lot of effort goes into this event — on the part of the parents and teachers, making costumes, teaching the songs to the children, and so on. And from what I have seen at past events, the kids enjoy it all.

Posted in Festivals in France, History in France, Life in southwest France | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

A wet fête turns sunny

For a few days, I had been worried about today’s Fête du Printemps, or Spring Festival (Sunday, March 18). Why? Simply because of the weather forecast, which was calling for quite chilly and wet (or at least overcast) conditions. Sadly, the forecast was correct, at first.

This was Daglan’s third such festival, which has included a variety of activities (including a lunch) but which is primarily a chance for gardeners to stock up on this spring’s flowers, trees, flowering trees, shrubs and other plants.

Around noon today, I went up to our main square, the Place de la Liberté, for a look around, and as I walked out our front door, a bit of drizzle started coming down. Still, there were some lovely flowers for sale, like this row of plants, placed in front of the village church:

A good selection of bright flowers.

In several locations through the village, there were stalls selling shrubs and small trees, like this collection:

On offer, ornamental shrubs and plants.

And despite the somewhat gloomy weather, there were a fair number of buyers around, checking the merchandise:

There’s buyers under those umbrellas.

The really good news is that as the afternoon wore on, the gloomy weather wore off. Eventually we were all bathed in sunshine, and it looked to my wife Jan and me that the Spring Festival had again been a success.

All along the village’s main road, families were strolling and checking out the wide variety of merchandise available — not just plants, but wine, home-baked breads, dried fruits, leather purses, cotton candy, honey, and much more. Cars were parked all over the place, and the restaurant of Fabrice le Chef seemed to be packed, both inside and out.

This looks like an event worth keeping.

Posted in Flora and fauna, Life in southwest France, Markets in France, Weather in the Dordogne | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments