The silence of the bells, and other tidbits

Things are quieter now in Daglan. (What? I can hear you exclaiming. How could the village possibly be any quieter?) Aha, I reply: it’s all about the silence of the bells — and particularly what my wife Jan and I call “the crazy bells” of the village church. Apparently, that tradition is no more.

Just to orient you, here’s a view of the church bell tower, taken from near the front of our home, in a photo that just happens to show a hot air balloon floating nearby:

Our church tower, set against a clear blue sky.

The village church’s bell tower, set against a clear blue sky.

I shall explain: In the church tower, quite near our home in downtown Daglan, the bells ring out the time. At each hour, they ring the number of the hour (so, at 9 in the morning, they ring nine times). Exactly two minutes later, they do the same thing again. At each half hour, they ring once — whether it’s 9:30 a.m., or 11:30 a.m., or 4:30 p.m. Are you with me so far?

But there are three special times — 7 a.m., noon, and 7 p.m. After the usual bell-ringing of those hours, we’re treated to the ringing of the Angelus. This means three rings of the bell, followed by a healthy pause (maybe three seconds or so), then another three rings, then another. Total rings: nine.

My understanding is that all this ringing comes from the old tradition of calling believers to prayer.

But for years and years in Daglan, the nine rings of the Angelus bell was followed by the “crazy bells,” a cacophony of bell-ringing that seemed to go on and on. When daughter Anne was visiting us, one morning she counted something like 154 separate rings. That’s a lot.

Over the years of living here, Jan and I have become quite used to the bells, and often don’t even hear them, since we sort of tune them out. When we’re away from Daglan, whether staying with friends or in a hotel, we sometimes comment that we actually miss hearing bells in the morning.

But we’re not quite ready to forget the crazy bells. And no, we don’t know who ordered them to end, or why.

Full tilt at the 8 à Huit: If you’re a regular visitor to Daglan, perhaps with a holiday home here, you’ll be pleased to know that our convenience store is now open on Mondays. It’s a sure sign that we’re really into The Season. On Sunday, however, the store is open in the morning only.

The wash-out: And speaking of The Season, it’s sad to report that the weather still isn’t quite cooperating. On Saturday, Daglan played host to a large brocante, a sort of second-hand market that (for reasons unfathomable to me) attract lots of people. It was a beautiful sunny day, and the temperature climbed up to 30 degrees (about 86 American). But the next day, Sunday, was gray, rainy, and generally miserable. I took a peek into the Salle des fêtes parking lot, and saw a few brave souls tending their brocante stalls. But essentially, it was a wash-out. This is easily the wettest spring since we moved to Daglan.


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A not-so-hidden gem

This posting is about a gem of a place that seems to have been hidden in plain sight.

And we owe it to friends Elisabeth and Gerhard for convincing us to try Le Bistrot d’Epicure — a restaurant that my wife Jan and I had driven past countless times. For some reason, perhaps because it’s beside a relatively busy route, we had never been attracted to the restaurant. But it turns out that it’s terrific.

Le Bistrot d’Epicure lies on the north side of the D703, which runs from Beynac to Saint Cyprien, and on to Bergerac. The restaurant is quite close to Saint Cyprien, so it’s not a long drive from Daglan.

Our friends noticed it as they were driving to their holiday home in Daglan last week. It was at night, and the restaurant (a former farmhouse) appeared to be quite lovely and welcoming, glowing with light and full of people. So we made a reservation for lunch during the week.

As it happens, it was a rather cool, gray and drizzly sort of day, so there was no way we could eat on the restaurant’s lovely terrace. But inside, the seating is comfortable, the art that covers the walls is attractive and modern, the service is attentive and friendly, and the food is quite wonderful — both in taste and presentation. It’s run by a couple, Marina and Chris, and has all sorts of nice personal touches.

All four of us opted for a somewhat reduced menu — just a plat principal and a dessert, at 28 euros each. However, we also received a good selection of amuse-bouches, including a delicious cold soup that followed this tray of goodies:

Each bite was delicious.

Each bite was delicious.

Elisabeth chose cod, which was served on a bed of fresh green asparagus, like this:

The cod was perfectly cooked.

The cod was perfectly cooked.

I had fish as well, and thoroughly enjoyed this plate of salmon:

My attractive plate of salmon and accompaniments.

My attractive plate of salmon and accompaniments.

For dessert, Jan and I both had strawberries — thinly cut and served with fine slices of basil, like this:

A sweet plate of fresh tastes.

A sweet plate of fresh tastes.

The total for lunch — counting a kir each, plus two bottles of Sancerre and  a bottle of sparkling water for the table, and a coffee each — averaged just under 55 euros a person. We’re already planning our first return trip.

If you want to know more, the telephone number is 05 – 53 – 30 – 40 – 95, and the restaurant’s website is at



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Lunching frenzy

When my wife Jan and I used to travel on vacation from Toronto to Daglan, we would eat lunch outside our home just about every day — not only to try new restaurants, but also to visit new towns and villages. But now that we live here full-time, we eat lunch in restaurants much less frequently.

However, we are currently in the midst of something of a lunching frenzy.

The reason is the presence of our friend Joanne, who owns a holiday home very near us, in the heart of Daglan. She arrived at the Bergerac airport on Wednesday from England, and Jan picked her up and delivered her to Daglan. And so the lunching began!

On Wednesday, we ate at La Cantine, the new bistro/café of chef Fabrice Lemonnier. I’ve written about La Cantine a few times recently, so I won’t insert any photos in this posting, nor any comments. (Except to say that I really, really enjoyed my entrée of escargots with slices of chorizo in a creamy sauce over toast.)

On Thursday, the three of us were off to lunch at Le Diabolo-Fraise in the hamlet of Nabirat. Again, I’ve written about the restaurant several times, so I won’t go into much detail — except to say that with five courses of always-fresh food in its daily (set) menu, it offers possibly the best value in the Greater Daglan Area.

As always, we began with a nicely spiced vegetable soup; followed by a composed salad; followed by meaty lacquered spare ribs served with pasta in a tomato sauce; followed by cheese; and finished with lemon sorbet and fresh strawberries and cookies. The composed salads are always different, and offer a lot of variety. Here’s mine:

Sausage, egg, vegetables -- a delicious mix.

Sausage, egg, vegetables — a delicious mix.

So much for the value meals — on Friday, it was onward and upward to Michelin-starred dining at Le Gindreau, in the village of Saint-Médard in the département of the Lot, less than an hour’s drive from Daglan.

After a coupe (of Champagne) and some excellent amuse-bouches, we began enjoying our entrées with a nice bottle of Sancerre. Jan started with a rich soup of fish (with pieces of various fish) and smoked eel, while Joanne and I each enjoyed a lovely dish of green asparagus, which tasted wonderful and looked like this:

The sabayon on the side was a perfect accompaniment.

The sabayon on the side was a perfect accompaniment.

Next came the main courses, which were lamb for Jan and Joanne, and sweetbreads for me. (I am a huge fan.) As loyal and careful readers of Radio Free Daglan will know, I especially love the sweetbreads as served at Le Grand Bleu, the Michelin-starred restaurant in nearby Sarlat. So when I had the dish at Le Gindreau, Jan naturally asked me which I preferred. I answered that they were so different in execution that I couldn’t favour one over the other — they are both delicious. And here’s my plat principal:

A rich sauce, with morel mushrooms, were among the extra touches.

A rich sauce, with morel mushrooms, were among the extra touches.

To accompany the lamb as well as the sweetbreads, I chose a Côtes-du-Rhône that turned out to be a hit with all three of us. It was the 2014 “La Sagesse” from Domaine Gramenon, made solely from the Grenache grape, which we found to be rich and intense and delicious. As the winery’s own tasting notes say, “The palate is complex and powerful, a lot of structure and intensity, everything develops harmoniously.” For those interested in wines, here’s the label:

The producer is Domaine Gramenon.

The producer is Domaine Gramenon.

For dessert, both Jan and Joanne had soufflés, while I had this wonderful concoction involving lots of salted caramel with peanuts:

Creamy and crunchy, all at the same time.

Creamy and crunchy, all at the same time.

Finally, to give you a look at the surroundings where we ate, this photo shows a nearby table where a birthday was being celebrated, with a great sizzling sparkler lighting things up:

The interior of Le Gindreau.

The interior of Le Gindreau.

Today (Saturday), it was back to more ordinary — but still delicious — fare, this time at Le Tournepique, the Basque restaurant at Castelnaud. There I had one of the tapas menus, while Jan and Joanne started with tapas and then moved on to mussels and frites.

Joanne leaves tomorrow, so you might expect that our lunching frenzy is over. But no. Good friends Elisabeth and Gerhard arrive from the Isle of Wight to their nearby holiday home, and we are all set to have lunch with them (and friend Richard) at La Cantine.

Can you guess what I’ll be having? Here’s a clue:

The rich, salty butter was perfect with the fresh oysters.

Salty, buttered bread and oysters at La Cantine.

Yes, it’s oyster Sunday. Of course, this will not take place until we attend the May 8 ceremony at the village’s war memorial, to mark Victory in Europe Day. Lest we forget.


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Slipperies on a sunny Sunday

Graciously, the skies did not choose to rain today. Instead, the Greater Daglan Area was bathed in glorious sunshine all day — and in fact the bright blue sky and fluffy clouds remain very much in evidence as I write this, with evening approaching.

Today’s break from this spring’s rainy weather added to the festive atmosphere as we joined up with friends Rosemary and Richard for a lunch of white wine and oysters — or slipperies, as they’re known to our friends in Toronto — at Daglan’s new café, La Cantine.

Based on today’s experience, it looks like Chef Fabrice — Fabrice Lemonnier, more formally — has come up with a winner for Sunday lunches. He is still offering a full lunch menu (more on that later) but has fresh oysters ready and waiting for those who want them.

Here’s what our table looked like, as the lunch began. Aside from the trays of Marennes-Oléron oysters, we had wedges of lemon and tasty slices of bread that were thickly slathered with a rich butter and then sprinkled with salt.

The rich, salty butter was perfect with the fresh oysters.

The rich, salty butter was perfect with the fresh oysters.

For each customer who orders the oysters, a glass of white wine is offered. We accepted graciously, of course, and then went on to order a couple of bottles of Petit Chablis, all in the spirit of having a long and relaxing Sunday lunch.

I lost count of how many slipperies I consumed, along with several slices of bread, but the total must have been impressive, because I then had no appetite for a “normal” lunch. In contrast, Rosemary had a nice entrée sized serving of salmon, done three ways; Richard had rack of lamb; and my wife Jan had grilled steak. They were all quite happy.

At the end of the meal, I had a small plate of cheese (Cantal and Rocamadour), and then Rosemary and I shared a dessert plate. And then it was coffee all around (and I have to say, the coffees at La Cantine are particularly good).

And here we were at our corner table, after all the eating and drinking were done:

We happy four, we band of oyster eaters.

We happy four, we band of oyster eaters.

Of course, we are now facing a dilemma. Will we now have oysters at La Cantine every Sunday? Will we instead have Sunday lunch at Sawadee, the Thai restaurant in Cénac? Or will we alternate between the two? Not an easy choice to make.

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Let The Season begin!

Tomorrow is the 1st of May, and with May comes the real beginning of The Season in Daglan — the start of the annual flood of vacationers that reaches its peak in July and August.

And today, Saturday, was the first day of the 2016 season for Le Thé Vert, the tea room-cum-restaurant operated by Judith Thomason. So to help get things rolling, Jan and I were there for lunch.

Le Thé Vert is a popular spot as the season rolls along, often completely filled with the cyclists who enjoy the gentle hills of the Greater Daglan Area. It’s easy to find, as it’s located at one of the main entries to our village, near the Céou River bridge.

Sadly, the weather did very little to help the occasion. Yesterday the sky had been a piercing blue and everything looked wonderful; today the temperature dropped, the clouds returned, and it either drizzled or poured. So clearly we were not going to be eating lunch on Le Thé Vert’s front terrace or the rear veranda. Ah well. Instead, Judith directed us to a comfortable table inside.

We began with a kir, and then moved straight to the food (along with a bottle of local rosé wine). I chose the three-course menu du jour at 14 euros,  while Jan opted for the chicken curry, a large serving that came with several accompaniments, also at 14 euros.

My entrée was this plate of paté maison, a tasty mixture served with some cornichons and a bit of tomato salad:

Hard to go wrong with a tasty paté.

Hard to go wrong with a tasty paté.

Jan said her curry had a wonderful taste, and she enjoyed it with a crispy poppadom. My plat principal was also tasty — it was a Rougail de saucisse, a stew of pork sausage slices in a spicy tomato sauce, served over a bowl of couscous, with small servings of three different salads on the side. Here it is:

My bowl of spicy sausage stew.

My bowl of spicy sausage stew.

We finished with a creamy individual cheesecake (for me), and coffees for the two of us.  And then it was back out into the rain, and back home.

Crummy weather aside, it’s good to have Le Thé Vert open again — along with the restaurant Le Petit Paris and the recently opened café of Fabrice le Chef, called La Cantine. We’ll be there tomorrow, by the way, for oysters. Yum.

Posted in Bicycling in the Dordogne, Cafés in France, Camping in the Dordogne, Food, French food, Holidays in France, Life in southwest France, Restaurants in France, Restaurants in the Dordogne | 4 Comments

Chuffed? C’est nous!

The Anglophones who live full-time or most of the year in Daglan are feeling pretty chuffed today. And well we might. Yesterday’s lunch for the Club de l’Amitié (Friendship Club) was a major success, and it was all planned, prepared and served by those of us whose first language is English. We even cleaned up the Salle des Fêtes afterward.

Initially, the event had its doubters — such as, well, me. As I wrote in my previous posting:

I confess that I had my doubts from the start. I figured that the French members of the club (the majority, of course) would be less than thrilled by the thought of being served English food.  (Eggs and chips? Over-cooked cabbage?) But I stand corrected — apparently, this is going to be quite an event.

As it turned out, everything went swimmingly, the result of several planning meetings, lots of phone calls and visits, careful shopping, lots of preparation, and those familiar Anglophone characteristics, joie de vivre and savoir faire.

On both Saturday and yesterday, lots of work was involved. Some of the cooking was done in the homes of various members, and some was done at the Salles des Fêtes itself. Everyone chipped in, including yours truly, who peeled potatoes and carrots for two hours on Saturday. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the some of the prep and cooking:

Peel, chop, mix, stir -- you get the idea.

Peel, chop, mix, stir — you get the idea.

My wife Jan was one of two club members charged with making a total of 64 individual portions of English trifle, complete with Cointreau-soaked sponge on the bottom. Here’s Jan’s contribution on our kitchen counter on Sunday morning:

Strawberries top the individual servings of trifle.

Strawberries top the individual servings of trifle.

A lot of work went into the set-up of the tables, chairs, place settings and decorations for the dining hall. There was lots of red, white and blue, with bunting hanging from the rafters and various flags — including Canada’s, we’re happy to say — located around the room, like this:

Flags were placed around the hall.

Flags were placed around the hall.

All the tables were decorated in red, white and blue; menus were rolled and wrapped in ribbon, and the menus and small vases of flowers were placed on the tables. It looked impressive:

The tables looked good.

The tables looked good.

And then came the food. We began with bubbly wine with a frozen raspberry in each glass; then came carrot soup; smoked mackerel pâté; beef and carrot stew cooked with Guinness, and served with a square of puff pastry and a heap of mashed potatoes; then the individual portions of trifle;  then a selection of three English cheeses served with English biscuits; and then coffee served with After Eight mints. Oh yes, and lots of red wine from Bordeaux throughout the meal, plus J & B scotch served with the coffee, for those who wanted. (Yes, I did.)

After several hours, the hall began to clear. And as you can tell from the smiling faces, people were leaving happy:

After a long lunch, it's time to head home -- and nap.

After a long lunch, it’s time to head home — and nap.

A full day later, I think we’ve all recovered. And so now, in the late afternoon of Monday, it’s time to drive up to Castelnaud, have a coffee at La Plage, and catch some rays. Yes, the sun is shining on the Greater Daglan Area.

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Daglan goes Anglo (a bit)

Just in case you were starting to dream of lunch in Daglan this Sunday with some Carbonnade avec ses légumes, pâte feuilletée et purée de pommes de terre — I’m sorry. You’re too late.

Believe it or not, the Club de l’Amitié (Friendship Club) is putting on UN REPAS BRITANNIQUE on Sunday in the Salle des Fêtes, and the lunch is already over-subscribed. So you simply cannot attend, unless you’ve already signed up.

What’s unique about this five-course  lunch is, first,  that the menu includes only foods that one associates with Britain, and, second, that the cooking is being done exclusively by the club’s Anglophone members, including my wife Jan (she is one of two English speakers who is responsible for dessert). And no, I’m not goofing off completely. I will be peeling potatoes as required, before the event. I think I’ll even bring one or two of our Canadian flags (like this one) to the lunch.

At least two Canadians -- Jan and I -- will be involved.

At least two Canadians — Jan and I — will be involved.

The idea for this event came from one of the French members, who pointed out that it’s always been French chefs (or amateur cooks) who make the club’s meals. Why not have the Anglos do the work for a change, he reasoned.

I confess that I had my doubts from the start. I figured that the French members of the club (the majority, of course) would be less than thrilled by the thought of being served English food.  (Eggs and chips? Over-cooked cabbage?) But I stand corrected — apparently, this is going to be quite an event.

You will, of course, stay tuned for the in-depth coverage. A review, with photos, will be provided by Radio Free Daglan, once the last tasse of coffee and the last verre of digestif are consumed. The timing of the review will depend, in large measure, on how much of the digestif I consume personally.


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