Sunday 11 September 2022

Wine tasting in Monbazillac

Sunday 11 September 2022

Nido's parked up surrounded by vineyards.  It's been a very hot day and the shade of the forests and gentle breeze through the vines of the Dordogne have been very welcome.  We're at a French Passion site.  This concept is where the idea from Britstops in the UK came from; private businesses who offer free park-ups to motorhomes and camper vans.  Many are pubs, restaurants and garden centres in the UK.  Here in France it's mainly wineries, cider makers, cheese makers and farms.  We're sat outside at 9pm, in a warm breeze listening to the cicadas and owls.

Our first stop this morning was only half an hour down the road in the tiny hamlet of Queyssac.  It has a church, a restaurant, a small Marie (mayor's office) and an aire which is shared with the restaurant customers.  We managed to park the van in some shade as the temperature increased.  With a rucksack carrying water and fruit, we followed one of two marked circular walks.  This one was about 8km and took us through ancient deciduous forest, through wildflower fields and past old farms and outbuildings.  It was much greener and fresher here than we'd seen in the rest of France; this is how forests help the environment. From the many 'mushroom picking forbidden' signs, it's clearly a favourite spot for foragers in the autumnal weeks to come; knowing the French they'll give the 'Interdit' signs a stiff ignoring.  We were doing well following the yellow way marker signs.  But, as is often the case, they started well then petered out in the latter stages of the walk, to the point where at a crossroads of tracks, there was no indication of which one to take.  The result was we ended up in a nice village, but just not 'our' village, so the 8km walk became 12km!  It was very hot when we returned to the van and all shade had disappeared.  It would have been a quiet, peaceful place to stay, but we would have baked in the process.

Luckily a friend of mine, who was travelling around here in his motorhome a few weeks ago, recommended a park-up in the wine region of Monbazillac, which was only a 25 minute drive away.  By the time we arrived the van air conditioning had cooled us down.  This French Passion site is at a winery called Domaine de la Lande, and also known as 'Les Avinturiers.'  The owners offer several free pitches, separated by small rows of grape vines and some trees for shade, with views of vines covering the rolling hills all around.  We parked up with two other vans and had a bite to eat before a welcoming cold shower.  The owner - a spritely old chap who speaks only (very fast!) French - came around to invite everyone to a free wine tasting at 6pm; by now there were about seven vans here.  

We sat down in his air conditioned sampling room and he took us through the history of the Domaine and the various wines they sell. We were able to get the gist of what he was saying.  We sampled six different wines, including a lovely sauvignon blanc through to a delicious, sweet dessert wine.  All this was free with no obligation to buy and he wasn't selling tonight - I think he wanted to get home for his dinner!  But he told us the shop would be open at 0930 in the morning.  He had various flags donated by different nationalities visiting in their 'camping cars'.  I had an Anglesey flag in the van, which looks similar to the flag of Normandy and gave this to him at the end, trying to explain where it is we live in Pays de Galles.  I'm not sure he understood me but he gratefully received the flag anyway!

It's very quiet here now.  The park-up is next to a country road that seems to be a bit of a rat-run for the youngsters on their motorbikes and in cars, but I think they've all gone home for their tea now!  It's pitch dark and still very warm - 28'C in the van, so getting to sleep tonight might be a bit of a challenge, but it does cool down into the early hours.  Tomorrow is forecast to be even warmer - possibly up to 36'C - so the plan is to try and stay somewhere near the Dordogne river, where Salty can take a cooling dip and hopefully we can join him!

Lovely buildings on our walk

Forest and wildflower meadows

What a view!

Toilet service point - stylish!

Hot Dog!

Post wine-tasting walk through the vines, vans in the distance

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