There’s Something Intriguing About Living in the Rocks…
I have had an absolute obsession with staying in a troglodyte gite for years. There’s one in the Dordogne region that I want to spend at least a week if not a month in. Dordogne wasn’t in the cards for this trip once I knew were and when my French lessons were going to be. As a little bit of a tease for a future troglodyte adventure, I found a Chambre d’Hotes (Bed and Breakfast) in Nazelles-Negron, about 3.5 to 4 hours from the airport in Paris and nearly 40% of the way to where we are really going. Perfect after an all night flight from the US.
We arrive in Nazelles-Negron thanks to the GPS looking for “Rue de la Cote Rotie” (already a good sign for Wine Lovers) and ended up on the wrong road, one lane wrong road, heading up a hill alongside homes. There’s an older gentleman working in his yard. We stop the car, I get up my courage to ask for directions and to my surprise he understands me and I understand him. He tells us to go back to the Marie (town hall) take a road with the word “soif” (thirst) in it and follow that up to Cote Rotie. Seems simple (If I understood him correctly); what was hard was turning the car around. We continued up this little road to try to find a place to turn around and it dead ends. But just before the dead end we see another very old man, who is challenged to walk also working in his garden. He comes out to greet us. I explain the problem, he gives us the exact same guidance, he struggles over to help guide Phil in turning around the car, he bids us “Bonne journée” and we’re off. Two things to note here, both men were incredibly friendly and the second gentleman was easily in his late 80s, probably disabled not just old, and he was working in his garden. I want to be like them, I want everyone to be like them. Back on the main road, and we see no street sign with the word “soif” in it. I call the bed and breakfast for the second time, and the woman who seems so very happy, tries to explain again to us how to get there. Finally she asks where we are and we tell her, we are on Rue des Écoles – she says stay put I will come and get you in five minutes. We wait, she comes, hops in the car and directs us to her home. We were close, just not exactly there.
A Wonderfully Welcoming Place to Stay
The bed and breakfast is absolutely precious. Our room is built right into the rock.
The floors are beautiful terra cotta like tile and it is simply and tastefully decorated. The toilet is separate from the shower and sink. All are lovely and modern.
There is a working garden: visible right now are strawberries, leeks, shallots, garlic, tomatoes, and zucchini plants.
Our Warm and Charming Hostess – A Woman Who Has Led A Very Interesting Life and Has Definite Opinions
Our hostess, Francoise LeChat (I’m not making the last name up) is a hoot. She’s had quite the life. Unfortunately, she was widowed at an early age, her husband was only 37 and I suspect she was younger than he at the time. She has 3 children, 2 sons and a daughter. Her one son, who she is very close to, lives nearby and has children of his own. She was a carpenter and quite accomplished as she fabricated all of the wood cabinets in the house and helped with the transformation of the property into her home and the Chambre D’Hôtes. Francoise worked in the cinema, she showed us photos of Nick Nolte on a photo shoot. She was in set design and costuming and takes pride in doing things right and the old fashioned way. She is very creative: she decorated and made a lot of the items in her home. After her husband passed away, she took her children with her to Ethiopia for a month. The fact that Ethiopian women had had absolutely nothing, were willing to share what little they did have with her and her children, made a lasting impression on her. She told me that experience really shaped her world view. Everything she cooks with and eats is organic. Francoise tries not to waste anything. She loves her life; she told me it is like living at “Little House on the Prairie”. She has destane for people with lots of money, who think they are big shots. She thinks Monsanto single handedly ruined the environment. To put it mildly, she’s not wild about Macron and his relationship with the American President. To sum it up, she boarders on having socialist views. I like her a ton, she’s intelligent, well read, and at 76 she’s sharp and has an opinion on everything.
She was so welcoming and fun. Full of life. She had been preparing dinner for us and it was a feast! We started with a glass of sparkling local wine. We talked for awhile. Nothing rushed at all.
After a long trip, it’s time for some sparkling wine.For our first course we had a leek and chevre (goat cheese) brik. Brik is a Tunisian (or possibly more generally North African) dish that is a thin pancake, wrapped around a filling. Often fried but in this case, baked until golden in the oven. The leeks were sautéed for at least an hour; they were beautifully caramelized and mixed with a smooth, creamy, light goat cheese and I’d guess egg filling. It was served on lettuce from her garden. It was sensational with the minerally, bubbly, wine. Give me another, and I’d be done with dinner. Absolutely, delicious!
The main course was a chicken dish made with a “pintade” or guinea fowl in English. She served it with mushrooms and roasted potatoes in a deep, rich wine sauce. We had red wine with the main course, the same red wine she used to cook the chicken. It came from a close by vintner; she brought the bottle he filled it with wine. As you can imagine, all the ingredients were local and they paired together wonderfully. The chicken was moist and flavorful, the mushrooms were earthy, and the potatoes were crisp and sweet. It was wonderful.
Francoise had planned to serve a cheese course, but Phil wasn’t feeling all that great so we skipped it. She promised to serve the cheese with breakfast.
Dessert was amazing, it was almost like a clafoutis but instead of being made with black cherries, the fruit was raspberries. The cake was not sweet, just sweet enough and the raspberries were at the height of freshness. Franciose served it with a crème anglaise. This was sensational.
We finished off dinner with an espresso and went to sleep; it had been a very long day and a half.
I slept like a rock; Phil less so. He felt better in the morning and breakfast was simple and terrific: rich coffee with warm milk, bread, butter, croissants, 3 homemade jams (pear, citrus and peach), homemade yogurt (so good!), fresh squeezed juice (orange, kiwi and apple), the goat cheese we missed last night and left over cake.
Two things to note here — Phil loved the cheese, in fact he at the rind. Anyone who has had cheese with Phil knows that he never eats the rind. He also had another slice of cake (diabetic eating cake for breakfast) because it was so very good. Francoise sat with us and we had another great conversation.
She offered to take us on a walk around the village. We gladly accepted. We walked for about 6 kilometers with her, through vineyards, by other trocoldyte homes and ruins, past properties that claimed to be “chateaux” but she assured us weren’t large enough to be “chateaux” and shared with us the inside scoop on the neighborhood.
Back at the bed and breakfast we took a little time for Phil to play the guitar and for me to knit. We didn’t want to get to our next stop too early and I have to admit, I hated to leave Francoise she is captivating. I hope we get to stay with her again, if you want to learn more about Francoise’s Chambre D’Hôtes, there’s more info on Gites-de-France website.
As we headed to the Bordeaux region, the scenery was beautiful. We were struck by the beauty of the colors. Every thing was so green, and so yellow!