We were lucky enough to spend the first two weeks of September driving around South West France and even luckier that the sun came out every day.
We stayed first in a hotel in Cahors. Cahors is a wonderful medieval town with beautiful old buildings, but while my husband was photographing the architecture, I, of course, was hunting out the plants. Imagine my delight when I discovered a tour of 5 secret gardens being run at 3pm that very day. We duly turned up at 2.55 only to find out that the gardens were all tiny gardens within the town, the tour was on foot and the guide only spoke French. Still, we thought, it could still be wonderful. . . . . .
. . . . . . . . .it wasn’t!
The gardens were less than impressive; mostly made up of combinations of flowers and vegetables grown in raised beds. While I am all in favour of growing plants in every corner possible I couldn’t help thinking that this was really just a cheap marketing ploy for the town. The town, actually, didn’t need any extra marketing – it was well worth seeing in it’s own right, with its narrow alleys and medieval buildings.
The guide certainly knew her stuff; well. she certainly had a lot of stuff to say, but unfortunately our French wasn’t really up to it and after two hours our brains just turned off and we made our excuses.
One fact that I did understand was that the region was famous for growing saffron, but that the poorer people used to use marigolds instead to colour their rice – now that is worth remembering.
We then based ourselves near the small town of Riberac in the Dordogne, and spent a week touring the beautiful countryside and nearby villages. It was great; the roads were empty and the views magnificent. We did make the mistake early on of stopping by the side of a long straight minor road to take some photos. That did not go down well; every car that passed hooted at us, until we finally got the message that we couldn’t stop there. It was a shame as we did miss some great photo opportunities.
One thing we noticed was that the French do hedges really well; they combine colours and shapes of different shrubs to produce something very beautiful. Unfortunately I couldn’t get any photos, but this larger version by a river gives you the idea.
They also create some wonderful verges and roundabouts. How about this wildflower meadow all around the edge of a big roundabout. I am surprised all the cars didn’t bump into each other as everyone admired the pretty flowers.
Luckily there was a lay-by not too far past so we didn’t cause a major pile up. There was another photographer doing the same as me, so after exchanging a few French pleasantries, during which I have no idea what was said, we managed to avoid getting in each other’s photographs.
As we travelled we saw much of the typical French countryside:
tree – lined roads
beautiful wild rivers,
and fields of sunflowers. . . .
Yes, I did say sunflowers!
Now many plants have very beautiful seedheads. . . the rose, the poppy, even the humble dandelion. However, the sunflower is not one of them.
There is nothing more depressing that all those fields of golden yellow with heads smiling up at the sun having turned to mucky brown with heads hanging down to the ground.
I have not seen this before and was worried at first that the crop had got some terrible disease. So I had a closer look.
All was well – the lovely black and white seeds were just hiding under the dead flowers. Look at the size of that flower head too!
But I can’t finish on this note, so here is a picture of a wonderful field of yellow sunflowers that we did manage to find. They had obviously been planted later than the rest.
Now we were happy!