Travelling through France. Part 1

Window box in France

Window box in Cahort, France

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.

Pont le Valentre

Pont le Valentre

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!

Beautiful frothy plant in courtyard - euphorbia 'Diamond Frost'

Beautiful frothy plant in courtyard – euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’.

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.

Red Chard

Red Chard

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.

Marigold

Marigold

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.

View near Riberac

View near Riberac

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.

Hedge in France

Hedge in France

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.

Roadside meadow

Roadside meadow

 

Roadside meadow

Roadside meadow

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

Tree lined roads

Tree lined roads

beautiful wild rivers,

Aubeterre-sur-Dronne

Aubeterre-sur-Dronne

and fields of sunflowers. . . .

Brown 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.

sunflower close up

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.

sunflower yellow

Field of sunflowers in France

Now we were happy!

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19 thoughts on “Travelling through France. Part 1

  1. The Dordogne is such a lovely part of France. The only disappointment is that there don’ t seem to be many footpaths which is a shame if you want to explore on foot.
    I am always impressed by the planting on French roundabouts.
    You were lucky with the weather. We had cold wet weather in Italy in the first week of September.
    The lovely frothy plant is actually an annual Euphorbia called Diamond Frost. It is so lovely for pots.

    • Yes, we noticed the bad weather on the map in Italy. What a shame for you.
      Thanks so much for the id of the Euphorbia. I have updated the post and also put it on my wishlist – maybe for next summer’s pots. I bet it won’t grow as large as the one in France.

  2. Sorry that you were disappointed with the garden tours – I’m sure you will make up for it in your second post 🙂
    Lovely countryside – France is a country I have never had a fancy to visit, you might have just changed that opinion Annette.

  3. We did a similar trip 2 years ago and I, like you, was frustrated at the scenes we had to pass by as there was no place to stop and shoot. But we found lots to shoot as well (as, apparently did you) and it was a truly lovely trip. Thanks for sharing.

    • Yes we really couldn’t understand why we couldn’t stop on a long straight minor road, but we were actually very surprised at the the French driving. They were so much better than drivers over here; much more patient when sitting behind slower traffic for one thing. My husband reckoned it was the climate! It is certainly a beautiful part of the world.

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