Of course, I shouldn’t call them ‘The Boys’ but I am the eldest child of three, and have always thought of my two younger brothers as boys, though even the youngest is now in his fifties. Nick is five years younger than I, and Mike, six and a half years younger than Nick.
I had been in close contact with them since my current problems had begun, and they had arranged to travel over to France and spend a few days with me here.
The local airport at Limoges, as I have mentioned, is not very far away, and is a delightful little airport. The carpark is smaller than many UK supermarket car-parks. And having found a slot, which seems easily done, then even I deem it a short walk to the reception area. The cafe there sells good home produced food, and excellent French coffee, which can be taken to the seating area, or on nice days outside to the terrace overlooking the arrival bays. Several folk were there with their dogs to greet homecoming family members, and there is a relaxed and informal feeling.
Nick arrived in France first. His actual name is Richard, but the family have always call Nick, since he was ‘nick-named’ by a Great Aunt of his when about two years old, commenting. Well! I have heard of Old Nick, so I would guess this one must be Young Nick. Quite what mischief he had been getting up to at the time I don’t remember. But I do remember being asked to watch him whilst my eternally busy mother was doing something. The upshot of leaving a seven year old to watch over a toddler was that he emptied the saucepan cupboard, selected a measuring spoon, which had been a wedding present to my mother from one of her friends, and then proceeded to scrape the tar from the bottom of the newly installed electricity pole and anoint his face and hair. I had at the time a book which contained the story of the Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby and somehow the two things have become stuck together in my mind – if you will pardon the pun. All my story books must have been hand-me-downs, and I think if I had them now they would be worth a fortune as that particular one seems to have been published in the 1880’s.
But the grown-up Nick had very thoughtfully hired a car, as although I now had the Renault I am never certain when I might be called in to the hospital – though I have to say I am still awaiting the letter even now. After he had arrived and settled in we headed off down into the village for a very nice four course meal at the local bar/restaurant, and that was the beginning of a few days of intensive eating and drinking.
Next day we both went to collect Mike from his morning flight, which arrived early so the passengers had to queue for a few minutes to let the previous scheduled plane unload.
Back at the campsite to celebrate being together we cracked open a bottle of excellent champagne purchased from Andree next door, and had a light snack of fig bread and Coulommiers cheese, which I have decided I like, then went to have a look at the house at Bos du Mas.
Nick brought his laptop and surveying kit with him and got stuck in taking all the measurements to draw me a full set of plans and elevations, so I can decide exactly what I might want to do in the way of alterations, and also have something to show the Marie and the planners in Limoges if necessary.
Mike tried to get the door to the animal housing part of the Sous Sol which had stubbornly refused to yield to all and any attempts to get it to open, even after having been doused liberally in WD40 and Three-in-One. His verdict after an hour or so was that the final bit of the barrel is seized up through lack of use.
I wandered around trying to decide what might fit where in the way of bathrooms and kitchen fitments, and then out in the garden found quite a little plantation of Spotted Orchids, Well I think that is what they will turn out to be when they come into flower.
Nick started drawing up some of the plans on his laptop then in the evening we headed off for a meal at the local Relais recommended by Andree.
And what a good recommendation it was. Okay we did opt for the best of the Menus, but at 25 euros (currently £20) we had Flambé Prawns in a Cream Sauce, and what large and juicy prawns they were. They came with a salad and bread and they would have made a main course in most UK restaurants.
Next up was an entree of sweetbreads. I know many people are not keen on ‘offal’ as it is disparagingly termed, and there is a determined, and totally incorrect idea amongst the British, that sweet breads are testicles, which anyone who understand food knows they are not. We all without hesitation choose the sweetbreads, though as with all the courses there were several other good choices. Beautifully prepared, and again with enough in each serving to make a British main course I was determined not to waste a morsel of the wonderful sauce. So with the bread required to mop up the sauce with the prawns, and the bread required to mop up the sauce on the sweetbreads by the end of the second course I was absolutely stuffed.
My brothers had both ordered the Limousin steak, and Madame who took our order and was also the cook was delighted when they wanted it cooked a point (medium rare) rather than well-done. I had a Pave of Veal which was beautiful, but I had to pass most of it over as it was just too much, but I did manage the delicate and excellent Timbale of Vegetables, and some of the very nicely cooked chips.
Then came the cheese course. I tried a postage stamp size piece of each of the four on the cheeseboard, and only about as thick, but couldn’t eat them all. But not to be defeated I ordered a Creme Carmel for desert, though once again had to pass most of it on after a spoonful.
The wine was excellent and inexpensive, as was the coffee. At only 4 or 5 miles from Champagnac I think this will definitely be somewhere I will be seeing more of.
Next day I had to wait for the nurse to call and give me my daily injection of anticoagulant following the keyhole surgery, but ‘the boys’ went off to do some more measuring and scramble up into the loft and check on the main roof timbers. And by the time I got down to the house, guess what it -was time for lunch!
So off down the Voie Verte to a very modern restaurant which had been created in the old engine shed of what would have been the railway station at Champagnac, and it is only just over ten minutes stroll. We had the menu of the day for 14.95 euros – which was a nicely dressed and finely chopped salad with pieces of goat’s cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, followed by a beautifully tender daube of veal with red and green peppers, followed by a choice of a massive and delicious chocolate trifle type desert with macerated fruit and biscuits in the base, or two large scoops of excellent home made sorbet. Not bad for the equivalent of £12.
A little walking off was required and we headed along the Voie Verte and down though the woodlands
Coming out by the old Washing Shed, where in times past the local womenfolk would have beaten and rinsed the families washing
So having taken some exercise we thought to go down to the town for a light pizza supper in the evening. Sadly Wednesday was closing day, but we were on a roll, probably quite literally, and headed off to the nearby town of Challus with its ancient castle and interesting buildings. (I think well worthy of a further daytime visit)
I had Limousin Pie and something else, but to be honest by now I was thoroughly sated with eating. The restaurant bar was in a wonderful old building, with a fireplace taken from the ruined castle nearby, and in which the very friendly owner insisted on lighting a fire for us even though we were the only diners. He had expected no customers that evening as there was a big English / French Rugby match – and his bar had no TV!
Even after all the eating we had managed to do, next day after taking Mike back to the airport – and me into the hospital at Limoges for running repairs – Nick and I headed down into the local village for the three course lunch of the day, before Nick waved farewell leaving for his afternoon plane.
I feel overfull just typing all this food out!