This summer I am sporting a new … new for me, that is … range of ‘Fred Perry’ sports shirts for holiday wear. Julia has decided that I am now too old (and too fat) for wearing my usual range of ‘trendy tee-shirts’ and insisted that I buy a whole new wardrobe of Fred Perry sports shirts. These kind of shirts have, of course, been in circulation for a long time. Named after the international British tennis and table-tennis player, of a bygone generation, they are made of a soft pliable material with short sleeves and a rounded collar. I have to admit that they do suit me and they are very comfortable … although I have managed to smuggle in several of my favourite tee-shirts in my case as well!
So, it is the second day of our summer holiday to France, and after a night ‘slumming it’ at a budget hotel in Le Mans (apart from a sumptuous dinner at the nearby ‘Restaurant Le Portofino’) we are now ‘living it up’ at the wonderful ‘Les Flots Bleus’ Hotel on the banks of the River Dordogne in the picturesque medieval town of Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne. This is part of Julia’s birthday celebrations (even though her birthday was in May) … like her mother my wife has somehow the ability (and the nerve) to ‘string out’ her birthday celebrations for far longer than just the actual day itself. We have been to the Dordogne several times before but never to this particular part of the region. Julia’s parents stayed in Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne several years ago and Julia has always wanted to visit here. So this year she researched the area, found this wonderful little hotel overlooking the river, made the reservation for a couple of nights stay on our way down to Carcassonne … and here we are!
We haven’t got a room actually overlooking the river (we are on a budget) but it has everything we need – a comfy bed, en-suite facilities, free wifi – and easy access to a wonderful roof terrace with amazing views. It is quite reasonably priced and we promise ourselves that we will return and this time book a room at the front overlooking the river. Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne is a beautiful, small, medieval town that really does live up to its name – ‘beautiful place on the Dordogne’. This year the views along the river are spectacular because the river is in full spate. Because of the excessive rain fall in France during the last month or so the River Dordogne is at a really high level. The river side walks are flooded and largely impassable and the bridge over the weir just down from our hotel has water crashing through it at the rate of knots just about a foot below the bridge itself. Several of the small canoes and rowing boats moored along the river are partly submerged … it is all very spectacular! At least we are not in Paris, however, where the River Seine is 6.5 metres above normal!
We decide to postpone our main exploration of the town until the next day … we settle for a rest (after our long drive here), drinks on the terrace, and dinner in the hotel restaurant. Over drinks we get into conversation with a couple who think they recognise me as a famous English rugby player. Julia finds this very amusing (as will all my friends who follow the sport of rugby)?! We have an interesting conversation, none-the-less. Dinner is ‘to die for’! It has to be one of the ‘all time great meals’ we have ever eaten. Although it is only a Thursday, the restaurant is packed … it is easy to see why. If you are the kind of person who holidays in France you have to put this hotel and its restaurant on your ‘must visit’ list! During dinner a large party of people who are having dinner at two or three tables across the restaurant start looking at us and talking animatedly about us? When we look over they wave and start taking photographs? We haven’t got a clue who they think we are … perhaps the rumour of me being a famous rugby player is doing the rounds? We look round to the table next to us to see if the people there are the ‘famous’ people these other guests are taking about … but ‘no’ it is definitely us! We get into conversation with the people on the next table as a result and they turn out to be a couple of Americans on a ‘walking tour’ of the area. On our way back to our room after dinner I stop at the table of people who were talking about us. They seem very honoured that I have taken the time to greet them … I still haven’t got a clue who they think I am but we exchange some banter and I take a photograph of them for a change … they are delighted!
The next day we tour Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, take in all the sites and the atmosphere, stop for coffee, and visit the market … where Julia actually resists the temptation to buy a new scarf or a bag?! We decide not to eat in the hotel again that evening … you can have too much of a good thing … and settle for something ‘lighter’ at a rather nice Creperie we have found in the town. Before venturing out, however, we have a drink with our new American friends who turn out to be interesting academics and full of good conversation. We range over a whole host of topics but mainly to do with the upcoming Referendum over the EU in the UK, and the upcoming Presidential Election in the US.
We meet our new American friends for breakfast the next morning before we both leave this ‘beautiful place’. They for the next stage of their walking tour and us on the final leg of our car journey to Villemoustaussou. We have enjoyed good conversation during our time here but the one thing we haven’t done is actually introduce ourselves by name. I apologise for this and tell them ‘I am Jim, and this is Julia!’ The husband responds warmly, and introduces himself and his wife: ‘I am Fred, and this is Peri!’