23.04

Cider-with-Rosie-France-dress-1

My final jaunt in the Dordogne Valley was to a beautiful village called Turenne. In fact, the village is so very beautiful, it’s actually been named one of France’s top five most picturesque villages!

Before we get to talking about Turenne though, can I take a minute to talk about something completely silly and unrelated to all things travel, but that made me so very happy last week it was quite ridiculous? Namely, the dress I’m wearing in the photos above. I picked it up from H&M in Selfridges back in January, and have been d y i n g  to put it on ever since! It’s the lightest, most feminine dress I think I’ve ever owned, and I kind of want to wear it every day from now until the weather turns cold again. And the good news is that I popped into H&M looking for new gym clothes last week, and happened to spot the exact same shape just in a different print…

What I wore :: Dress {not available online, but definitely in-store} || Ballet pumps || Bracelet || Watch

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So, to Turenne! The village is about twenty minutes outside of Brive, set in the lush countryside that surrounds the town. The landscape is completely stunning- all rolling hills and winding lanes and bright green fields dotted with the golden Limousin cows that’re native to the region.

Turenne is set high on a peak overlooking a valley, and we were told by our guide that the mount on which the village sits actually used to be an island! In fact, there are fossilised scallop shells in the stones that make up walls all over the village, and in the valley just below, there’s apparently an area containing so many shell fossils it’s been dubbed the ‘scallop graveyard’, and is a hotspot for archeologist and historians.

The village itself has been in place, in some form or other, since the 12th Century. I found it completely charming- the lanes and alleyways were steep and winding, the homes all shutter-clad and slate-rooved, and the views were out of this world. In fact, with how strongly parts of the village and the surrounding area resembled GofT’s King’s Landing, it really did feel out of this world at times!

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^^ See the scallop shell above left? ^^

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The climb from the bottom of the village to the very top of the castle only took around twenty minutes or so, and was worth the effort on my quads which still were aching from rockclimbing! The view from the castle was incredible- miles and miles of rolling countryside, and mountains in the distance. The weather was just perfect too- warm enough to bask in the sunlight and gather a few new freckles on my cheeks, but not so hot it made the climb up an agonising one. I could’ve stood there for hours just enjoying the view and the sun and the smell of grass wafting up from the valley. Speaking of the valley too, apparently often on cool mornings, the whole of the valley fills with fog right to the bottom of the castle, and so standing at the edge of the castle courtyard overlooking the landscape feels like sailing on a sea of fog. Can you even imagine how incredible that would be? I’d so loved to have seen it!

Marian, our guide, told us that it’s mainly the older generations of families who still live in Turenne, and that all of them, even those in their eighties and nineties, still walk up and down the steep passageways each day! I can’t think of a more beautiful place to live in old age, really I can’t! The village bears the marks of being both Catholic and Protestant, and we learned that it was one of the few places in France that provided a safe haven for people of both religious beliefs during the conflicts throughout history. In fact, it was the history of the village I loved most- I’d have happily picked Marian’s brains for hours about the site’s past! If you ever find yourself in the area, I’d wholeheartedly recommend taking a guided tour.

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Visiting Turenne made me realise once again how much I love being in the countryside. Up until maybe 18 months ago I still had a slight hankering for city life, but more and more, I can’t imagine ever wanting to live anywhere other than the countryside. I think it’s the peace of being somewhere rural that feels so completely refreshing. In my dream, our next home will have enough outdoor space for me to have a few chickens and maybe a vegetable patch too. We’ll be able to leave the house and walk straight into fields with Ted, but still be close enough to the city that I can hop on a train and be back in amongst it all. My daydreams do also secretly involve having ducks and maybe a few sheep too…but we’ll take that one step at a time! ;)

After getting our fill of the view, the fresh air, and the sunshine (which turned out to be not nearly enough, after coming home to a frosty-aired UK evening!), we headed back to Brive airport, said our goodbyes to lovely Karine (our guide from the Brive tourism board), and boarded our flight back home.

I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed the trip to Brive. It’s the most stunning area, and couldn’t be more perfect for anyone wanting to explore an area of France that feels welcoming and warm to visitors, and yet also beautifully untouched. It’s the very best of both worlds too, with Brive itself being quaintly urban, and the surrounding rural areas so lush and peaceful. The food’s incredible (we ate at more Michelin-starred restaurants than I could ever have dreamed of!), the people are so incredibly proud of their region and keen to share its secrets with visitors, and the scenery is worthy of a thousand photographs. Most definitely an area to consider visiting, next time you’re looking for some new corner of the world to explore!

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I’ll be putting together a video of some parts of the trip I’ve not covered here on Cider with Rosie very soon, so stay tuned to my YouTube channel if you’d like to keep up to date with all things video!

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22.04

Cider-with-Rosie-French-Marketcover

Visiting food markets is high on my list of Life’s Greatest Joys. It’s up there with the feeling I get in my spine when relaxing back into bed after a tiring day, and biting into a really great chocolate chip cookie, and wearing Jason’s T shirts to sleep in, and the two week stretch of spring where it seems as though every tree in England is covered in blossom.

One of the few things higher on the list than visiting a beautiful food market? Being dropped off in the middle of a beautiful food market in a place I’ve never visited before, and let loose with a camera!

I’m hopping around a little in the order in which I’m sharing photos from our trip, but I figured that there’s nothing better for perking up a Wednesday than photos of food! We visited the market on our final morning in Brive, just a few short hours before heading back to the airport and flying back to a surprisingly chilly England. The market is a huge one- spreading across the entirety of the central town square, and into a giant covered exhibition space too. It didn’t feel at all like the produce was just on show for cameras and tourists like myself, like I sometimes feel it is at Borough Market- most of the people there were French, armed with roomy wicker baskets, and were stocking up on the likes of green beans and salad leaves and eggs. And, of course, I saw countless people with paper-wrapped baguettes tucked under their arms and poking out of baskets, which did my heart good!

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What struck me most, during the few days I was in France, was quite much passion and respect the people there have for food. Each meal, whether it be breakfast, lunch, or dinner, was a sit-down affair. Starters were always preceded by an amuse-bouche and bread, desserts always followed by coffee and petit fours. Our guide Karine told us that in some regions of France, it’s quite normal for offices to shut down entirely for an hour or so over lunch, to allow workers to head home or to a local restaurant for a meal. I can’t even imagine that happening in the UK!

The vast majority of restaurants we ate in didn’t play music and had such a calm and peaceful atmosphere, which in turn led to the focus being on the food and dining experience itself. The effect was fascinating- I found myself enjoying what I was eating *so* much, but also getting full so quickly because I was really concentrating on my food, instead of just eating mindlessly.

I felt the same respect and love for food at the market- the produce was so artfully arranged, vendors encouraged us to help ourselves from bowls of olives and plates of finely sliced saucisson, and Karine explained that many of the vegetables would’ve been grown by the stallholders themselves in their gardens. Children were encouraged by farmers to pet and engage with the chickens and ducks and rabbits they had on offer (I asked whether the rabbits were pets or for the table, and the reply was ‘Both’!), and sampled ripe cheeses and cloves of pickled garlic and shellfish with abandon. It was beautiful to see.

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I left with a happy heart, a memory card full of photos, and a jar of acacia honey destined to be drizzled over soft cheese and creamy porridge and never, ever eaten in a hurry.

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21.04

Cider-with-Rosie-France1

STANSTEAD >> BRIVE, Wed .15th April.

I arrived in the Dordogne Valley early on Wednesday evening after a brief flight across the channel, and was met by a cool sun, peachy sky, and the tiniest airport I’ve ever set foot in. Clemence, who works for the airport in Brive, waited for us in arrivals with a sign, and we were whisked off straight away to the heavenly Castel Novel.

The hotel was a total fairytale (check the decor in my room, photographed below!)- set high on a hilltop in the countryside just outside of town. We (we being Aaron of Yinn & Yang, who was the other blogger invited along on the trip, and me), met up with two of the women who work to promote the Brive tourism board and Brive airport, and spent our first night in the Dordogne Valley eating a delicious meal of wine, fresh walnut bread (a speciality of the region), the most tender lamb I’ve ever eaten, and a sort of light strawberry cheesecake on a fine sliver of sponge instead of the usual biscuit base. It turned out that this combination- of delicious local wine, insanely tasty and locally-produced food, fresh bread, and a chaser of strong coffee and petit fours, would be a recurring theme throughout the trip. And I’ll tell you, it wasn’t a bad theme to have running!

After the meal, I moseyed back up a stone spiral staircase (equal parts fairytale and spooky) to my floor-to-ceiling floral pattered bedroom, and spent my first night in France imagining how fantastic it would be to live in a French castle all year round.

What I wore :: Hat || Cardigan {similar} || Jeans || Birkenstocks    Cider-with-Rosie-France15

The main focus of my visit to the Dordogne Valley was to get to know the beautiful town of Brive, and to share in the region’s local pride. We headed into the town centre on late on Thursday, after a morning spent at Les Pays du Travassac (which I’ll tell you more about later on in the week), and an afternoon of rock-climbing!

Brive was such a beautiful place to spend a few days exploring. It felt almost Parisian with its quaint grey buildings, wrought iron Juliet balconies, and meandering alleyways, except it was far, far more peaceful than the city of lights itself! It’s a pretty small town- even as someone with a notoriously dreadful sense of direction, I managed to become pretty comfortable with its layout after just a few short days exploring there! We stayed at the Hotel Quercy right in the centre of town (overlooking the main town square), which made it a great base for wandering and exploring!

I’ll be sharing a more detailed look into my time in the Dordogne Valley over the next few days, but below are a few of my favourite pictures taken during an afternoon of exploring on Friday, and during a particularly spectacular lunch during our last day in France.

There’s nothing better than getting lost in some new corner of the world, is there?…

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My favourite restaurant we visited during the whole trip was Chez Francis, in central Brive. The restaurant is run by a husband and wife team (chef Francis and his wife, whose name I never managed to catch!), and is probably the most quinessientially French place you could ever imagine! The dining room is wonderfully eccentric and eclectic- crammed top to bottom with vintage French posters, unusual lights, cartoons and doodles from celebrity guests, and antique heirlooms and knick-knacks. And whilst the decor was wonderful in its own right (not to mention too the warm and friendly service) it was the food itself that really stole my heart.

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Like every other meal we ate in France, it began with bread and an amuse bouche. The bread was without doubt the finest I tried (beautifully sour and hearty, with a crust to die for), and came with a little pat of creamy butter, raw radishes, and flaky sea salt to sprinkle on top. Then came a pile of tangled shaved asparagus and thicker sautéed stems, buttery baby leeks, and fresh aniseed-scented basil, and finally a strawberry, cream, and Chantilly-filled choux pastry that I was too full to tackle, but Aaron and our guide Karine assured me was totally divine! It’s this sort of simple French fare I love the most. I’d eat it every day, given half a chance!

First job on my to-do list now I’m home? Buy the finest French butter I can find, and start perfecting the art of homemade bread for weekend treats…

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Stay tuned for more posts from Brive this week!

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17.04

Cider-with-Rosie-Friday-happy-list

Bonjour bonjour! I arrived in the Dordogne Valley on Wednesday afternoon, and am here until Saturday afternoon exploring the area with the Brive Tourism Board! It’s totally beautiful here- lush and green, with the most charming centuries-old villages dotted here and there throughout the valley. We spent most of the past day and a half in the countryside, and now have moved across into Brive itself. So far, the trip’s involved food, more food, wine, more wine, and…rockclimbing. Yep. You read that right. I climbed a mountain. Strapped into a harness, attached via two little carabiners to a safety rope, and clambering up a sheer rock face. It was totally terrifying (I did have an actual panic at one point and couldn’t work out how to breathe, let alone how to pull myself up giant vertical rocks!), and also exhilarating, and then terrifying some more. It also made the next glass of wine we drank that day oh so necessary for post-climbing relaxation! ;) I’ll be sharing more from the trip next week, so watch this space! In the meanwhile, here’s a round up of all the tiny stuff that’s made this week so far a lovely one…

1. Tasting so much incredible French wine! I never, ever would’ve thought I’d be enjoying wine as much as I am- up until maybe about 18 months ago, the closest I came to drinking wine was the occasional glass of super sweet rose! Guess my palette has *finally* started to grow up!

2. Having enough points on my Boots card to pick up the Essie polish I’d been angling after. S C O R E.

3. Writing Jason the notes I always leave him to read each evening when I’m out of the country. It’s my most favourite of all our traditions (he keeps them all, too!)

4. Snapchat! I swore I’d not succumb to using a new form of social media, but lo and behold…I did. Find me at ciderwithrosieb, if you fancy following along with the nonsense…

5. Taking Jason out for surprise drinks at Pennyhill Park on Tuesday evening. Wednesday marked exactly one year since he proposed to me in Edinburgh (can you even believe it’s been a year already!), and so because I flew to France on Wednesday so wouldn’t be around to mark the occasion at all, I surprised him with a trip to Pennyhill’s beautiful bar for drinks on the Tuesday night. It was so fun sneaking around and totally catching him unawares! I also had the best passionfruit mojito of my life, which was made it all the more fantastic.

6. Getting RSVPs through the post!

7. Conversations about wedding stuff that go like something like this ‘how about this thing, or this, or this?’ ‘I hate that first thing, and I’m indifferent to those other two things, so just order whichever you fancy.’ We’ve got the whole low-key, low-maintenance wedding planning thing down to an art ;)

8. Driving along in the sunshine, listening to Mumford & Sons and Vance Joy and Haim. Feels so very summery, it makes my heart sing.

9. Lunch with Jason and my Godparents last weekend. We went to collect our wedding rings from the jewellers, then on to lunch at Cote in Guildford. My hands were shaking so much trying on my wedding ring in the jewellers, I can’t even imagine what it’ll be like on the day itself!

10. Chocolate fondant puddings. Maybe I ate two this week. Maybe not. You’ll just never know…

Since I’ve been (and am still!) away most of this week, I’ve not had chance to read all that much. Instead of me linking to posts I’ve read and loved, will you link me to posts you’ve either read and enjoyed, or written and are proud of? Let’s have a ‘show and tell’ in the comments!

Happy Friday, everyone!

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