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.
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?…
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.
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…
Stay tuned for more posts from Brive this week!