One of the most enjoyable aspects of the motorhoming lifestyle are the little eccentricities that we all indulge in. When Ji Hye was travelling with us she just loved the camaraderie displayed as motorhomers waved to each other as we sped along the various continental roads. And within that the apparent "superiority complex" of pointedly NOT waving to caravan owners etc. We are a strange lot.
Add to that the fact that you immediately bond with anyone and everyone when you eventually settle on a site and you realise you are part of a very special club. Take, for example our travelling companions on this trip, Gianni and Loretta Carbone. Our relationship is just a year old having met on the banks of the Loire in April 2012 and have been firm friends ever since. We have lots in common including an inherent curiosity to explore and try things new.
So it is that curiosity that left us open to the excitement of finding not just a new campsite but one of such unique proportions that it has crept to the very top of our all time favourites list. as described in our previous blog, We have been here now a few days and regard it as a gift that keeps on giving. Take last night, for example. Yesterday was a feast day in Italy, a national holiday and not surprisingly the site filled up with every imaginable shape and size of vehicle. Smeraldo is obviously a gem in this Ligurian coastline and the Italians have been very successful in keeping the secret. We are the only two GB vehicles on the site although there is a sprinkling of Spanish and German rigs.
So last night we returned to the little site restaurant located with its own terrace with views that defy description. It is called "Dos Olas" and is a Ristorante, Pizzeria. The facility is run by a charming Italian/Spanish couple, Yuri and Suzanne Leandri and they bring a delightful charm and a personal touch. Assisted ably by Chef Cataldo who manages the wood fired Pizza oven they produce quality food the Italian way.
Last night we felt celebratory for a whole variety of reasons and I opted for a salami Pizza while Nancy and Loretta thought they would start with a Calzone. Now my experience of Calzones is limited to the time I lived in Arizona where a Calzone was something you had as a starter to get you in the "mood" for the real stuff to come later. This was a game changer as the picture shows Nancy and Loretta quickly decided that sharing one would pass as the main course!! Fantastic.
Needless to say Gianni is in his element, proud to be an Italian and guiding us beautifully through menus with little tips along the way. As the evening drew to a close, Yuri came and joined us rounding up the evening with a bottle of Limoncello for a nightcap on the house.
On reflection, this restaurant deserves all the luck it gets. True, it is in a beautiful location but the inaccessibility of the campsite means that his customer base is likely to be confined to the camping fraternity. A worthy venture and one that deserves a lot of support.
One of the great joys of being on the road whilst embracing the site slogan of "here, there, everywhere and some other places too…:is that you leave yourself open to just about anything. So on the face of it Friday 5th of April was just another day it turned out to be very memorable in the strangest way. Bear with me while I explain.
As you will recall if you have been following along, we went to the tiny village of Monteton a couple of nights ago to meet up with Catherine the erstwhile restraunteur in Sainte Foy la grande who had moved to a new location in Monteton. Well, as Ji Hye had a free weekend we persuaded her to come over to us for another few days. First item on the agenda was a trip back to Monteton as its beauty and simplicity was sure to catch her architectural eye. It did. We spent some time admiring the church, the little square, the viewing gallery, pictured in the earlier blog and the narrow streets. It truly is stunning. One thing different from the previous night was the fact that the car parking facilities in the square were pretty well filled up yet very few people were to be seen.
Suddenly the sound of choral music wafted through the air, clearly coming from the church…It sounded really good. My head reckoned evening mass, yet this was a Friday and it was about 7:30pm.
Nothing daunted I strolled across and into the church for a peep and what happened instantly became a highlight of the trip to date.
Truthfully I had expected some sort of service with a prerecorded choral background but NO! I had stumbled upon something quite amazing.
Standing at the back of the small church I had gate crashed the choir practice of Anglican Choir of Monteton Church. Nothing odd about that you may think but I counted 16 choir members and the conductor. So out came the I-Pad and I started to record the sounds and in no time at all I was chatting to the Choir Master/Conductor.
The story is wonderful. Marjorie Holdsworth-Etschmann is the 4th conductor in the choir's 30 year history and there are typically between 16 and 22 members. Now, the thing that struck me when I first saw the choir in action was the fact that there were older people and younger people mixing within it. To my astonishment Marjorie informed me that the age range was from 9 to 92!!
They live for their performances doing different services each month in different churches as well as sundry concerts.
They are all British with strong french connections and all live in the region, some travelling up to 45 minutes just to attend practice. One could not help to be moved by their collective enthusiasm and their undoubted ecumenism.
They kindly posed for a group picture and Marjorie joined us for a chat (see picture) at Catherine's restaurant and the evening soared in our "Memorable nights" list.
After all that why not listen for yourselves with apologies for the quality…Its the best my I-Pad could do.
monteton choir (Click on the name) When we got home and turned on the TV to catch up with the nights news there was Ant and Dec reminding us that Britain's Got Talent is coming soon…Sorry lads, its here already.
I have been coming to this part of France for over 50 years. I recall as a child my parents taking us here and it left a sustained impression. Subsequently I kept coming back and so it was inevitable when I started motorhoming some 5 years ago that I would return to the Dordogne. I find it to be a veritable treasure chest of new views, villages and experiences which, simply, live in the memory bank.
In this immediate area you have places like Duras which is such a pretty place and, of course, Ste Foy la Grande itself, an imposing town built on the banks of the Dordogne.
A few years ago we discovered a little restaurant in a side street in the town which was run by a jovial lady called Catherine. We loved the place with its open fire where the steaks were done to perfection. We went back again and again and looked forward to a few visits this time around. Add to this the fact that the restaurant was very dog friendly and Catherine used to welcome Dougal like a long lost son.
So imagine our disappointment when Bob told us that the restaurant was closed and Catherine had moved to another location about a half hours drive away.
The village of Monteton is a few miles from Duras and both Bob and Brenda spoke very enthusiastically about it so at about 7:00pm last night the four of us, and Dougal, of course, piled into Bob's car and off we sped past countless vineyards through Duras and got our first glimpse of Monteton atop a hill dominating the landscape. Such an incredibly beautiful location.
As we meandered through the narrow streets we pulled into a little town square with the local church and a viewing canopy to admire the incredible landscape.
The greeting was warm and Dougal remembered Catherine's hugs so treated himself to another one!
The company was fabulous, as always, and so was the food. No hesitation in saying you should go there, it is really worth the effort. By the way if you tell Catherine you are a friend of Dougal's the sky is the limit.