Perched above the Dordogne Valley, the views from the village of Domme sweep over rolling hills patched with cultivated fields and dotted with the fully leaved trees of summer. The river snakes around the edges of the valley far below, metallic in the noon day sun, black at twilight.
The Hotel de l’Esplanade stands at the edge of a cliff at the outer edge of the village. From the northern side of this manor house- turned- hotel ,every window looks out upon the valley, and a terrace sits just above the cliff.
The weather is perfect this evening, so we dine on foie gras, truffled chicken, goose breast, cheese, and sorbet while we watch the sun set fire to the sky, streaking the clouds red and gold, then finally slip behind the hills..
Our morning stroll around the village reveals a busy village with boulangeries, small grocery stores, green grocers, and a butcher, as well as the inevitable art galleries and tourist shops. It is a pretty village, built with a honey- colored stone reminiscent of the Cotswolds, with the look of a place that is loved and cared for, cleanly swept and brimming with bright red geraniums and roses.
The statue of a staunch, stalwart French republican stands on the terrace of a small cafe, a symbol of the independent and rebellious spirit of the citizens of southwestern France. We will see more of this spirit in Cahors.
Our hotel here is diametrically different from the one in Domme. It is in the center of the old part of Cahors, in the midst of shops and cafes and traffic. With stupendous skill and team work between the navigator, (Bernard), and the driver (Kathleen), we manage to actually find it in the maze of tiny one way streets and postage stamp sized squares. Modern, clean, and comfortable, our room even has a jacuzzi, into which I plunge for half an hour after the hair raising trip into the city.
But we are in for a treat tonight. We have found listed in the Rough Guide for the Lot and Dordogne a small restaurant not far from the hotel which offers a choice of two entrees and two main courses on Saturday nights, which this is, while normally you get what there is. We walk the few blocks to the riverside restaurant, walk up a flight of stone stairs to a vine-covered terrace set with a few tables and chairs.
The host looks grouchy. He stares at us indignantly through thick spectacles, and asks if we have reserved. "Hall?" he says, and shows us to a little table for two. Two other tables are filled, one with a group of four French people, the other with 6 English. While we are sipping our wine as aperitif, the other tables fill with more French people. Some are obviously old friends of the host, home-grown from Cahors, and the terrace gets noisier and friendlier. The host’s act becomes obvious as he insults all of the guests equally.
We are brought a thick and flavorful vegetable soup, followed by a salad of home-cooked gesiers and foie gras that is the best we have eaten so far, a choice of lamb or duck as a main course, which is served with cubed potatoes sauteed in duck fat, and green beans with garlic, then cheese, the home-made desserts. I have a lemon tart, Bernard strawberries and cream. By the end of the meal everyone is talking to each other.
A very blond woman in a strapless black dress clinging to her substantial roundness has smoked incessantly throughout the meal, claiming loudly her right to smoke, and challenging the rest of us to stifle her independent "republican" spirit. But we are, after all, outside and the smoke drifts upwards. Nobody would dream of giving her a hard time. Her husband and his brother and His wife, and their mother, are all neatly and appropriately attired, good-looking and modest people. Madame Smoker, if her alcohol and tobacco intake is alarming, and though missing a couple of teeth, is good-natured and kind-hearted. This family seems to have known Monsieur le host since school days, and his wife, the cook, comes out to say hello.
When we finally pay our bill, it is 48 euros (about $60.00) for the two of us, including the wine. And the entertainment. We have paid this much each at our other restaurants, and had half the fun.
- Cave Artists
- Into the home stretch –