Farmers’ markets and the French Revolution

posted in: Travel | 1
Dawn at Libourne

Our river boat was tied up at Libourne on the Dordogne river. In the morning the mist burned off, promising a beautiful day. The river is always turbulent, probably as a result of the tidal movements opposing the river’s own flow. In fact, the Dordogne is one of those rivers which has a tidal flow strong enough to create a wave that can be surfed. Later in the day we actually saw surf skis riding the wave – which wasn’t very high at this time.

The Libourne market, held in the town square

In the morning we walked up through the streets to the village square to do a tasting tour of the Libourne farmers’ market. So much food, so many things to taste. Our guide bought examples from the merchants – crepes, apricots, cheese – and oysters, which were supposed to be wonderful, sourced locally. Pete loves a good oyster. I watched him eat one and thought it wouldn’t rate high. He said on a scale of 1 to 10, if Coffin Bay oysters in South Australia were 10, these were 1. There you go. We tasted some cheese aged in walnut juice, made by the nuns, and a sample of pate de foie gras. These days it’s usually duck pate, in this case made by a farmer who raises his birds free range – which is always nice to know. There were cherries and plums, cakes and roasted chickens, clothes, baskets and artwork. Back when I bought souvenirs (aka dust collectors) I might well have been tempted.

Chateau d’Albac

Later that day we went to the Chateau d’Albac. Yes, they make wine, but by this time we’d seen the demonstrations and knew how it was done, so we walked around the house and learned a little of its history. The baron, a dapper gentleman well into his seventies, conducts the tours himself. He was late arriving so we played an impromptu game of kick the football until he joined us. Europe is so very full of history and in places like this, events you’ve heard about take on a face. One noble family had owned the chateau until the French Revolution. The baron at that time barely escaped the guillotine when the peasants of the estate protested on his behalf but he knew it wouldn’t last. In 1792 he bundled up his pregnant wife and fled to Germany. He never returned.

Meanwhile, the chateau was sold. In time, the rightful heir returned to France and the then owner offered to rescind the title, despite having done a lot of restoration work. The original owner refused the offer, saying he and his family had moved on. So the current baron is a descendant of the man who bought the chateau during the French Revolution. The two families remain good friends. The building has been restored and the family live there. We were shown their present sitting room, and another restored as a museum piece. The baron is very much a part of the community. He’s the village mayor and takes part in all the major activities of the town. And he shares his lovely home with visitors – for a fee, which is fair enough.

The factory where paper was made

The estate had industrial buildings, too, paper factories powered by a water mill. They seem to have been enlightened industrialists. The photo shows the paper mill, built next to the river. These days paper is made in factories elsewhere.

Yes, we got to taste the local wine – whole glasses if we wanted.

An angler takes advantage of the rapids

It was a lovely day. Now we could relax on board the ship, enjoying the sites and a glass of wine or two as the River Royale returned to Bordeaux for our final day.

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