Thursday, May 6:  St. Emilion to Sarlat-en-Canada

Jacques and Cecile Villepigue joined us for breakfast, while Pat attended “local style.” “Her mind has been poisoned by Rick Steves,” said Robert. The day was consumed with more photocopying with Thierry, and some with Jacques, packing eventually, a delicious lunch, group and individual photos, and final arrangements for our stay in Paris. The boys and Pat also had a good bike ride through the vineyard.

Thierry and I are fifth cousins, four times removed. We have a common ancestor, Bernard de Villepigue, who lived from 1685 to 1733, who is six generations back for Thierry and ten generations back for me. Perhaps anticipating the French Revolution, one of his descendants moved to Haiti in the very late 1700’s. From this move, the American branch settled in the US South after the slave revolts in Haiti. I learned some new stories about my great-grandmother, who brought my grandfather to France in 1909, and more about her correspondence with Robert Villepigue relative to that visit.

For lunch, the vintages were 1992 and 1994, in honor of the boys’ birthdays. We’ll be bringing the bottles home as souvenirs. The boys also have labels from those years and a few other similar souvenirs.

Eventually, Thierry and I had to stop photocopying (Marie-France joked that they would be remembered as “Chateau Photocopy”) as it was time for us to leave. (Photo 97) We had a very memorable visit and enjoyed the hospitality of the Manoncourts tremendously. We are all looking forward to the day we can return, and perhaps a sixth generation may someday extend the tradition.

The two-hour drive to Sarlat took closer to three hours. I’m slow to pass, slow to run yellow lights, slow to accelerate when I prefer to gawk. And today our only blunder was to plow into the center of Bergerac for the 5 PM gridlock, rather than take the by-pass. We backtracked, and eventually went around the town. The scenery has changed a lot. Now there are dense forests, no more vineyards, we saw a lumber operation today, and the style of the houses, chateaus and castles has changed. Rainbows before us the whole way. This confused me even more, since I cannot get used to the sun setting into the Atlantic. Even though I cannot see the ocean, I know where it must be and it doesn’t seem right for it to be in the west. The display panel on the car beeped once, said the battery needed charging, and the corresponding warning light remained illuminated for the last half of the drive. Hopefully the car will start tomorrow!

We found our hotel, La Couleuvrine easily and checked in about 6:30 PM. Our room is the “family room” consuming an entire floor of the tower fortification that used to be part of the city walls. It has a timbered roof and windows on three sides. To arrive at the room, you climb to the hotel’s top floor, then exit onto a section of the old city walls, then walk up an outdoor stairway to the door. I’d worked hard to secure this room for the boys’ enjoyment and it was exactly as I had hoped. (Photo 103)

Since the elevator was very, very small, we made several trips, with me last. As I waited in the lobby, I saw a man walk by outside that reminded me of Louis, from Toulouse. Then the man entered the hotel and it was Louis! I felt like a real resident of the Dordogne Valley, greeting an old friend. We knew Louis had a nearby house in Domme, and would be there this weekend, but had not expected to see him on Thursday. We chatted some, he checked-in with Nelly by phone about weekend plans, and we initiated planning for a Saturday rendezvous.

We are under contract for breakfast, and two dinners at the hotel (down from half-pension), it was late, we were tired, so we opted to check-off one dinner now. Robert was disappointed with the menu-enfant selection, which was too bad, as it was a very generous deal. Combined with too little sleep the past few nights it left him in a bit of a funk. Pat had an entree that was a drink of fennel and basil with heavy cream on top (“cappuccino of fennel and basil”) with a kebab of chicken stuck in it like a swizzle stick. We both selected the same main course -- pork with a sauce containing Roquefort cheese. It was delicious, but I had trouble reconciling the brown sauce with the roquefort taste.

After dinner the boys and I walked through the nearby public park, even though it was nearly dark and it was officially closed. Laundromat was located across the street (“hallelujah”) and directions to the Internet cafe were secured.

Photo 102  LaCoulverine Hotel
Photo 103  LaCoulverine Hotel

Photo 104  LaCoulverine Hotel
Photo 105  LaCoulverine Hotel