A Life in the Slow Lane

La Boulangerie

The attitude to bread in France seems to be different from everywhere else in Europe. Britain stopped making bread using traditional methods decades ago and although there is a slow increase of interest in traditional bread, such bakeries are few and far between. Elsewhere in Europe countries have maintained their bread traditions, such as in Italy and Spain, but there are not so many bakeries as in France. In France, although the number of bakeries has shrunk, most villages of any size still have at least one bakery.

The type of bread being baked in France is changing. When I first visited France nearly 50 years ago what seemed to be available everywhere was the standard baguette. The French baguette of that time was baked freshly throughout the day but a few hours after it had been baked it had started to go stale – it was a good job you were never more than a stone’s throw from a bakers, because it was really necessary to buy bread twice a day. Now, most bakers are calling themselves “traditional” or “artisanal” and offer a bewildering array of breads. You can still go in an ask for a baguette, but what seems to be becoming the most popular are baguettes or pains “tradition”. These are fantastic pieces of work, with thick crispy crusts and firm chewy centres and best of all they don’t go off quite as quickly as the old baguette. When I get home I’m going to research whether I can get anywhere near the “tradition” style bread in my standard oven.

The reason I raise bread, is that Montpazier is the first place we have stopped on our return journey through France where there has been a bakery (Montpazier has at least two) within walking distance of the aire. So this morning I set off with enthusiasm to buy bread. I arrived at the bakers and was astounded to find there was a queue of about 30 people!! I’ve never seen anything like it. I stood dutifully in the queue like the citizen of the world’s finest queuing nation, that I am. People let the elderly into the front of the line and it didn’t actually take that long for me to reach the front. In addition to two Pain de Tradition I also treated Sarah to a Pain aux Raisin and me to a Croissant, for the best breakfast of the trip.

Our journey was much like yesterday, with autumnal mist for the first hour or so and then blue skies. Because I usually leave it to SatNav to plan our journey, I often don’t look at a paper map and then sometimes am surprised by the places we drive through. Today we ended up passing through several places, in the middle of the Dordogne, which we have visited a couple of times in past holidays. Sarlat and St. Cyprien with signposts to Les Eyzies and the famous Lascaux caves were all very familiar.

Basil’s new camping spot

Today I gave Sarah a choice for our overnight stop – another pretty village or next to a lake. Lake it was. I think Sarah may have had her fill of Beaux Villages!

Lac de Saint Pardoux

As it turned out it was a fantastic choice. The aire on which we are parked (46.032830, 1.293646) is free (fresh water is extra), with dozens of places, located in a forest overlooking a lake. Sarah thinks it is out best stop of the whole trip and think she would be right if there was a UNESCO World Heritage Cathedral within walking distance!