ESB visits…Monpazier #esbinfrance
Updated: Feb 1
I hope you enjoyed my first ever blog post! If you didn’t see it, click here to read about all things apple strudel and Galette des Roi.
As I said in my last post, I had an exciting trip planned to France early on in the new year, and having just arrived back, I thought I would tell you about some of places I visited while I was there. For me, France is a place where I feel at home. The small towns, full of beauty and history draw me in, the architecture takes me back to another time, and the bakeries fill me with longing to eat everything in their delicious displays (well, doesn’t everyone want to eat everything…I know you do!) In fact, Paris inspired my ESB Monthly Bake April. Arriving in France made me think of a song from Funny Face where each of the three main characters explore the city for the first time. It’s called Bonjour Paris and you can hear me sing it below
I was lucky enough to be able to amble around each of the places I visited and take in the atmosphere without the crowds that congregate in the summer so come with me as I relive it with you!
In my first #esbinfrance post, I want to tell you a little about the bastide town of Monpazier. Monpazier is in the Dordogne department of France and has the accolade of being classed as one of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (the most beautiful villages in France). Bastides are medieval fortified towns dotted up and down the country and each have their own special characteristics. You can read more about the history of Monpazier here.
Here is an extract from my diary while I was there…
As I approach Monpazier, it is steeply up hill, and driving into the bastide itself, I am sucked into the leviathan of hidden streets. Victor Hugo, one of my favourite French authors, describes the sewers of Paris as a leviathan, in Les Miserables, and I think is a fitting description of these interlocking streets that weave in and out of one another. Once parked up, all roads lead to the main square – the belly of the beast – so I walk down past the beautifully French shuttered houses towards the arches and the square beyond.
La Place des Cornieres (The main square)
On entering the square, I am immediately surrounded by beautiful buildings and small but perfectly formed alleyways. The houses are of contrasting eras and contain anything from small shops to a rather quiet tourist office. I pick up a map so I can get my bearings and find that, although it is now after Twelfth Night, the Christmas tree in the main square is still decorated elaborately with brightly coloured tinsel and ribbon. Arches frame the square and a covered thatched structure like a stable stands proudly in the centre, which must shelter stall holders on market day, I think. Wandering around, I get a lovely feeling of a place that is slightly stuck in time. People go about their daily lives at a different pace. There are no chain restaurants and coffee shops, and the shops that there are, are independently owned, which explains why none of them are open, being just after the Christmas rush. Altogether, it’s a step back into a gentler time.
L’Eglise Saint Dominique (Church of Saint Dominic)
The church of Saint Domique is diagonally just off the main square. The front of the church is adorned with wooden brightly coloured Christmas trees. Once inside, the stone is white and quite simple. The brightly coloured stained glass lights up the inside and leads the way to the altar. In one of the side chapels, there is a nativity crib still on display. The atmosphere has a genuine warmth although it’s colder inside than outside. The crumbly walls speak tomes about the history, giving me the impression of the length of time it has stood. I leave feeling peaceful and full of the beauty of the church into the clearing, slightly lighter sky and look for a place to stop for coffee and a pastry – one of my favourite things!
La Maison du Chapitre, Boulangerie, Monpazier
Given how quiet the rest of the town is, I am delighted to spot that a boulangerie is open for business and decide to stop for a hot drink and pastry. The smell of a French bakery is second to none,with a waft of warm pastries and row upon row of freshly baked baguettes. I am always facinated to see what delicious and local delicacies are on offer and this bakery doesn’t disappoint.
Ushered to a table, I take in the surroundings while a water engineer fixes the water supply for 10 minutes (I love local quirks!), then order and enjoy the warmth of the bakery. While I wait, several locals come in and buy their daily supply of bread and/or sugary delicacy. It interests me here in France how much boulangeries are taken very seriously, as an uplifting part of their daily routine. They seem buy without any feeling of guilt and naughtiness, which we seem to have adopted in England. I was delighted to see so many people queueing up for a slice of pleasure with smiles on their faces, anticipating a real treat!
Each surface in the shop is covered with crusty bread or flaky pastries. There are croissants piled high on top of one another and elbow to elbow with their close cousins, pain au raisin and pain au chocolat. In lovingly woven baskets, bread is marked with unique labels and showcasing contents from conker brown to darker more chocolate like shades.
My order comes with hot drinks and a basket of my chosen pastries – A Cannelle (pronounced Can-ell-ee) – a local delicacy – and a Chausson aux Pommes (a French apple turnover). Each bite is a delight of light flaky pastry and sweet velvety apple and I savour each taste.
It is such a treat to be able to visit such beautiful places and sampling crunchy pastries is the icing on the cake.
I hope you enjoyed coming with me to explore Monpazier and seeing what I got up to.
If you want to find out more about the bakery I visited, click this link here.
Next time, more about my French adventure!
Tell me what your favourite thing about France are in the comments – is it the food or the beautiful scenery?
English Singing Bakerx