All the fun of the Tour, 2017


The ‘caravan’, which comes through about an hour before the riders is a particular highlight.

In 2017 the Tour de France will pass within 30 minutes’ drive of La Vieille Grange, this year cycling along the banks of the Dordogne and through scenic villages of  La Roque Gageac and Beynac. The Tour came even closer in 2012, when we joined a crowd of locals at Payrac to watch Cadel whizz by.

The build-up is great fun, with the caravan that precedes the cyclist tossing out gifts to those lining the way. Then the cyclists come and go in a flash. Although no Cadel this year, there will be other Aussies to cheer on and so we’ll be out beside the road again. And when it is all over, we’ll maybe take in a castle or cool down with dip in the river.


Jardin Medieval du Barry, Salviac

The pretty village of Salviac, south of Gourdon and about 30 mins drive from Mercadiol, is known for its antique and bric-a-brac shops, its annual old book fair, and its flower displays. Definitely worth a visit is the medieval garden, the old potager of the Chateau Lacoste, revived and replanted in the traditional square divided into four squares of monastic gardens. It fulfilled many needs, providing fruit and vegetables for the kitchen, medicinal plants, aromatic herbs, tinctures for dying fabric, and flowers to gather. It was also a place of contemplation.

And adding to the atmosphere here are a number of small sculptures — old iron garden implements (spades and hoes) — transformed into mysterious, hooded medieval figures.

Authentic rural dining experience

The Diabolo-Fraise, in Nabirat, is the genuine article. A village restaurant serving well-prepared fresh local produce.

One piece of advice though, make sure you book! We had, and arrived just after noon, the first through the door. Within minutes other tables started to stream in, farm workers, families, locals, holidaymakers — soon 40 or so were seated. There’s no menu, you just take your seat and wait.

Icy water, a carafe of very drinkable chilled red wine and crusty bread soon appeared. Then a tureen of steaming vegetable soup — broth with beans, carrots, courgettes and garden herbs, tasty but not too filling.


Next a slice of jambon in parsley aspic with melon which was followed by the hearty main course – a platter of roast beef, thick slices, perfectly pink with oven-cooked sliced vegetables and jus. We left nothing.



Nabirat is famed for its strawberries and these featured in the dessert, a rich strawberry syrup with ice cream, whipped cream and palmier pastry biscuit. And then an excellent coffee to finish. Our hostess looked after the tables single-handedly, cheerfully delivering food, clearing plates away, replenishing bread and water and greeting customer’s dogs (we had two well-behaved greyhounds near us).

And all for 14 euros per person (no cards).

Nabirat is 20 to 25 minutes from Mercadiol taking back roads via Grolejac, or 30 minutes if you go via Gourdon.

Le Diabolo-Fraise, Nabirat, 05 53 59 36 83.

Note: closed Saturday and Sunday lunch. Themed meals Saturday evening. Evening menu 24 euros.

Visit to the goat farm

Fromagerie Lahore is about 3 km south of Payrac, tucked away on a back road – follow the goat signs. It’s about a five minute drive from the main road and once you arrive you’ll likely come across a full car park of interested visitors. Milking time is 6pm to 8pm, when the farm is the open for free daily tours and sales. You can watch the goats being  rounded up and penned for milking, and can actually walk among them.

Fear not – they seem remarkably docile. We did not stay for the entire tour this time, but we watched as eager children were shown how to milk a goat and allowed to have a go. Best of all, you can buy your cheese from the cool room next to the milking yard. It’s very reasonably priced, from day old to week old, and quite delicious – you’ll have a task on your hands trying to find better cabecou in the region!

Fromagerie Lahore

Tel: 0565327051

Address: Mas de Géral, Toulas. 46350 Payrac


Walking back from Chateau Fenelon

One of the walks you can do from La Vieille Grange is along the road up the hill to Chateau Fenelon, past the Auberge du Cantou (the duck restaurant and retail outlet for preserved duck products and fresh eggs). Continue past the chateau gates and follow the wall back down the hill, through woods, to Mercadiol. Once the track leaves the walls, keep taking the left fork! About 50 minutes.

New roof takes shape

Replacing the whole roof of the original house and shoring up the front of the building allowed us to extend the floor area by about 12 sq m. This picture shows the laths almost ready to receive the recycled flat tiles (tuiles plats), some of which are more than 200 years old. Incidentally, the reason the house is known as ‘the Spanish’ house is that for many years following the Spanish civil war, a family that had fled north from Spain lived in the house, becoming tenant farmers in the village. They whitewashed both the interior and exterior of the house in the Spanish style and added a number of other Spanish touches such as castanets hanging above the fireplace and a small Spanish dancer as decoration. The family moved to Souillac for work in the 1960s and live there still. Replacing the laths

Best meal last year

I think one of my favourite meals at a restaurant last year was at La Gabarre restaurant, St Julien. This picture will give you an idea why – it was a beautifully cooked special of pigeon two ways with delicious fresh vegetables and a light sauce. Washed down with a rose from the Lot Valley, it is a good example of why La Gabarre is a favourite for most of our guests. And why we will be going back this year!

Gabarre Special pigeon two ways

Spanish renovation

January 2016. A new year, a new attempt to finish the Spanish renovation! This photo, taken in 2012, shows the state of the building we know as ‘the Spanish house’ before we started to renovate it. It was falling down and the roof sagged. It was becoming dangerous. But, as one of the oldest buildings in the village and one we have become fond of, we thought it was worth saving and upgrading. Not so much a Grand Design but at least we would be rescuing a bit of the old farming hamlet. In coming weeks we’ll post some photos showing how the process worked out. We decided to start with the roof so the structure could be stopped from deteriorating further, allowing us time to work out what to do with this charming building, part of the heritage of the commune of Masclat.

Making a splash at QuercyLand

Main pool area -- giant slides visible in background

Main pool area — giant slides visible in background

A fifteen minute drive away from Mercadiol, located on the outskirts of Soulliac, lies a children’s paradise.

Quercyland, open from 11am until 8pm in the summer high season, offers a full days entertainment for all the members of the family. An enormous pool, with an easy access, beach-style sloped entry greets you as you walk in, with two additional pools for your toddler and preschool aged kids (complete with a number of appropriately sized waterslides).

Cool French teens sunbake and chat in the shallows of the main pool, while younger ones go nuts on the mini-slides just a stones throw away. Mum and Dad can relax under the trees or catch some rays in the sunbeds (extra cost for the ones near the pool of 2E per chair per, but worth if if you’re making a day of it).

Opening from midday, the adult waterslides include an open air chute, and a jaw-droppingly steep vertical speed slide. There is a short wait for these rides, but the queue seemed to move at a steady pace.
For the more land-lubbering types in your tribe, there are over 5 huge jumping castles, an inflatable climbing wall, and a racing track with push pedal cars. An area reserved exclusively for the under 7’s includes jumping castles, sandpit and trampoline, in addition to an assortment of swings and see-saws. For a small cost, you can hire ping pong balls and bats for the tables set up around the park, and there is a full sized multi purpose basketball court/football pitch free to use.

You are welcome to bring your own eskie of food in, although they do ask that you don’t bring glass bottles. Available on site are cold drinks and ice cream, wood fired pizza, hot plated meals, frites, and the usual filled baguettes. The pizzas are cooked fresh to order, and one is enough to feed two hungry adults — at 9 Euro, a bargain. In the delightful French way, the cafe also sells a range of beer and wine – because, goodness knows, that’s just what Mummy needs at about 4pm after a day in the sun.

We spent an amazing day here with our almost-four-year-old, and have left with some wonderful memories.

Recommended: preschool aged kids to teenagers
Budget: 9 Euro for entry, sandwiches from 5E, pizzas from 8E, drinks from 3E.
Insiders tip: get there early to secure a table or sunbed, well worth the additional cost. Otherwise, we recommend taking a blanket and tucking up in the corner where the hedge meets the fence for the pool just at the start of the picnic area (keep to the left, and turn to the right just after the white gravel). Not only do you get good line-of-sight for the kids pools, this space gets most of the sun for the morning, and lovely shade in the hottest part of the afternoon, from around 3pm.

More info:

Almost four-year-old Audie gets into the action on the kids slides.

Almost four-year-old Audie gets into the action on the kids slides.

We'd recommend supplementing a packed lunch with some cold drinks and hot chips. Just right for hungry tummies at the pool!

We’d recommend supplementing a packed lunch with some cold drinks and hot chips. Just right for hungry tummies at the pool!