Jul 22, 2009 | Written by Patricia Murphy
Day 6 Les Arques
Yesterday’s trip to Marqueyssac was a real highlight of the trip. We ended up walking for miles through the beautiful manicured grounds of this ancient estate. The gardens and house were perched on the top of a long ridge, affording views of the castles and small towns all around. The estate dates to the 17th century, but it was fully restored in 1997, designed for walking with panoramic views of the Dordogne River and the chalky cliffs of the valley. When we returned home we cooked our duck sausages and served them with lettuce, tomatoes, zucchini, and goat cheese. We watched the first half of Ratatouille and fell to sleep.
It was my job to set the alarm, and I flubbed it, so instead of getting up at 7:30 to run, John and I slept until 9. I guess we needed that. So John walked down to get a croissant to share, and we ate it with strawberries, peaches, goat cheese, and coffee for breakfast. Then we walked down to the river to reserve our canoe trip for tomorrow. That will be a fun float with lots of pretty views. I’m really looking forward to it, and it will be a nice way to spend our last day in the Dordogne Valley.
After we returned, it was time for a very special journey. Within an hour’s drive of Beynac is one of the most celebrated restaurants in rural France: La Recreation. Featured in Michael S. Sanders’ book From Here, You Can’t See Paris, the chef owners from Toulouse have renovated an old school house and from there they serve gourmet 5 course meals made from local ingredients. John and I read the book to understand the flavors of the region, and to whet our appetites for one of our most exciting meals in France.
So we hopped into the Golf and told Samantha “Les Arques.” She began ordering us left and right on the tiniest of country roads. “In 200 meters, turn left on D570” and etcetera. I tried switching her to a different voice, a British one, but the new gal was so polite that we didn’t feel as compelled to move quickly. So we went back to Samantha, who loves ordering us around. One road bisected the narrow streets of the small town of Daglan, where we could nearly touch the houses on each side as we zipped between the town’s 40 or so buildings.
Soon we arrived in Les Arques and we wandered around to see the work of the visiting artists—the town doubles as an artists’ colony. We also viewed the church where there are several sculptures by the Russian sculptor Zadkine, whose work is sprinkled around the town. We saw a kitty and a Brittney Spaniel. We’re making a long list of dog breed spottings. John and I went to claim our 12:30 table at La Recre. We had a beautiful spot under the tiled roof. We waited for the Hinckleys to arrive (their GPS routed them a different way). Soon we were all together and we ordered lunch.
First course was a cold tomato soup, very delicious. Next, I had red mullet filets with artichokes and John had lobster ravioli. For the main course, I had salmon with a beautiful cream sauce and John had lamb baked in eggplant. The entrees came with a scallop-stuffed squash blossom, and a stuffed tomato. Next we had a cheese course—fresh local goat’s cheese with a splash of honey. And for dessert I had an apricot tart with the most flavorful apricot sauce, and John had walnut ice cream with chocolate sauce. We were stuffed and happy. We had lovely conversation with Noelle, the owner and star of the book, and with the waitress who had on a beautiful dress from a store in Barcelona that I will be visiting, at the recommendation of my French tutor Isabelle. I recognized the designer as soon as I saw the dress.
Something special happened at lunch too. Justin lost his tooth! It had been bothering him a lot, and he finally wiggled it free from his mouth. Sadly, it fell between the cracks of the floor and could not be recovered, but he wrote a letter to the tooth mouse (a French tradition) so we hope the mouse will bring him a Euro or two anyway.
We drove home and promptly took a nap. John went for a run, but I skipped it. My feet hurt! Now we are on the first terrace enjoying a beautiful view, and trying to work up the courage to ever eat again.