We live in the Department of The Dordogne (24) in the Aquitaine Region of SW France and in the Perigord Noir! Still following? It is a lot to take in I know. The word Dordogne means a long river which is a tributary of La Gironde and is made up of a hilly area,with medieval villages, numerous castles and stunning scenery. It is named “Dordogne Shire” as it is reminiscent of the rolling Cotswolds countryside, but we love it as it reminded us of equally beautiful parts of Northern Scotland.
There are 4 areas within the Dordogne, the Perigord Noir (Black ) famous for its black truffle, which is classic Dordogne and comprises the ancient city of Sarlat attracting over a million visitors in the summer, the caves of Lascaux and over 100 castles. It was noted too for the bloody battlegrounds of the Hundred Years War, between the English and the French in the 14th and 15th century.
There is the Perigord Pourpre (Purple) situated around Bergerac and all its vineyards and lovely wines , Perigord Vert (Green) around Brantôme, with farms ,small hamlets and streams flowing through the countryside and finally Perigord Blanc (White ) around Perigeux which has a chalky aspect to its landscape and its buildings.It is also home to the white truffle.
We are very lucky to be living in such a beautiful spot as this full of Autumn colours just now. It has been 16 and a half years here that have passed by so quickly?
Maybe we still remember in the dim past of our childhoods , watching on TV,Jacques Cousteau and his team on the boat Calypso? I certainly do remember being fascinated by the underneath of the ocean with all its wondrous sea animals.
He was born in this area of the Dordogne in 1910 and afterwards, spending much of his early years in the United States where he spoke English fluently. He took up a career in the Navy, but after a car accident, he turned his passion to the sea. He developed a depth
pressure water proof camera and would make the first underwater films by 1943 using the prototype of the Aqua Lung equipment. His desire was to show to the public unknown areas of the ocean bed. He would go on to explore a Roman wreck in Tunisia and a research campaign in the Mediterranean , making an award winning film to show at the Cannes Film Festival. He leased his boat Calypso for a single franc per year, which would take him and his now family with two boys around the world. His “diving saucer” was invented by him and his team to explore the depths of the ocean and used as a mobile laboratory. The famous yellow submarine too was built in 1966 to enable him to go to a 100 metres in depth.
Family life however was difficult and he said of himself that he “ was a bad father and a bad husband “. He had problems with his elder son that would continue throughout the years and his younger son died in a tragic accident that broke the family apart. He married again however, and she continues the Cousteau Foundation today.
His last years were full of tributes and awards and he became the leader of the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco. He wrote extensively about his work and he is the inspiration today of divers who dare the adventure because of him.
A film made about his life is about to be shown this month in the cinema.It is called “Odyssée” with Lambert Wilson playing the Commandant Cousteau.
Cousteau’s own grand-daughter, Céline,who is a filmmaker and ecologist herself, and who remembers going with her grandfather on his voyages and would dive at his side at 10 years old. She remembers him just as her dear grandfather, a thinker, a sensitive man wanting to preserve nature for future generations. He said “”The sea, the great unifier, is man’s only hope. Now, as never before, we are all in the same boat “.
A French friend sent me some books recently and they came in an envelope with very pretty stamps that depicted some funny French expressions..
Peigner la girafe or literally to comb the giraffe, and it means to do something that is useless or annoying.
Muet comme une carpe, deaf as a fish, or as silent as the grave.
C’est le serpent qui se mord la queue, the snake eating it’s own tail , or it’s a vicious circle.
Avoir des oursins dans le porte monnaie, having sea urchins in our purse, to be tight fisted or stingy.
Avoir une memoire d’élephant, to have the memory of an elephant, having a long memory.
Monter sur ses grands chevaux, to climb up on big horses, or getting on your high horse!
Fifi’s story from rural France -” La France Profonde”.
www.salignacfoundation.comDance and film courses in SW France.