Fiona Alderman Blogging from Rural France – The Black Duck

The Black Duck Restaurant 

What a wonderful name for a restaurant! Especially in this part of the world where duck is a gastronomic delight. This restaurant is about 10 minutes from Salignac, on the outskirts of the village, surrounded by beautiful countryside, it’s perched high up in the hills . It was originally called L’Auberge du Sol and is a family run business. Mathieu, the son, now runs it and in 2006 he changed the name and the whole ambiance to a friendly Irish themed bar and restaurant. The Irish connection is curious. A keen rugby fan, he went to live in Cork for three years, and wanted to transform the restaurant into something akin to the Irish pub. The atmosphere and music would be directly linked. All the rugby events are viewed now at the bar with many cheering participants.

The menu is traditional pub food but with a French eye too.  From snail casserole to fish and chips to a homemade Guinness chocolate mousse, it is hearty and very tasty eating.Tourists, as well as locals, have flocked to it.  In the summer the outside terrace is open and eating there is a real pleasure. It overlooks the valley and is quite magnificent. There is even a small eco-lodge with a private spa just nearby which is charming accommodation.

Barry and I used to go a lot at the beginning, enjoying the “craic’ with him as he speaks perfect English, and having had a few pichets of wine, we wound our way slowly home in the car.

Recently, they celebrated their 18th year with a Scottish theme, combining it with the Scotland versus France match on the huge tv screen situated at one corner of the bar. They all dressed up in kilts and tartan and got into the whole business of the Celts. The evening ended with a victory for the Bleus, ie French rugby team and a firework display. All very happy and a nice evening of conviviality between different nations.

The very heart of Frederic Chopin

Frederic_Chopin_Statue_Dichtergarten_Muenchen-1Rufus46, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Frederic_Chopin_Statue_Dichtergarten_Muenchen-1Rufus46, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Born by his Polish name of Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin, of a Polish mother and French father, this little boy was by an early age an infant prodigy. A shy child and later a retiring man, he grew up with music, his mother was a piano teacher and his father played flute and violin. He settled in France by 1831, changing his name to Frederic Chopin and becoming a French citizen. Inspired by famous artists such as Franz Liszt, Hector Berlioz and Robert Schumann who introduced him by saying “Hats off gentlemen, a genius ” he was introduced to the aristocratic and literary circles by the wealthy Rothschild banking family.  He gave few concerts but shied away from the limelight. He even blew out the candles on the piano when playing, seeking distance and a withdrawal into his private world.

He also taught piano, and loving opera singers himself, encouraged his students to learn to sing themselves. In his view, it would make them better players.

He met the French writer George Sand, whom he lived with and had a relationship with that lasted 9 years. They spent time in her country estate of Nohant, in the Indre region of Central France,and  where he composed  his famous works Nocturnes , amongst others.

Always frail in health, he began to decline but his finances too were such that he went to Britain where he gave private concerts to the elite.. All arranged by a former pupil who also financed the venture. He played for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and even travelled to Scotland staying in grand estates owned by his benefactor’s family.

He gave his last performance in 1848 at a benefit concert for Polish refugees.

Seriously ill by then, he returned to Paris and was confined to bed. He died just aged 39.

The family of George Sand were with him when he died . He was buried at Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris and the funeral was attended by thousands.

By his own previous request, his heart was removed before the burial and preserved in alcohol, allegedly cognac.  It was returned to Warsaw in Poland to the Holy Cross Church . It was enclosed in a stone pillar and can still be seen today. His piano and some of his belongings can be seen at Nohant which is now open as a museum.

What can we take from the influence of this great pianist? His music connects us straight to our personal feelings. It is emotional , it moves us and it touches our most innermost thoughts.

The New Mayor of Salignac

new mayor of salignac

To finish with is the continuing saga of our local French politics.  After strong campaigns from the three candidates, and by a close thread,  Monsieur Ferber, the residing Mayor, has won. With about 1200 inhabitants, 72% came out to vote but many put in a blank one.

Hopefully, it will calm tensions that have been circulating for so long here. Many things are promised by him and his team for the future of Salignac and its  inhabitants. In the newspaper, he was quoted as saying ” It’s very satisfying and we must really construct our Commune for the best in the future “.

The construction of homes for us “seniors ” is already underway . These are  Individual residences within the village and they are also proposing  to put to good use  some other unused buildings . Other projects are envisaged, including a library and the installation of fibre optics.

We will watch and wait for our beautiful Salignac Eyvigues to blossom again in the approaching Spring.

Have a very happy Easter.

Fifi’s stories from rural France.

March 2024.

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Avatar of PatByrne Publisher of Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End; the community guide to the West End of Glasgow. Fiction and non-fiction writer.

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