An Enforced Day of Rest.

(Since I’ve been here at L’Esplanade in Domme, there’s been a problem with the WiFi: it was not working in the guest rooms, only in the hotel’s reception area. Despite the rain, two young men have been crawling around on the roof, but last night, the WiFi stopped working altogether. WiFi service has now been restored in the lobby area, although access is only achieved after entering a password consisting of no less than 26 random letters and numbers. It sure as hell ought to be secure!)

DOMME — It’s Tuesday morning and our incomparable view of the Dordogne Valley is gone. Instead, we are blanketed by a sold, seemingly impenetrable cloud, and it’s raining like hell. 

Domme has been perched on top of a 150-meters-high cliff for some 750 years but, tempting though it may be, today it’s just not a good idea to set out on the narrow, twisting road connecting this little village up here with all those other little villages in the valley down there. In fact, I was just informed by one of the ladies working here that there is flooding on many of the roads and a tree has fallen across the road somewhere down there in the gloom. 

Yesterday morning, I drove over to the town of Sarlat, which is about a dozen miles from Domme. There isn’t much between here and there … just occasional farm houses and fields, some plowed and bare, waiting patiently for the coming winter; others still crowded with rows of corn, the stalks turning brown and ready for harvesting. As far as I can tell, the French don’t actually eat corn. What’s grown here is feed for livestock.

Most of the roads surrounding Domme are nicely paved, but very narrow. When another car appears, both vehicles have pass with wheels well onto the grassy shoulder. I slow down for these encounters, but the locals go barreling past with barely a glance.

Coming around a long, sweeping curve on just such a road, I went by a tidy house tucked into a cluster of trees, essentially the only structure within a half mile in either direction. As I passed, I caught sight of an artfully lettered sign proclaiming it was, in fact, a restaurant … not exactly in the middle of nowhere, but certainly not close to anything.

It was past lunchtime, so I stopped, turned around, and went back, pulling into a small empty parking area. Inside, the restaurant was completely empty … but attractive, with a half-dozen tables, all neatly set with linens and silverware. A middle-aged man greeted me politely, showed me to a seat, and presented me with quite an extensive menu. I ordered confit de canard, accepted my host’s recommendation for a carafe of what was a very nice white wine from nearby Bergerac, and finished up with a creme brûlée and an espresso. The roasted duck was delicious, by the way, and came with an absolutely amazing sauce.

Halfway through the meal, a rather stylish French couple came in, obviously passing through, but in the 90 minutes I was there, the three of us were the restaurant’s only patrons. Nevertheless, in every respect it was an excellent meal, beautifully prepared, and served with all the appropriate niceties carefully observed. Even in a small restaurant on a narrow country road more than a two-hour drive from a city of any size, the French have their priorities. Dining is a serious business.