Date:   September 19, 2002 daily schedule artwork
Location:   Oradour sur Glane, Montignac

Breakfast? La même chose. After breakfast, we ask Laurent whether it is possible to purchase any of the jams. His answer is a simple "Non!" Then Brigid asks him where he gets the jams. He is astounded. "It is not enough that I select the wines, but I also make the jams for you!" Brig says, "Do you really make the jam?" Laurent looks insulted, "Ask my assistant here!" The assistant (wisely) confirms, after Laurent translates to French (with a correct translation, so far as I can make out). This makes sense. As we pass the first floor kitchen on the way to our room, again, there are a different set of jam bottles upside down on the table. And for further confirmation, there are bushels of fresh fruit on another table, awaiting the same sweet fate. The "spooky movie" theory is much discredited. If not Laurent, someone is making fresh jam in Hotel Diderot's kitchen!

Brigid reluctantly says goodbye to Nunuche and Rachel, and we load up onto the bus, and head south to the Dordogne (AKA the Perigord) region, famous for its prehistoric caves, walnuts, wines, and duck and goose products.

At lunchtime, we set up a beautiful picnic lunch in the covered market of a small village (Mortemart?). Today's lunch included:

Preparing another picnic
Preparing another picnic
Fruit, cheeses, pates, veggies... I'm drooling!
Fruit, cheeses, pates, veggies... I'm drooling!
Some gorgeous white nectarines
Some gorgeous white nectarines
Enjoying a picnic in Mortemart
Enjoying a picnic in Mortemart
  • Shredded carrots in some nondescript vinegrette dressing, a very common French dish;
  • Sliced cucumbers and tomatoes;
  • A "country" paté (paté de campagne) looks like head cheese, but tastes much better, and is smoother;
  • A "forest" paté is a very smooth liver and mushroom product -- much smoother and also very tasty;
  • Cornichons (teensy gherkins, to go with the paté of course, atop bread);
  • A dijon mustard and a whole-seed mustard, also to accompany the paté;
  • Baguette and whole-grain breads;
  • Slices of a delicious ham;
  • A log of relatively fresh goat cheese, with a bit of straw through it, to preserve the log's shape. The cheese is covered in mold, but delicious. It's such a shame that Brigid despises goat cheese.
  • Crottins (literal translation: turds) of somewhat more aged goat cheese. It has a distinctly different flavor compared to the logs. They're both delicious;
  • An Ementhaler-like (what we call "swiss") cheese;
  • A fat slice of brie. Kristen warns us to "respect the shape of the cheese" when making slices. According to French etiquette, she says, it is appropriate to make your slices such that they reflect the shape of the original slice;
  • Cookies: Apricot jam tarts, and milk- and dark-chocolate "schoolboy" cookies. The latter are butter biscuits topped with what looks like a 1/8-inch slice of chocolate. The dark chocolate schoolboys are deeeelicious!
  • Sliced pears, green plums, and white nectarines;
  • Four kinds of wine, apple juice, and water.

Sadly, we cannot take the leftover meat or cheese onto the bus. The cheese is just too smelly, and the meat is too much of a risk. Some folks stuff themselves with more goat cheese, but significant amounts go into the trash.

Oradour sur Glane The bus then takes us to Oradour sur Glane. On June 10, 1944, 4 days after the Allied invasion, German forces came into this prosperous French town, gathered the women and children into the church, separated the men into several small groups, murdered them all, and then burned the bodies. 642 men, women, and children died. No clear rationale for this massacre has ever been revealed. Orders had gone out to terrorize the French, and many smaller such massacres took place. When the area was liberated from Nazi occupation, General de Gaulle declared that this town should be left untouched. The entrances to the town are marked, "Souviens-toi" (a command to "remember", but using the intimate form).

Oradour sur Glane Signs mark where each group of men were machine-gunned and burned. The women and children were bombed with a suffocation device (fuel-air, perhaps?) that failed because it blew out the church windows. They were then machine gunned, and then the church was set alight. Only five people from the town survived to tell the tale.

I said that this was a prosperous town. We draw this conclusion based on the numerous garages and cafés and bakeries. An electric railway went through town, and the pantagraph lines and rails are still there. Ordinary items are left among the rubble, including ruins of cars, bicycles, pots, pans, sewing machines, heating stoves, farm implements, etc...

An underground memorial, halfway between the town and the cemetary, incorporates stone tablets with the names and ages of each known victim. Various personal items from the victims, including watches and childrens' toys, are displayed within the memorial.

My personal take on all this: I like the concept of preserving the town and memorializing this pointless massacre. Schoolchildren are trooped through this place on a regular basis, in support of de Gaulle's command. This is good.

There are several lessons one might learn here. For instance, several German troops and officers were eventually tried and convicted of this atrocity. It turned out, however, that they were largely Alsatian. Alsace, of course, had been restored to France immediately after the war ended. Alsace was incensed over the conviction of their men. In the interests of french national unity, the perpetrators were granted amnesty. Political expediency is, sadly, a universal vice.

I also find it sad that this sort of atrocity was regularly taking place in eastern Europe starting in 1939, as attested to by my late Uncle Harry, who lost his first wife and only child to a German-empowered Ukrainian massacre of his town, in what is now the Ukraine, but what is historically Poland. Everyone remembers the millions who died in the Nazi death camps, and many of the camps are preserved as memorials. I don't think that the Poles or Ukrainians were or are quite so sensitive about the many sites where hundreds of thousands of Jewish shtetl-dwellers were deprived of the opportunity to die in a camp, by being massacred near their homes, often by local non-Jews, eager to erase Jews from the Polish towns and countryside, and appropriate their properties. This is what happened to nearly all of my father's family, and much of my maternal grandmother's.

Of course, the official message conveyed at Oradour is simply to remember a particular massacre. The sad thing is that I saw nothing acknowledging any greater context for this event, such as Catholicism's complicity in the massacres that began in eastern Europe five years previously.

I would suggest that a critically important and ironic lesson is being overlooked at Oradour, namely: "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."

The bus trip resumes in silence, down to Montignac.

Our hotel is Le Relais du Soleil d'Or ("The relay (?) of the golden sun"). This hotel is clearly much more modern than Hotel Diderot, back in Chinon. We have a television and an in-room fridge, to keep my pamplemousse cold. The tellie even has a couple of english-language channels, including CNN International! Apparently, the Dordogne region is extremely popular among the English, so most hotel signage is in French and English. Kristen says that an English-language local newspaper has begun.

The Oradour experience, and the bus ride, have left me slightly grumpy and headachy. I take an aspirin and kick back, instead of visiting the town, or swimming in the hotel's leaf-laden pool.

Before dinner, we sample Kir (white wine plus creme de cassis) or a watered-down, but still VERY strong anise-flavored liquer called pastisse. And each of us introduce our buddies. The introductions drag on a little bit -- we clearly have an interesting group.

Getting to know you...
Getting to know you...
Getting to know all about you...
Getting to know all about you...
Brigid's congenial bus-buddy, Rob.  Doesn't he look congenial? copyright 2002 by B. Hom-Schnapp and R. Schnapp
Brigid's congenial bus-buddy, Rob. Doesn't he look congenial?
Brigid dares everyone to guess the purpose of her gadget
Brigid dares everyone to guess the purpose of her gadget
Russ enjoys the banter...
Russ enjoys the banter...

Tonight's dinner, included in the tour, and served in the hotel's restaurant, features many Dordogne specialties:

We begin with slices of duck liver and mushroom patés, with a small side of salad greens in a vinegrette. The patés are wonderful, but so incredibly rich that I cannot bring myself to eat more than one slice. It is so fatty that my lips feel like they're covered in lipstick! Ick!

We take a suggestion from Kristen, ordering a half-bottle of a red wine with a Bergerac "Terre Vielle" ("old earth" -- perhaps meaning old vines?) description. She's right. It's a lovely wine, with some complex flavors I cannot possibly characterize. And the remarkable part is that Brigid likes it, even though it is entirely dry. The wine really works very well with the paté. Cost? €14.00, charged to our room, #307.

The main dish is a duck confit and pommes sarladaise (potatoes in the style of Sarlat), which are sliced and prepared with onions and lots of garlic and (what else?) considerable duck fat! The confit (a duck drumstick and thigh) is delicious, but the potatoes are my favorite on this plate. I suspect that it's less healthy than the confit (which is preserved in duck fat and salt).

While chatting with Sarah at dinner, we learn of a wonderful restaurant in Seattle, called The Herb Farm. For something like $150 per person (!), one can enjoy a 10-12 course meal, including wine(s), extending up to 6 hours. Sarah, who apparently despises nearly all fin fish, says that they managed to get her to enjoy some fish. (She employed her architectural education to help them in some redesigns of their property.) One must make reservations well in advance, unless a hole opens in their schedule.

After dinner, I enjoy an espresso in the "lounge", joining Joan and Susan there. Along with the espresso, the hotel serves some lovely cookies.

The lounge is a very interesting room. It is stocked with comfy chairs, cocktail tables, books, and a wide selection of brandies and liquers and glasses. Apparently, one may serve onesself here. Presumably, when you are finished, you are on your honor to report what you have taken, so it can be added to your tab. How very sophisticated, civilized, and trusting!

We chat for awhile, and then retire for some CNN and journalling.

Mon Dieu! It's 1:30 already! Thank goodness tomorrow's activities don't begin until 9:45. Good night...