L'autre vie #7 "Our other life in France" "Peacocks and Butterflies" by Rae-Helen Fisenden
It was one of those spur of the moment decisions that Neil and I make which often lead to a surprisingly lovely experience. People call us "fluid". I call it spontaneity. Don't ask yourself "why?" but rather "why not?"
We were on our way from our cottage in Berbiguières to our town house in Beaulieu after completing a clean and changeover. It was a rather cloudy and unimpressive day until the sun suddenly decided to make an appearance. Around the corner and up on the ridge the beautiful Marqueyssac Gardens were bathed in glorious sunshine and, as if reading my mind, Neil said " why don't we stop off and have some lunch? "
We have an annual pass to these gardens so it wasn't a major drama to take an hour out of our schedule. Feeling a bit peckish, I readily agreed.
We could smell the pruning taking place before we saw the gardeners in action. The unmistakeable pungent fragrance of freshly cut box trees filled the air. About a half a dozen gardeners were dotted throughout the front garden busily cutting with their hand shears and making sure to use strings as guide lines for absolute precision. There are 160,000 box hedges throughout Marqueyssac gardens needing attention with the front of the garden being the most picturesque and also the most strategically trimmed. I had asked previously why the gardeners refrain from using automatic hedge trimmers and was informed that the cut of the leaves is not precise enough and bruising can result rather than sharply defined edges. As you can see below the result is a work of art.
We sat at a table in a lovely outdoor area overlooking the glorious valley and châteaux beyond; -a beautiful setting to enjoy a glass of wine and a most delicious ice cream.
I've wanted to write about this ice cream since I began blogging about our french adventures. As a rule, I'm not much of an ice cream fan, but I soon converted to this particular delight after tasting its delicate flavours. As the saying goes in the movie "Chocolat" the taste literally "tortures your tongue with pleasure!" But alas, it is not chocolate that is the ingredient in this heavenly concoction but a trio of delectably delicate flower-flavoured ice creams.. Yes! Flowers!
There is Violet ice cream ( violette ) and a Rose petal ice cream. ( It tastes exactly like roses smell! ) There is also Daffodil ice cream completing the trio. ( Jonquille in french. )
I have never actually tasted a daffodil but this was simply heavenly. The ice cream is served with seasonal fresh fruit.
Then it is topped with a generously flamboyant dollop of Chantilly cream. Notwithstanding, a beautiful purple butterfly, made from feathers, is the final flourish. The colour of the ice creams is very pale and delicate until you dive into the violet ice cream and a rich purple essence is released into the bowl. The ice cream is called "La Belle de Judée" and must be experienced at least once in a lifetime!
On closer inspection I see that the ice creams (or "glaces" in french) are the handiwork of an Artisan Glacier- Monsieur Manouvrier of Saint-Geniès who reputedly makes some of the best sorbets and glaces in the world and has been widely acclaimed for his creations using perfumes. Amazing!
Speaking of feathers, a common sight in the gardens is their friendly flock of peacocks and peahens. They love to walk amongst the tables in search of a morsel to eat or to sit on the wall seemingly to gaze at the view.
I've always felt a little sad for the female of this species as she is rather drab in comparison to her male counterpart. On this particular visit we witnessed a rare treat. The peacock decided to display his wonderful tail feathers with the accompanying shimmering dance.
This, of course, is his way of attracting a female with his unique colour patterns and eyespots scattered across the plumage. Completely fanned out, the tail spreads behind the peacock in a full semi circle. Ultimately, the size and patterns of his tail helps the female determine whether or not she will mate with him. She seemed, at the time, rather underwhelmed at this display preferring instead to take in the view.
After this rather delicious feast for our eyes as well as our taste buds we continued on our way. If you ever manage to visit the Dordogne area, there is no better way to while away a few pleasant hours than in this piece of paradise.