This morning we hopped back on board the tiny, one-car train for the ride along the beautiful, meandering Dordogne River, from Sarlat-la-Canéda to Périgueux, and then on to a faster, but still local train from Périgueux, back to the large city of Bordeaux. At the Bordeaux St. Jean central train station we boarded a duplex (double-decker) high-speed French TGV (Train Grande Vitesse – “very high speed”) train bound for Paris, where we, as usual for the busier trains, had reserved seats. We sat on the upper deck for the wonderful view from high above the tracks. We got off the high-speed train at the stop at Angoulême station, to meet our friends S. and G., to stay overnight in their lovely restored farmhouse, the Charente. See below for a TGV service map for all of France:
The ride into Angoulême from Bordeaux was a whiz! It only took 35 minutes to travel 107 km ( 66 miles)! The TGV trains travel at a top speed of 322 km/hr (200 miles/hr), such that the Bordeaux St. Jean (in the southwest of France) to Paris Montparnasse Station (in the north of France) TGV high-speed train trip takes only 2 hours, 9 minutes, covering a distance of 499 km. (310 miles)! “A TGV test train set the world record for the fastest wheeled train, reaching 574.8 km/h ,(357.2 mph) on 3 April 2007. In 2007, the world’s fastest scheduled rail journey was a start-to-stop average speed of 279.4 km/h (173.6 mph) between the Gare de Champagne-Ardenne and Gare de Lorraine on the LGV Est, not surpassed until the 2013 reported average of 283.7 km/h (176.3 mph) express service on the Shijiazhuang to Zhengzhou segment of China’s Shijiazhuang–Wuhan high-speed railway.” (source: Wikipedia.com) It is amazing how connected all of Europe is by high-speed trains:
Traveling on the Bordeaux–Paris TGV train, from Bordeaux to Angoulême on May 8th, and from Angoulême to Paris on May 9th, we crossed through 3 regions deep in the heart of France – Nouvelle-Aquitaine, anchoring the southwestern corner of France, through Centre-Val de Loire, anchoring the central region of France and the Loire Valley, and on to Ile-de-France, the region in the north of France to which Paris belongs:
Our American expat friends, S. and G. were kind enough to meet us at the Angoulême train station, and to host us in their lovely restored French farmhouse, La Charente, located above the Charente River, near the tiny village of Mouton, about 20 minutes outside Angoulême – in the beautiful countryside of rolling hills, woodlands, meandering rivers, farms and quaint villages. After a quick tour of the southwestern French city of Angoulême, we drove through the countryside to the tiny settlement of Mouton, to an ATM. Mouton truly was in the depths of la France profonde (rural France.) After the hamlet of Mouton, we then drove further out to their restored 17th(?) century farmhouse compound. The farmhouse featured very thick stone walls, real terra cotta tile roofs, plaster walls, several interesting outbuildings, especially the one where S. will have her workshop, flower gardens, vegetable gardens, orchards full of peaches, cherries, pears and plums.
We were shown all around the inside of the charmingly-restored farmhouse. On the ground floor was a spacious galley-style Kitchen, a large Dining Room, a comfortable Living Room complete with a couple of actual woolen sheep, a spacious office where G. and S. do their work complete with a warm wood-burning stove and a big Utility Room (where we were able to catch up on our laundry!). Upstairs there were comfortable bedrooms, each with their own attached bathrooms. In the attic was a big space where S. sometimes holds craft workshops.
S. showed us up to our very comfortable second-floor bedroom. The windows, set deep in the massive stone walls, looked out on the river below, as well as the comfortable terrace meant for long afternoons lingering over a good book. We soon fell in love with S. and G.’s fabulous dogs.
As with the farmhouse, S. and G.’s art collection was equally amazing. I had many favorites, but my most favorite was a cleverly-designed “chandelier” over the dining table with tiny stainless steel rods radiating out from a central hub with tiny clips on the ends. The clips held sketches from their many friends around the world.
G. cooked us a wonderfully delicious dinner of Risotto and S. served a delicious walnut cake she had made for dessert. We had a good time catching up over a good bottle or two of tasty French wine.