La Citadelle


You can approach La Citadelle from two directions on the tiny road which loops back to the main road.  This is the first view which most people have of La Citadelle, apparently on a hilltop. Actually it stands at the end of a long raised spur of land, so the land slopes away on three sides.

The first, big building is the mediaeval barn containing the old farmhouse, the second is the Owl Barn, which is our own house, and the furthest is the farmhouse, which is where our visitors stay.

Few of our visitors see this approach from the other direction, because the route is more complicated.  This is from a point between La Citadelle and Le Barradis, the next estate, where our neighbours Charles and Jacqueline live all through the year. Behind the photographer is a small wood, which belongs half to us and half to Charles and Jacqueline.

All the woods you can see in this view beyond the house, to the main road, belong to us.

Beyond Le Barradis is the tiny hamlet of Barradis.  This consists of half a dozen houses set in the middle of a small vineyard.  The wine produced is a Côtes de Montravel (a subdivision of Bergerac).

In summer, the Dordogne is hot and often humid.  Many mornings start misty. These are the days when the mist burns off fast and the rest of the day is scorching.  Every week or two we have a spectacular thunderstorm, almost always at night.  This summer I stood out on the veranda at midnight with the landscape lit by a continuous strobe effect from the dry elctric storm.  The torrential rain started a little later, and went on for about an hour.

As we move into autumn, these damp, misty nights are often warm.  The brilliantly clear starlit night, with the arc of the Miulky way splashed across the heavens, are often very cool from September onwards.

In the heat of the day our visitors often spend much of their time around, on, and in, the lake, like the Swallows and Amazons here.  Since the water is ten feet deep, the small jetty is ideal for jumping or diving in.

Several of our visitors this year were keen fishermen.  They all had tales of the monster carp living in the depths (we call it Moby Dick because we see it most days just before evening when it leaps in the air and falls back with a great splash).  Last year the fishermen failed to catch it because their lines snapped at six pounds.  This year someone complained that he kept hooking Moby Dick, but that it was straightening the hook each time, so that he could not land it - he had to settle for around twenty smaller fish each session!

The farmhouse is unchanged this year, except that the canna lilies at the front have grown up, and the vines covering the house will need to be trimmed next spring.
Even though we have had to work hard this summer, to finish the Owl Barn, we have been able to spend most evening with a bottle of wine, watching the sun setting over the woods below the veranda.

As it starts to get dark, the cicadas start, then the moths start to arrive at the sweetly-scented climbers on the wooden pillars. Then the bats start to swoop above the lawn and below the veranda roof.  Finally, when it is almost completely dark, the owls start to call as they set out to hunt along the margins of the woods.

Most nights I could spot a glow-worm from the veranda.  These are strange insects which glow with a constant, bright green light, not moving from one spot for several days.

As we left, in mid-September, we could just see the start of autumn. The first colours were appearing on some of the trees, like the small horse-chestnut in the middle of the lawn below the farmhouse, and the mist lay in layers in the woods, and over the water.

I hope that we are able to return in a few weeks, and see a real autumn at La Citadelle for the first time.  Its now early October, and Malcolm tells me that it is "tee-shirt weather".  Meanwhile here in England it has been raining almost constantly for three days.

Piers visited la Citadelle last week, when he held a college reunion there.  The low fares to Bordeaux make (literally) flying visits so easy. 

To make things easier for our transatlantic visitors from now on, we are going to provide towels as standard in addition to the bedlinen, so that air travellers have fewer problems with their baggage. For some details of 2001 click here.

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