Villeneuve-sur-Lot, Château de Biron and more

January, 2023

This house sit is indeed special. Every day we explore the grounds and find more hidden corners and even a small chapel!

Junior the cat, still avoids her mother. Though she sits on our lap, likes to be stroked and feels safe in our presence!

The cleaning lady comes twice a week and we get french lessons from her. She just loves to talk and talks fast! On occasions we totally miss the conversation, but who cares!

We get our bread from the boulangerie (bakery) in Duravel. If the bakery is closing, they bring their ‘leftovers’ to the tobacco store. The last place where we would look for bread!

Even in winter time there is plenty to discover in the Lot and Dordogne region.

I am not really prepared for the cold weather, therefor we decide to go to Villeneuve-sur-Lot to buy some warmer clothes. We finally spend more time exploring this lively medieval city, instead of shopping! I do buy a nice warm coat. (No, no fur!)





Villeneuve-sur-Lot, founded in 1253, was once an important trading town. In former times, a fortified wall, six towers and eight gates surrounded the city. The Porte de Paris and the Porte de Pujols are still there. We admire some important landmarks; Le Pont Vieux (the old bridge), from the 13th century, Place Lafayette (where the open market takes place) and Notre-Dame du Bout du Pont Chapel, dedicated to the mariners. The remarkable red brick Sainte-Catherine Church was built in Romano-Byzantine style and finished in 1937. Somewhere in an old facade, we notice a huge picture of Brigit Bardot and Serge Gainsbourg.

In the Dordogne department we visit the 12th century Château de Biron. Once of important military significance and nowadays a popular tourist attraction. The Gontaut Biron family owned it for 24 generations, until 1978, when it was sold to the State. It consists of a diversity of buildings and normally it is open for the public, but not now in January!

Just outside the gates is a hamlet of a few very old houses and a church.

Chateau de Biron

According to Biron’s legends, Charles de Biron was beheaded in the courtyard of the Bastille in the 17th century. He was suspected of plotting against King Henri IV!

The Komoot app shows us great hiking possibilities. We decide to undertake a diverse three hour walking tour in between two villages. Via a scenic drive over a curvy road, we arrive at Blanquefort-sur-Briolance. The surrounding fields and forests are still covered with a small layer of snow. This makes the trail very slippery and at some point I am stretched out in the mud! Also, nowhere a bench to rest and not one café open in the two small communities! Still, we fully enjoy the different loops through open fields, along small streams and dense forests.

Our winter stay in France is one to remember. Quiet roads, no busy marketplaces, no queues in the supermarket, at times pretty cold, but often with crystal clear skies! Above all, plenty of opportunities to enjoy the peaceful scenery, good food and great local wines!

The monuments of Sarlat la Canéda

January 2023,

It feels good to be back in the Lot department. The busy market in Prayssac is still there and the home made chicken has the same delicious taste. I show my partner some interesting places and we even go back to my former house sit in Frayssinet-le-Gélat. The owner asks if we can look after the cat for a couple of weeks, after the chateau sit? Maybe next time? I can’t resist a quick hike to the desolated chateau, just outside the village. This time covered with a thin layer of snow!

It is nice to explore some new places too. For example, the gorgeous town Sarlat-la-Canéda, just across the Dordogne river. In the summer this place is overwhelmed by tourists, but today we are together with the locals.

We choose a sunny day for this visit and it takes us around one hour by car to get there. It is said that Sarlat has the highest concentration of monuments per square meter in the world!

Saint Marie Church, with the huge steel door, is converted into a covered market and cultural centre. The Gothic structure has plenty of new elements inside the building.

Sainte Marie Church Sarlat

Statues, a chapel, the Carolingian abbey, spooky old mansions and cobbled streets are all part of this interesting town, where history goes back to the 11th century!

Besides the historical highlights, there are plenty of stores with regional products; walnuts, chestnuts, black truffles, foie gras, porcini mushrooms and so much more. Market day in Sarlat is famous and well visited. Today we enjoy our peaceful stroll through the ancients streets, drink coffee outside in the winter sun and have a tasty lunch in one of the many restaurants.

Sarlat la Canéda, the capital of the Périgord Noir, is a treasure!

House and cat sitting in a château in France

January, 2023

Our winter holiday will be extended, as we get an unexpected opportunity to house and cat sit in a château in Southern France. A couple of years ago, I also had a ‘sit’ in the same area and I love to go back. We drive straight from the Costa Brava to a small village in the vicinity of Puys L’Eveque and enter the long driveway towards the old and impressive mansion. The landlord welcomes us with a very tasty supper and he gives us a tour over the grounds and through the different buildings. Later in the evening, we try to find our bedroom, but we get lost immediately!

Early in the morning, our host is leaving and for the next two weeks we have the responsibility to look after two cats and 19 bedrooms! We live mainly in the kitchen, which is heated by a separate unit. Temperatures will not reach over 17 degrees Celsius, but with a few sweaters on and a cat on your lap it is warm enough. My partner finally gets the huge fireplace in the kitchen going, but it doesn’t give us any heat.

The wood stove in the living room works great, so by the time supper is finished, we switch rooms.

The cats are mother and daughter, but it turns out that the little girl is afraid of mum; she is most of the time hiding behind the books in the library. Mum goes wherever we go; she follows us in the garden and sits close to us in the kitchen.

Our huge bedroom has tall windows with amazing views over the river Lot. It feels like living on the water. The weather changes and the river changes too. Instead of calm flowing waters, the river gets wild and noisy!

marble stairway

After the rain, we get snow! This will happen only a few times in the winter, according to some locals. It changes the grounds into a winter wonderland. The rooms are getting colder too. To reach our bedroom, we have to climb enormous marble stairs and pass the music room. Nothing is heated, except our bedroom and bathroom. I try to play the piano, but my fingers get frozen!!!

On one of these mornings, the sun suddenly comes out and the wind is waving the grasses bordering the river Lot. My partner looks out of our bedroom window and sees a kingfisher rapidly flying along the waters. The bright blue wings are glittering in the sunlight. I quickly grab my camera and open the window. Our room is situated high above the water and my presence doesn’t disturb the kingfisher. Maybe not 100% clear, but I am able to get this beautiful creature on camera.

Although it is winter time, we fully enjoy the experience of looking after this huge mansion. It also gives us time to explore more of the Lot area and discover other medieval villages.


Honfleur, the pearl of Normandy

7th of August, 2022

It is impossible to leave Normandy without visiting Le Vieux Bassin (The Old Port) and the historic centre of Honfleur. Although our drive back to The Netherlands will be a long one, we decide to take a two-hour break. The streets are packed with tourists on this sunny Sunday morning, but we understand why the town is so popular!

Le Vieux Bassin Honfleur

Many famous poets and painters (Baudelaire, Boudin and Monet) worked and lived in Honfleur and they left an important artistic heritage. The ever-changing light on the estuary seems an inspiration for artists.  Also the great composer Erik Satie,  born in one of the half-timbered ‘maisons Satie’, worked for a while in the pretty town.


There is no shortage of speciality stores, galleries and workshops. We skip the narrow shopping streets and stroll away from the crowd. The best way to find hidden treasures!


The town has a long history and dates from the 11th century. It was occupied by invaders during the Hundred Years War. After the Wars of Religion, the port was a base for several expeditions to the North-American continent. One of the French explorers, Samuel de Champlain, founded Quebec in 1608. During WWII Honfleur was spared from the bombings and survived without any severe damage. It didn’t grow into a major port like Le Havre. One of the reasons was the absence of a railway. Therefor, the small town kept its beauty. Like the 17th century harbour, surrounded with plenty of medieval buildings. Or the historic quarter with half-timbered and old stone houses. Maybe the most unique attraction is the timber church of Sainte-Etienne with the separate wooden belfry.

We leave Honfleur behind and drive the car over the modern bridge, the link between Lower Normandy and the important port and city of Le Havre.

One day we will return to the diversity of this region.

I remember a quote from Claude Lelouch (French film director);

Quand je viens ici, c’est comme si je prenais une douche de mes ennuis

When I come here, it is like all my troubles are washed away

J’adore ce climat

I love this climate

Qui fait fuir les imbéciles,

Which scares away the fools

Ce qui fait que ceux

It means that those who are here

Qui sont la l’apprécient.

Are the ones who appreciate it




At the northern tip of the Cotentin Peninsula

6th of August, 2022

Cherbourg is another place we would like to visit and the drive is only one hour from Bayeux. This maritime town is situated on the Cotentin peninsula, which borders the English Channel. We change our plans and stay one more night at “Ma Fenetre”. It means that our trip back to The Netherlands will be a long one!

The highway is very quiet on this Saturday morning and we find a perfect parking spot at the yacht club of the city. It is a clear and sunny day and a cruise ship is rolling into the harbour.


We cross the road and walk via the Place Napoleon (with the equestrian statue) into the centre, where a small market is going on.

No shortage of terraces in the old town, where no one seems in a rush! We drink a coffee and just enjoy the views over the market place. Cherbourg is an important ferry port and cruise terminal. In the past a naval defense port and now a charming city with modern and historic elements.

The municipality is surrounded by a splendid coastline and our drive will continue towards the Pointe de la Hague with the Phare de Goury (the lighthouse) on an island. The nuclear plant Flamanville, situated along the main road, is in sharp contrast with the beauty of the country side! Goury is a small harbour with a few colourful fishing boats and some fishermen’s houses. If you prefer to live isolated, this is the right spot!

We grab a local apple cider from the “Goury Fish and Chips” eatery, have a rest in the shade at the picnic table and continue our trip towards ‘ Le Nez de Jobourg’. On top of the hill we quickly park the car to admire the view over the Baie d’Ecalgrain.

‘The Nose of Jobourg’ is starting point of one of the most impressive hikes of Normandy. The cliffs are very high, the beaches pristine and you will find unique flora and fauna. Another reason to go back one time!

It is getting late and we have another stop planned at Grandcamp-Maisy on our way back to Bayeux. Again a place with a WW2 history, as the Maisy Battery formed a part of Germany’s Atlantic Wall fortification. In June 2006, the battery site was opened for the first visitors. The harbour town is laid-back and not as vibrant as the other famous Normandy coastal places. We have a drink at a rustic café, but with nice views over the sea. While leaving the town, we discover the impressive 15 meter high Statue de la Paix from the Chinese sculptor Yao Yuan (We Yuan Yan).

It was a day full of impressions and again a touch of everything Normandy has to offer. Tomorrow, we will drive home, but not without a short visit to Honfleur, where the Seine meets the sea!





Historic Bayeux and the famous Abbey of Caen

5th of August, 2022

A visit to Bayeux and Caen is planned for today. It is our intention to leave early, as the Tapestry Museum will be busy later on. The famous embroidery of the museum is 70 meters long and tells the legendary tale of the Norman conquest of England by William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy; a highlight for most tourists in Bayeux!

Unfortunately, our breakfast is again too tasty and the company extremely pleasant and we finally arrive around 10.30 a.m. in the old centre. By now, many tourists are already lined up in front of the museum. We decide to explore the other corners of the city and come back during lunch. One of the most impressive monuments is the 900 years old Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Bayeux. It was built under Romanesque and Norman architecture, but there are even parts in Gothic style, like the 95-meter high spire.

Beside the cathedral stands the magnificent Liberty Tree, symbol of the French Revolution and planted in the 18th-century.

Bayeux is a small medieval town with many interesting buildings and cute little stores. It was liberated rapidly in 1944 and therefor preserved from the bombings.

Around lunchtime we return to the museum, but the line got even longer. We decide to leave the Tapistry for another time and drive to Caen instead.

Caen has suffered tremendously during WW2. Most of the houses and monuments in the city got ruined or severely damaged. The Caen Castle, one of the largest walled fortifications in Europe, was also partly destroyed by the bombings of 1944, but has since been restored. The Saint-Etienne Abbey survived the attacks. It was a shelter for thousands of inhabitants during the Normandy landings. The abbey church of Saint-Etienne is part of the Abbaye-aux-Hommes and founded in 1063 by William the Conqueror. It is one of the largest Romanesque churches in France. The abbey and cloisters are definitely worth a visit! In the 13th century gothic elements had been adjusted and the monastery was rebuilt in the 18th century. In the monastic buildings now houses the Town Hall.

William’s wife Mathilde was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames and William in the abbey church. Though, on several occasions his tomb was opened and all the bones were scattered and lost. It is said that there is only one bone left in the impressive tomb!

Opposite the abbey are the ruins of the church of Saint-Etienne-le-Vieux still visible. During the Hundred Years’ War it was severely damaged, reconstructed again, but poorly maintained. In 1840 it became a Monument Historique, but the church was hit by a shell in 1944 (aimed at a column of German tanks!).


It is time to leave Caen and find a place for our evening meal. We drive towards the sea and arrive in Courseulles Sur-Mer, close to Juno Beach.

The town has a fair going on and is overcrowded with people. In the near future, we do hope to get another house sit in Normandy. In Spring or Autumn, when all is quiet and we can visit the many other important monuments and museums.

We quickly leave Courseulles again and drive back to our favourite Port-en-Bessin-Huppain. Somewhere in the back streets, a small terrace is inviting us for a tasty supper. A group of young guys are playing chansons and some Cuban music. Although one of the guitarist sings terrible out of tune, we fully enjoy the atmosphere on this warm summer evening!



Along the Normandy coast

3rd of August, 2022

It is time to say goodbye to Sourdeval and continue our trip towards the coast of Normandy. We booked a 4 night stay in a beautiful Bed & Breakfast, just outside historic Bayeux. ‘De ma fenetre’ is an old farmhouse with a lot of character, situated in Saint-Martin-des Entrées. Our room is spacious and very well decorated in the old style. The bathroom is huge and there is even a common area, to share with the guests of the other room. Francoise, the owner, is a charming and welcoming lady and we immediately feel at home. She prepares in the morning a breakfast with all kinds of local produce; home made pastry, different jams, salade from seasonal fruits and fresh apple juice. We all sit together around the big table in the kitchen or under the pergola in the lushy garden. On the second morning a mouse walks into the kitchen and Francoise calmly picks it up and puts it outside again! It is nice to start the day, drinking café with our landlady and the other guests, discussing different topics and switching from french to english and from spanish to french again!

On June 6, 1944, D-Day took place on the Normandy coast. This was the great Allied invasion to liberate Europe. There are many interesting historical sites to discover and we have to make choices. Bayeux is conveniently located for a visit to the famous WW2 beaches, the musea and the memorials. On our first day, we explore Arromanches-les-Bains, where the large concrete blocks are still visible on the beach and in the sea. They were towed over from Britain during the war, to form the artificial Mulberry Harbour or Port Winston. 2,5 million men, 500.000 vehicles and 4 million tonnes of supplies arrived via the port (named after Winston Churchill). We decide to go to Musée du Debarquement, just before busloads of tourists are arriving. The museum was built right on the side of Mulberry Harbour.

Our next goal is the charming fishing village of Port-en-Bessin-Huppain. The steep coastline was one of the reasons the British soldiers only could attack from the land. Operation Aubery took place between the 6th and 8th of June 1944. The port was the Normandy terminal of PLUTO, the pipe line under the ocean. It ran from the Isle of Wight to France, to supply petrol. It is very difficult to imagine the painful history, which took place in all of these peaceful towns, along the coastline of Normandy.

We immediately fall in love with Port-en-Bessin, where the fishing boats are sailing in and out of the harbour. The noise of the seagulls is overwhelming and the smell of fresh fish, cooked in the various restaurants, makes us hungry. We find a table right on the quay side, with the best view!

One day we will return to the pictoresque harbour, the lock, the pier and the steep cliffs!


Our next stop is the American Cemetery and Memorial, situated on the cliffs of Omaha Beach, in Colleville-sur-Mer. We are just in time for the ‘Flag Lowering Ceremony’ at 5.00 p.m. Although there is still a crowd, everybody is very quiet.

During D-Day invasion, ground troops landed across five assault beaches; Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. The US Divisions, which landed on the beach of Omaha, had the highest rate in casualties; 2,400 were dead, wounded, or missing.

We walk in silence along the rows of little white crosses, each with the name of a hero. It is incredible that more than 9,000 burials can be find here. The statue, the monument, the little chapel and the view over the sea in the background, are all very impressive. This is just one of the many war cemeteries here in Normandy.

It is too late to visit another museum, but we have a glimpse on the beach itself and find another majestic Memorial, called ‘Les Braves’. The monument consists of three elements; ‘The Wings of Hope’, ‘Rise, Freedom!’, ‘The Wings of Fraternity’.

Memorial Les Braves


Views over dreamy Mont Saint-Michel

August, 2022

It is a cloudy day when we drive to famous Mont Saint-Michel on the Cotentin peninsula. The worst time to visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site is during the summer months, but we take the chance. Scenic rural roads are bringing us after one hour to the small village La Rive. From here, we can see the island in the far distance. We park the car in the main street and follow some people, who are climbing over a fence to start their hike towards the island.

The official entrance is reached by highway, but our spot gives us stunning views!

We walk around 4 kilometers over the salt marches, with flocks of sheep grazing on both sides. The clouds are forming a blanket in the sky. In the far distance, we see hundreds of people going over the long bridge. It was constructed in 2015, to replace the former causeway and restore the island status. As a result, the sea surrounds Mount Saint-Michel again, at specific high tides.

The Abbey, which has a Romanesque and Gothic style architecture, stands on a granite inlet. It was built over 1,300 years and always has been a very important pilgrimage site. In 1790 the monks had been banished from the Abbey during the French Revolution. It was then used as a prison until 1860. In 1862 the Abbey became a historical monument. Besides the impressive sanctuary, there is a quaint 15th-century church; Eglise Paroissiale Saint-Pierre.

We enjoy our hike, admiring the different shades of the grasses in the meadow and the colours of the sky.

Once we arrive to the bridge, it is time to mingle with all the other tourists. We climb the steep stairs and reach the walls of the island. From here, the view stretches over the Couesnon River and the shores, where guides are taking groups on a walking tour over the quicksand.

The decor is like a painting from the Dutch artist Pieter Bruegel. So many things are happening down below. Children are playing on the sand, people are wading through the water and the bridge is packed with arriving and departing families.

We try to reach the Abbey, but too many people are standing in line. We decide to visit the small Eglise Paroissiale Saint-Pierre, where a bagpipe player is performing.

The visit to the Abbey has to wait for another time in Spring or Autumn. It is just too busy for us. Instead, we explore the island a bit more, go for a drink and get some very expensive and bad quality food in one of the restaurants. Many of the medieval houses are now turned into souvenir shops. Nevertheless, they maintained their character!

It is time to start hiking back to the car, as we need to take care of our ‘house sit animals’. Finally, the first sunrays are showing their glow over the peninsula. More pictures are taken. We turn around one more time, to witness the changing of the light over one of the most visited cultural sites of France.