7 November 2016

en route II

VILLEFRANCHE-DU-PÉRIGORD  did not look altogether promising on the p'tit dej front as we descended from the fog on the hills out of Cahors. True, the place has a solid charm, built as it is to the bastide formula, of rich warm sandstones, on a tight pattern of grid like streets leading to a market square with open sided trading hall etc etc and so on  -- you can look it up, don't expect a guided tour from me I'm not the sort. Or you just might acquire the hand drawn map of the place, like we should have done . . .

Keith Godard's pencil sketch, left; final rendition for the map, right
Anyway, despite the unpromising air of abandonment appertaining as we parked by the ancient arcade in the square, we persevered and took ourselves down the stately main street. A small boulangerie was open and aglow inside with provender, local jams, sweetmeats and similar,  and there we did secure three fine croissants (two for me as I am beyond caring about restraint). Then out into the chill dank air until a bar we espied. At least the overhead lights were on and the door unlocked but no customers or patron in evidence whatsoever. Until the latter staggered through a back door carrying logs and kindling, apologies, had got in late. No sooner than he had arrived, like moths to a flame they came – the men who frequent the bar of a morning. Each one acknowledged us the obvious strangers and shook hands with all the other customers, each in turn.

Well the coffee was good, the croissants top grade and the bar was warming up as the potbelly stove got going, as we also – got going. By now the square where we had left the motor was busy with the comings and goings of the school run and traffic had begun to filter down the streets and lanes of the town. We strolled around a bit and took the odd snap . . . climbed into the vehicle, with comments that we must come again on a less grey day and take a proper look around . . . and drove on.

Not until we were safe returned to the home address did I finally remove the Die Zeit newspapers donated to me by friend Gérard Kaiser from the rear seat of the motor, amongst which I found a page ripped from an english language newspaper that I had had no time to look at until now. When I did I realised that what I was looking at was both a very interesting envisionment of information (which, my readers who are aware of my professional past will know – as a designer of information systems, atlases – and the encouragement of same through higher education teaching – well such things rock my boat) and of the tiny town of Villefranche-du-Périgord. Being somewhat short of natural affinity with french (I blame my school), I did not pick up on the name of the place illustrated but the overhead rendition of Villefranche-du-Périgord's market square was so clear that I recognised it immediately.

If I had read the article before leaving Sablet we might have tried to buy a copy of the map produced by artist/designer Keith Godard while in Villefranche-du-Périgord. A chance missed but nowhere seemed open so we would have probably drawn a blank . . . nevertheless  we were rather surprised at the coincidence, wondering if the presence of the article in the car had caused us to deviate into the town, subconsciously, as it were . . .

codicil – we come again
It's September 2017 and we are en route to Sablet via a stop over in Cahors. It is a sunny and warm afternoon as we approach Villefranche-du-Périgord so we think the tourist office might be on stream, and there may be a chance they still have the work of Keith Godard for sale. And sure enough they are and they do. So for the outlay of some ten euros we now have his rendition of V-du-P, clip-framed and on the wall at Sablet, my rather poor reproduction of which is displayed below. As a map it has its limitations but the drawing produces a very clear sense of the place. There isn't really much need for a street plan, we visited most of the streets in a half hour stroll. The town incidentally looked charming in the early autumn sunlight although the cafe in which we dispatched our croissants in November 2016 was closed, so we took refreshment instead under the bunting in the town square . . . most pleasant.