My turn…

This Saturday is my birthday. Yes, we are both Pisces which probably makes us incompatible in terms of star signs but we’ve hung in there for a very long time. We have had trips away for my birthday but just as it was becoming a lovely habit doom virus struck and we had to cancel. Last year the spring was busy with both of us having our cateracts sorted plus other events and I can’t even remember what we did! Oh, yes, dinner in a little restaurant in Biars which has since closed. ☹️

This year I thought it would be fun to have a little jaunt, visit somewhere interesting; lunch or picnic, maybe a gentle stroll but all dependant on the weather. I had found something on the internet not that long ago about whose existence I had no idea. A tiny chapel in the Correze with windows designed and painted by Mark Chagall. This is the sort of discovery I love, deep in la France profonde, a little pocket of international culture. I noted it down on the bucket list. This seemed like the perfect time to visit as it is only just over an hour away with a town handily placed along the route for lunch and a wander.

‘I’m only chauffeur’ acquiesced without too much debate and I started researching lunch spots. Donzenac looked a likely place as it is listed as a medieval town (interesting to wander) and one we hadn’t visited since 1990 when we stayed on its municipal campsite. That was the year we arrived in the area in our caravan determined to find a holiday home. Friends thought we were bonkers but we gave ourselves a month and had gathered a list of agents and likely properties before we left home.

The campsite was crowded but a lot of fun. Himself ended up on the adults team for an impromptu football match against les jeunes. I can’t remember who won, probably les jeunes, being younger and fitter, but I do remember the aperos that followed with a family from Dunkerque. I struggled to understand all that was said by the husband and finally apologised to his wife for my mistakes. She burst out laughing and told us that when she met him she couldn’t understand a word he said either! Having lived here I now know about les Ch’tis, the much loved but incomprehensible northerners.

Anyway, back to the important matter of food. There were two possibilities, a Logis and a bistro. I remembered we had eaten very well one or twice in Donzenac during that holiday but had no recollection of where in the town it was. The bistro had a daily formule and the Logis membership means the restaurant must offer one regional menu so either should be fine.

In the event, the Logis was still closed for the winter and the bistro featured a burger as its main ‘plat’, not something I normally choose to eat.

But across le place du marche was a pizzeria with a sunny terrace and not just pizza on the menu. We had deliberately chosen the Thursday before ‘the’ day as it had the best forecast of the week and we opted to eat outside as it was so lovely.

I was delighted to see my favourite pizza on the menu after discovering my first choice salad was unavailable and that I could have the small version.. more of that later. First some coffees as we were a bit early for lunch. A delicious cappuccino in true Italian style.

We sat and people watched for a while, noting those who also turned away from the burger menu and wandered our way or back down to the main road where there was a bar offering steak frites.

When my ‘small’ pizza arrived I squeaked ‘petite’? and our smiling waiter told me I could always take the remains away in a box.

And, indeed, I did!

From where I was sitting I could see a sign for the Chapelle des Penitents bleus so after lunch we wandered in that direction. I had no memory of ever exploring Donzenac back in 1990 so it was a new experience climbing the narrow streets to the highest point of the town.

A couple of friendly cats came over for a stroke while another stared hopefully from a window.

The chapelle was tiny and had once been a guard house when Donzenac still had protecting walls.

I was fascinated by a very low arch inside but could find no information as to whether the floor had once been lower or people had been very short.

Outside, the curved line of the houses on the other side of the place suggested the earlier presence of walls although I couldn’t see any remains now.

Where plaster was missing you could see the torchis used for construction; wattle and daub, we would call it. Our holiday home and present home have walls of torchis here and there. Every trip to our loft means passing bits of straw sticking out beside the staircase. We had some cleared away from an internal wall with just the wooden uprights left to create more light on a landing corridor. I love seeing evidence of the original construction.

We continued climbing until we passed a building with very old features, a sign further along confirmed its origins as the much rebuilt chateau of Donzenac situated at its highest point.

Back to the car to continue to la Saillant and its Chapelle. First the gps did its ‘lets go up the wildest track we can find’ before himself decided to turn around and find his own way out of town.

It reminded me of the poor chap who delivered our last lot of pellets. His GPS brought him the back way to us; ever narrowing lanes and a bridge impossible for his huge arctic to pass below.

Le Saillant didn’t look particularly pretty as we approached across a flat plain but the 13th century bridge over the Vezere that we had to navigate certainly made up for any lack of kerb appeal.

Close to the bridge there is parking space opposite the privately owned chateau (gardens opened in the summer). ‘I’m only the chauffeur’ opted to stay in the car and rest his eyelids while I went off to explore. The chapelle isn’t far away and, happily, was open as its website had stated. It is a tiny one and was built by the family, de Lasteyrie, who have owned the nearby chateau through twenty one generations since the 13th century. The village, called Orbaciac in the 11th century, came under the remit of the abbey at Beaulieu sur Dordogne just a few kilometers from us. By the end of the twelfth century it had switched to the Bishopric of Limoges. A recent incumbent, Guy, was the person who loved Marc Chagall’s art and persuaded him to create the windows. The interior was completely restored in the 70s. The publicity of the Chapelle states it is the only one in France to have all its windows made by the artist although several famous French cathedrals also have individual windows by Chagall.

I had the place to myself so was able to clamber about and get up close to most of the glass. The coloured windows faced each other from the two ends while the ‘grisaille’ windows are along the right-hand side.

I was surprised by the plainer windows as I always associate Chagall with strong colours and was glad of the explanatory notes carefully displayed by the entrance. Please excuse my shadow!

I was taking the photo of the tiny rose window with the joyous colours while balancing on the vertiginous balcony above the entrance when four walkers came in. We nodded to each other and I wondered if they had picnicked nearby as I knew there were two circular walks that came through the village. I found myself following them as the two ladies of the group and myself searched for the signposted toilets. Frustrated by the locked door when we did track them down we began to chat. They were doing an eleven kilometer walk, ‘tres facile’, and headed off along the river where I knew there was a barrage further downstream considered a highlight by the walk organisers!

Back at the car himself had wandered over to the bridge and spent some time acquainting himself with the fishing regulations..not that he is a fisherman.

Not wanting to go back the way we came (that dodgy GPS) we followed signposts, (now there’s old-fashioned), and rounded off our day with some retail therapy at Brive’s out of town zone commercial.

A lovely day out and, maybe, we’ll go back to do that ‘facile’ walk or just stroll around the chateau gardens when the weather is warmer and the flowers are out.

for information

Chapelle du Saillant Voturac

open everday 9.30h – 18h free access

Jardins du Château du Saillant Voturac

in June Saturdays and Sundays 15h – 18h

in July and August during the festival of the Vezere – guided visits by appointment

4 euros pp

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to My turn…

  1. waxixe6397 says:

    Such a lovely blog post! I particularly enjoyed reading about your discovery of the tiny chapel with windows designed and painted by Mark Chagall. It sounds like a hidden gem. Have you ever visited any other lesser-known cultural sites in France, and if so, which ones would you recommend?

    Mr Waxixe

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s hard to know which are the lesser known sites. To us Rocamadour is very well known but to the English speaking commentators on last year’s tour de France it was clear they had never heard of it! Trawl back through my posts and you may find something you like eg Le canal des Moines at Aubazine.


  2. Thank you Lynne for sharing your lovely day out. The Chapelle windows are so different from regular stained glass and I found them to be very beautiful. It’s my birthday tomorrow. Bon anniversaire 🥂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Joyeux anniversaire! That chapel looks like one for my bucket list. The windows are beautiful. It sounds like an excellent birthday outing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. One of my readers has drawn my attention to All Saints church in Tudeley, Kent UK which claims to be the only church in the world with all its windows created by Marc Chagall. La Saillant gets a mention as a chapel!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s