The Dordogne region in summer is abuzz with holiday makers. Mostly those from other parts of France who are seeking sunshine, countryside and glimpse back in time to what rural French life was like before the drenching of hypermarché and high rises. During the hotter months, the small villages in the region host daily get-togethers in varying family friendly (and often food-centric) forms. Each night of the week it is a different villages turn to host le repas – an out door food court of sorts, but not like anything I’d imagined before.
Having explored the local delicacies of our small town last week at the Le Bugue repas, I was excited to find out what a different village had in store. Audrix is a tiny medevial village, a speckle placed pricisely on the highest point of a small hill. The view is postcard worthy, 360 degree panoramic views across the Southern French countryside, woods and groves occasionally intercepted by fat, rotund hay bales and stone clad cottages.
The summer evenings amble along here at the perfect pace – with the last round of sunscreen still sometimes being applied as late at 8pm. In this delicious environment, al fresco dining seems more of a requirement than an option. Long bench tables are set up around the perimeter of the town square, while a live band is getting ready to play in front of the roaring hot wood-fire bread oven. Repas are a cross between a picnic (a French favourite) and an outdoor food market. You always bring your own plates and cutlery, often your own wine too, and then carouse the stalls selecting your viands. The options vary between towns depending on both what is produced locally, as well as what is in season. I made a beeline for a personal favourite – confit de canard, a thigh of duck cooked in it’s own fat, served aside sliced potatoes fried in mushroom and bacon. Stuffed full and happy, I finished off with a vin rouge and cup full of ripe strawberries topped with chantilly cream.
Duck, truffles, fois gras and walnuts are all regional delicacies. Platters of thin, meaty circles of fois gras & rillette sit neatly aside cheese plates and freshly hulled strawberries. Bustling vendors whipping up rich, black truffle fragranced tagliatelle chat to their neighbours grilling up magret canard and steak frite. A far cry from the food courts of Southeast Asia I have become so fond of, a gourmand selection suitable for simple picnic lovers and bon viveur alike.
The festivities carry on well into the evening as dark doesn’t fall until about 10pm. The local entertainment parades through dressed in traditional clothing; singing, dancing and snaking their way through the crowd in handmade medieval gear. Children play and indulge in rides around the village on a cart drawn by donkey as their parents catch up with their friends and neighbours over a flame-baked, crusty bread. Eventually the crowds disperse for the evening, warm, socialised & sated, ready for a good nights sleep, and maybe even to meet up again tomorrow at the next repas.
A Peek into the Medieval Procession at the Audrix Repas