Saturday, 11 February 2012

Cherves-Châtelars - A Walk with a Surprise at the End

We have joined a local French leisure club, to try to improve our French. It seems to operate year-round except for summer, and they play scrabble and belote, the latter being a 32 card whist-type game, the precise rules of which are currently a mystery!  Scrabble in French is also an acquired skill and we are presently limited to 2-4 letter words, although the other players are keen to assist us!


Other activities are short visits and short tours; one of the former had been arranged recently, and although rain threatened and Nigel was starting a dose of flu, we decided to go along, as the property to be visited was on private land - a  rare  opportunity for a look around.

We drove to Cherves-Châtelars where we  met everyone at the communal hall. The destination was not, at first, at all clear, as we all roared off in cars in pursuit of a leader, coming before long to a halt on a roadside verge near a dilapidated farmstead. We then abandoned the vehicles and ambled along a  lane, across the delightful, undulating and unspoilt countryside, towards our goal - as yet out of view.
I'm sorry that there are more photos than I normally put on a post, but it was difficult to pick the best!
No this is not what it looks like! One of the knowledgeable locals (most of them have lived in the area  all their lives) has pointed out a natural spring bubbling away at the side of the road.


We then came across this lovely stone house, which had some gorgeous windows; we were told this was the original residence for the monks who operated the priory next door

Note the tall figure at the front of the group; who says I can never find Nigel in a crowd :-)

We then saw the 'surprise' just around the corner, the remains of this stunning old priory
It is on private property, but we had the kind permission of the landowner to take a look around. As we walked, one of our companions explained that the priory was thought to have been built around the time of William the Conqueror, nearly 1000 years ago! – it was founded by Benedictine monks, in this now very Catholic country. We were told that a number of protestant churches still exist in France, chiefly in the south and towards the west coast.



 The following photos of the nave are taken from the now demolished transept


How did it get ruined like this? Well, there is a heady sense of history involved with this place over the last 1000 years. Some 400 years after it was built, the priory was ruined in the fighting during what the French call the “ wars of religion”, a period of Protestant/Catholic wars, which started in 1562 and were ended by the Treaty of Nantes in 1598. But that isn't the end of the history witnessed by these walls............ see later


Walking around the side to other buildings



 and from the back, what remains of the apse






 beautifully carved capitols (thought to be 12th century), above and below, on each side of the nave




ancient floor slabs

 Would this be an old altar ?

and more recent history, just up the road.....
This small sign tells us that some 3 kilometres down this little track (too muddy to walk this day)  was a concealed hut, where many of the local WW2 French Resistance fighters  (Maquis) used to operate from. (see my blog 55 for more details). 

Maquis bush  covers large areas of France 

We then came across this sign which says the tree behind it was planted in 1978 by the children of Cherves-Châtelars, in memory of the local Maquis group (named Bir Hacheim), who operated in this area in 1943-44, sabotaging German military activities. As part of this work, we were told they built an observation platform high up in the priory walls, to carry out surveillance of troop movements in the valley below.

Luckily we managed to see all this in dry conditions, but the walk back to the cars was a in very damp  cold drizzle, which did not help Nigel's ailment! 
I hope that you enjoyed this surprise tour as much as we did.  I was completely dumbfounded to see all this; I cycle all these roads regularly, but this was one very interesting little road I had missed!

My thanks to Nigel for all the research he did for this post.

108 comments:

  1. What a fascinating place.The carving that remains is really beautiful and the history of France during that period from William the Conqueror through the Wars of Religion so traumatic. Its also so complicated I can never keep it straight without a book in front of me!

    We are very interested in the Maquis and its history -- it was very active in the Lot and there was a lot of activity around our local town of St. Cere.

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  2. The Broad it was fascinating and so much history behind it. If only one had a time machine to be able to really see what went on.
    The History in France and the Resistance stretches far. I would love to be able to speak to some of the 90 year olds around here, but sadly my French is just not good enough. Thanks for the comment. Diane

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  3. Hi Dianne. Fascinating stuff this and well worth the effort! I hope Nigel is OK and yes,you could never miss him in a crowd of people!!Keep well xoxo

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  4. Liesl, France has so much history and it really is fascinating. I was bored to death with history at school suddenly I have changed my mind! Enjoy your warm weekend :) Diane

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  5. A fabulous walk , and very interesting. I hope Nigel is ok now, and I never knew he was so tall!!

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  6. How wonderful to join this leisure club and what a challenge to play scrabble while learning French. (Mike and I play with slang words that must be used in an understandable sentence.)

    This tour is Awesome. I'm glad you posted this many photos, and they are Great showing so many details, angles and views.
    I am very attracted to stone built structures, and ruins. Plus their story.

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  7. You have just reinforced the reason we love Europe, especially France, so much. The history...to walk where they walked. Thank you for a wonderful posting to both of you.

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  8. Anne it was a fantastic walk. Yep, Nigel is always easy to find in a crowd, especially when it is a French crowd! Thanks, he is feeling better at last but he has not been out the house yet. It is so cold the air just catches him and he starts coughing. I am just hoping that we both will get better when the weather changes. I hope it does for you as well. Take care. I think of you often. Diane xx

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  9. Gaelyn scrabble in French is something else!! When we get help we usually have to look the word up to see what it is. Nigel mostly remembers, my memory last about 24 hours if I am lucky!!
    This stone structure had so much history attached to it I could have spent hours there. As it is on private property it would not be easy to return unless we could get to know the owners. Diane

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  10. Susan how right you are. There is so much to see, do and learn here with all the history around. I am happy we have decided to retire in France :) Diane

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  11. Hi Diane - what a great way to integrate and learn some French - just catching up with some blogs - good to see you are coping with the weather - keep warm xx

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  12. Thanks for the lovely tour. it's always such fun to discover these 'hidden' gems. The capitals are super!

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  13. Roz it is fun and I have probably learnt one word that has stuck in my brain. I am hopeless!! LOL Diane xx

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  14. Niall & Antoinette I am flabbergasted that I missed this one, I thought I knew all the little roads within a 50km radius from cycling. Now I wonder what else I may have missed! The search will be on come spring! Keep warm Diane

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  15. Thank you for sharing this remarkable place. I see that these folks all enjoy the same things; are they all Englishmen and women learning to live in France?

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  16. Rosaria apart from ourselves all the other people are French born and bred in the area. We are the only ones trying to improve our French. Diane

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  17. Diane, these photos are fascinating! Thanks for the tour. I just love discovering new (and old) things in my area! It really opens your eyes around you. So good that you can join a group like this.
    Lyndsey


    P.S. I can send you a bottle of liquid smoke :)

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  18. Lyndsey we are really happy with this group of people who are all French, and who have welcomed us with open arms. They know so much of the history around here I hope we will get to learn a lot more. Thank goodness Nigel did French at school and has a good memory! I have answered the liquid smoke on your own blog, thanks. Keep well Diane

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  19. What a lovely day out you both had. That old church was very atmospheric and beautiful even though in a ruined state. Shame the walk had a damp end to it, but at least you enjoyed yourselves, which is the main thing.

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  20. What a great way to learn the language - I can only imagine how difficult scrabble must be.
    What an interesting place you visited -I have grown to love visiting old ruins and the like. You have some fascinating history on it.
    Hope Nigel has recovered from his flu.

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  21. Vera I wish we could have had longer at the Priory but the weather was very definitely against us. Nigel has taken a long time to recover and is still not 100% yet!! For all that we had a great time. Diane

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  22. Bravo pour avoir rejoint un club de loisirs pour améliorer votre français! Je vous souhaite à tous les deux beaucoup de succès!
    Merci pour le récit de votre sortie! Nous avons beaucoup de vieilles pierres! Les chapitaux de ce prieuré sont superbes, j'aime beaucoup l'art roman!
    Bon dimanche à vous et à votre mari(bien au chaud) !

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  23. Ellie scrabble in French is something I never dreamt I would ever try, but it is lots of fun and somebody always comes to help me :)
    The ruins are beautiful, but I would love to have seen it in its heyday.
    Nigel is not 100% but he is very much better than he was. With this weather recovery is slow!! Keep well Diane

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  24. Lucie le club des retraités est très amusant. Mon français est terrible, mais j'ai beaucoup d'aide. Le bâtiment est magnifique. Il est triste que nous ne le vois pas nouvelle. Bon dimanche.Oui bien au chaud. Diane

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  25. Gorgeous photos! I love the stone house in the second one! The windows are beautiful:)
    ~Anne

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  26. I am developing a garden and landscape in a place where human beings had not been until 150 years ago. I am thinking about how it would be doing the same with human relics of the past. They provide an astonishing context.

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  27. Anne the stone house is still inhabited so there has been some great restoration there. Never the less the ruins were what we loved. Diane

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  28. The Field of Gold, anything belonging to history and relics are interesting so far as I am concerned. Keep well Diane

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  29. Awesome stroll through the history of your area. Thank you for sharing with us all.

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  30. What a lovely tour you had - a beautiful place. The club sounds fun - I bet your French is super!
    Mary x

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  31. What a great way to try and improve your French. I love the old ruins.

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  32. Beautiful Blog u have here..enjoying your write ups..Following you..Pls drop in my space as time permits,
    Thanxs!

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  33. Thanks for the tour. Very interesting. I loved all of your photos.

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  34. This was pure bliss reading Diane (& Nigel). You know how I love history, and particularly of buildings dating from that time.

    I felt I was right there, walking with you, thanks to the wonderful commentary & photos.

    What an excellent idea joining such a group of like minded residents, to improve your French.

    Quelle surprise indeed! Not just priory ruins but Maquis hideouts and all!

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  35. Stunning stuff Diane - I read every word and enjoyed all of the photos. To me, this is what travelling France is all about - discovery.
    Leon

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  36. Thanks Horst for the comment, we will certainly return to the area on our bikes to see what else we can find. Diane

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  37. Mary, Mum's Kitchen, you bet wrong, my French is useless. I only started learning well after I had turned 60 and my memory is hopeless!! French grammar is way over my head!! Nigel is quite good, but he learnt at school and has a good memory. Take care Diane

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  38. Joyful the ruins are beautiful in their own way, just sad that they are ruins! The club is great fun, think Nigel is getting more out of it than me, I just struggle along. They are all such fantastic people though. Diane

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  39. Deeps Recipes, thanks so much for your visit and your kind comment. Thanks also for following. I am glad that you enjoyed my write ups. See you soon. Diane

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  40. Words Of Deliciousness so glad you enjoyed the tour and the photos. Keep well Diane

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  41. Dolly I am so pleased that you enjoyed this bit of history which was a complete surprise to us. It was enjoyable as well as interesting.

    The group is, I hope, going to help my French, it will certainly improve Nigels. My problem is I do not understand French grammar and I have a useless memory. I only wish I had done French at school!!!

    Keep warm and don't over do it. Diane xx

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  42. Leon thank you for the lovely comment. There is just so much to discover here, and when you find things like this almost on the door step you realise just how easily it is to miss something!! Diane

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  43. What a great way to learn French. That's exactly what we would do, it's worth making the effort. And thanks for the lovely photos and the history.
    I hope Nigel doesn't suffer too much as a result !!

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  44. Jean it is wonderful being with a French group, none of who speak English, so it really forces the issue! We have met one couple, he is a retired school teacher, and he speaks slowly and clearly. I understand him more than anyone I have met. They also help to explain things which is fantastic. His wife also generally speaks slowly and carefully to us.
    Nigel has not been out of the house since with all the bad weather we have had. I only have to open the door and the cold catches in his throat. He has improved a lot though, I hope next week the weather will be a bit better and we will be able to get out.
    I went shopping with our French neighbour during the week and we got stuck in the snow!!
    Keep warm Diane xx

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  45. Crazy about those capitols... they are amazing, aren't they? Well, I love ruins in general.. think they are magnificent. I always wanted a garden organized around a ruin. Crazy about the idea! Thanks for the great tour... what a great way to learn French.

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  46. What an amazing place and the history as well. Shame it isn't open to the public, but then I guess it would be ruined eventually. Thank you for sharing. x

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  47. You always see and do the most beautiful things! Joining a leisure group sounds like a wonderful way to improve your French and immerse yourself into places and activities with people you maybe wouldn't have had the opportunity to otherwise.

    I'm trying to learn French, and I hope the baby will be fluent when he grows up. That way we can travel and connect with people, too. =)

    For now, Daphny, the baby and I will stay put in Boston until Daphny gets his paperwork finished up. He's trying to become a citizen. I hope we'll have a better idea about what we're doing by then. Because I'm settled here; the home and security we have here, it's easier to stay with a young baby, but I'd really love for us to eventually move to France like we planned early on.

    So much love to you, Diane. And thank you for thinking of me. I hope everything is going well on your end! Will you be in Charente much longer? I'll be in touch. <3

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  48. lostpastremembered I agree those catitols are something else and just think how old they are! So glad you enjoyed the tour. Diane

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  49. Karen it would probably survive being open here. Most people have so much respect for the history in the buildings here. Having said that tourists may not feel quite the same and try to take home mementoes! Glad you enjoyed it. Diane

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  50. Ree I had a friend in S.Africa whose mother was French, she spoke nothing else to her daughter. Father was Hungarian and that is all he ever spoke to her. She went to school in a country that meant she had to do English and Afrikaans, and she learnt Zulu from the Gardener. When I met her at 12 years old she was fluent in 5 languages. As soon as your baby talks, let it be in both French and English, I only started learning French after I was 60 and boy is it hard work with a rotten memory!!

    Glad that you enjoyed the walk around. As for the Charente we are retired now and here for good. The UK house is sold, so the only reason we would have to visit the UK now is to see Nigel's 91 year old father who still lives on his own.

    Keep well and I hope all goes well for Daphny getting his citizenship.
    Diane

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  51. This club sounds like a great way to get to know the area that you are living in. Normally you would have to grow up in an area to get to know about these hidden gems.

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  52. cheshire wife I think that we are so lucky to have discovered this group of French retired people who know the place so well. I am wondering what other treasures we are going to discover. As this place is on private property we would never have been able to see it alone. Diane

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  53. History is so interesting! Nice to have a little group like this.

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  54. Hi Diane .. sounds such a great way of improving your French, while seeing the countryside with the locals. Love the history - glad you gave us a good supply of photos .. cheers Hilary

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  55. My hat's off to you both for joining the group and getting involved with the locals. I know it's difficult...especially cards and Scrabble. Yikes! But when we open ourselves up to being a part of our new world, we discover so much, don't we? Hope you're well and that Nigel gets better.

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  56. GEEEE!
    What a tour!
    Well done and so well explained!
    I would gladly spend hour around such an old and interesting place like this!
    Cheers, Dianne and keep warm!
    XXXXXX

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  57. How cool to be able to see all of this. I wouldn't have been able to stop taking pictures.

    I had to smile at the scrabble. Not sure if I could do even two to four letter words.
    Sam

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  58. Diane, the walks you take in your area are just so beautiful and stunning. I enjoyed this blog tour so much. I can only imagine how you and your friends felt discovering it "for real".
    Red

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  59. Sarah I think we are lucky to have discovered a French group like this. I only hope it also improves our French. Whatever, they are great fun despite none of them speaking any English. Diane

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  60. Hilary it was only by chance we heard of the group. They are all locals and it all seems to be word of mouth. We really loved this walk and the history that went with it. Diane

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  61. Delana, Nigel is on the mend, thanks for asking. He just will not go out of the door in this terrible weather.
    The group is great fun and eventually my French must improve (I hope) with scrabble!! Diane

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  62. Noushka, this place was amazing, if only the weather had been better we might have had more time. As it is private property we can't just return when we feel like it!
    More snow today, we are trying hard to keep warm! Cheers Diane xox

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  63. Sam scrabble for me is very slow, it is good that all the French give me a helping hand. Trouble is I have to look up all the words then to find out what they are and there are too many to remember!!
    The walk and the history involved was amazing. Diane

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  64. Boye By Red this was a very special trip of discovery, we were very spoilt to see this on private land.
    Diane

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  65. Every time I visit ur blog, Im transferred to a new place...love watching the piks on ur blog :) & Congrats for 2nd anniversary of ur blog :)

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  66. Thanks for the tour, Diane! That's why Europe is so great, all the interesting history and it's fun to imagine what occurred over time. It sounds like you've chosen the perfect way for French lessons. It's such a beautiful sounding language and I bet you do very well at speaking it! Here's hoping Nigel is feeling fine!

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  67. Thanks Nigel for all the research to go with your lovely photos Diane. It was well worth joining the group to get the opportunity to visit such an interesting place. Love the header photo.

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  68. Great walk, what I miss about Europe, walking and finding ruins everywhere. The first photo is truly funny :-)!

    Ciao
    Alessandra

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  69. Vegetarian Surprises thanks for the congrats. So long as you enjoy being transferred to a new place then I am happy. Take care. Diane

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  70. Pam I just love France there always is something just around the corner. This though we would never have found without the locals.
    No Pam my French terrible and I just cannot remember any more. Nigel is fine, he learnt at school, he has a good memory and he's good with languages. He just has to up his vocabulary and learn to understand the fast talking! Diane

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  71. Linda I have thanked Nigel and he appreciates it. It was well worth joining the group as you say for that walk alone, just wish the weather had been better!
    The photo at the top is across the road from the kitchen door!!
    Keep warm Diane

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  72. It's always fun to see the out-of-the-way places and learn their history! It's just too bad that it was cold and damp, I hope Nigel recovers from his flu quickly.

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  73. Alessandra Having never been interested in history at school, now I am totally intrigued by it! That first photo - only when I downloaded it did I realise what it looked like LOL. Diane

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  74. Well this was a fascinating post. I have got to plan a vacation to France sometime soon. Its something the kids keep on us pretty much every week.

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  75. What a fun and interesting place to explore! Great photos Diane.

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  76. Those are some amazing ruins. Would like to know more about the resistance in that area. You are right, it is hard to miss your better half in the crowd. Happy Valentine's Day.

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  77. Hi Diane, happy valentine day to you. Thank you for sharing all beautiful photos. Really enjoy admiring all of it. Have a nice day.

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  78. Peggy we were thrilled to have met a group who knew just where to look :) Diane

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  79. Stephen Tremp it was great place to look around with so much history nearby. Hope you get your holiday planned soon. Just wait for the freeze to vanish! Diane

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  80. Pam I wish that we had more time, it would have been fantastic to spend more time there and about. Diane

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  81. Marjie, it was really an interesting day out. Nigel has pretty much recovered, but with the big freeze he has still not been out the door! Diane

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  82. chcmichel thanks for the Valentine's greetings and the same to you. I would love to go there again but being on private property makes life a bit more difficult. The resistance is sooooo interesting, what they did and how they did it. Problem is there are not so many left now, so the info has been passed down through the family. The Chasseneuil-sur-Bonnieure museum, although small, has masses of info. Diane

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  83. Amelia's De-ssert, happy Valentine's Day to you also. It was a pity it was not a sunny day as the photos would have been so much better! Take care Diane

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  84. Goodness 84 comments WOW - and so many photos - you are good Diane to stick with the blogging for so long - as you saw I am back at it - thanks for dropping by and keep up the good work :)

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  85. A French leisure club sounds like so much fun. I visited Paris in 2010 and have been trying to learn to speak French ever since. I am not very good at it yet. French scrabble sounds very difficult. Good luck playing that game. Hugs.

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  86. Another wonderful place to explore! Btw, wishing you a Happy Valentine's Day. Hope you're going to have a fabulous evening with your loved ones. ((hugs))
    Cheers
    Kristy

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  87. softinthehead sometimes I find it is not wast to keep with blogging. I then just take a couple of weeks break. Everyone is still around when you return :) Diane

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  88. kclily The club is great but the last two weeks have been cancelled for bad weather! Hopefully next week.... I wish I could afford to go for French lessons, it would be by far the best. Problem is they are not cheap, and when you work out the monthly/yearly cost... maybe when we eventually get a pension in November. If only my memory was better though! Take care and keep well. Diane

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  89. Kristy I hope you had a good Valentine's day. Good to see you back again, take care Diane

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  90. oh diane, i was supposed to ask you becos all along i thought you are a french lady until when you mentioned that you're taking up french lessons..i doubt you are one. I enjoyed looking at the photos, it must have been a fascinating and thrilling walk seeing all these, it really helps a lot knowing the history of it. Nigel is really tall!!

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  91. Lena I almost wish I was French, I would not have the problems that I am having now. I was born in the UK but spent most of my life in Africa. I returned to the UK for a few years before we bought the house in France. You are right Nigel is tall :) Diane

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  92. Wow that is a magnificent piece of history, imagine how long that structure exist! Glad you posted all the photos, I am that way lol!

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  93. I can understand that you had difficulty selecting your photos ! so much nice material !

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  94. chubskulit so pleased that you enjoyed this. The more historic buildings I see here the more interested I become. Take care Diane

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  95. This is Belgium, thanks for the comment; it was a difficult choice!! Diane

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  96. Fantastics photos, you´re a lucky woman!!
    xoxoxo
    http://janakitchen.blogspot.com

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  97. What a fascinating tour. It is hard to grasp that this stands on private property. It is a wonder. I hope Nigel is feeling better. Have a good evening. Blessings...Mary

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  98. Jana thanks for your visit and comment. Keep well Diane

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  99. Mary presumably the land was bought by the farmer many years ago. They still live in the stone house where the monks used to live, it has been restored. The church is a very special place though and is part of France's heritage. I agree it is hard to believe that it is privately owned! Keep well Diane

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  100. Dianne , lovely post, nice photo and good write up.

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  101. What a wonderful post, the ruins are simply fantastic! I'm still smiling at your commentary regarding the top pic. :-)

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  102. Sonia I am glad you enjoyed. Have a great weekend. Diane

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  103. JM I am glad I made you smile :-) I am amazed that I have never even heard of this place before let alone seen it. I guess because it is on private property it is kept only as local information. Maybe I have blown it!!! Diane

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  104. Thank you my dear friend Diane, for so interesting tour!!!
    With your wonderful photos, i was there, with you!
    Besides the Monastery hase my name:)
    I'm glad for you, that to find many friends there!
    Many greetings and kisses

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  105. Magda I am happy that you enjoyed this tour and the photos. Keep well my friend and have a good weekend. Hugs Diane

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  106. thanks Diane, i was in the process of trying to remove the word verification thing, it is driving me insane too!!! hopefully i've managed to set it up right, muppy xox

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  107. Muppy just popping over to check it out :) Thanks Diane

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