Summer in Eymet

I can’t believe we’re in September already, but while it is still fresh in my mind, Tom suggested I write about some of the activities in the area that we have enjoyed over the peak season this year. The common theme for me is, of course, food and drink!

Every Tuesday evening in Eymet through July and August there is a Marché Nocturne. From late afternoon ‘til late there are stalls selling arts/crafts/local produce, food stalls and local wines. This is on top of the usual bars and restaurants in the square and it is always a great atmosphere either with a group of friends or simply on our own ‘people watching’. We love the wraps from the vegetarian stall Le Carré, but there are plenty of options like mussels, sausages, burgers, duck breast, crêpes, pizzas etc being cooked fresh to order.

Another favourite of mine are the Soirées Gourmandes. Our nearest one is at La Sauvetat du Dropt (an easy cycle ride) each Friday evening. A ‘field’ in the village is set out with long benches and surrounded by local food producers plus beer, wine, water and bread on sale. You take along your own plates, cutlery, glasses etc choose what you fancy and sit at the communal benches soaking up the atmosphere. There is often a local band playing and the French of all ages love to dance / line-dance at these events.

On a smaller scale but in a beautiful setting with a relaxed Sunday Lunch vibe is the Marché des Producteurs de Soumensac. Set up on the top of hill with beautiful views across Dordogne / Lot et Garonne, as above with the communal benches and choice of food trucks etc, it is a great way to spend a few hours on Sunday followed by a walk around lac de l’escourrou to help walk off the lunch on the way home. The warm goat’s cheese and bacon salad with honey is one of my favourites there!

For the last couple of years, on Thursdays in Eymet, there have been the ‘Apèro Cadix’ evenings organised by the association of local wine producers around Eymet with two different vineyards selling wine each week and a selection of local food trucks. Set in the grounds of the Chateau with benches, deck chairs and straw bales plus a play area for the kids, the first part of the evening has a local band playing before handing over to the disco to see the night out.

As well as the regular events during the summer, there are some great one-offs. On the evening of la fête nationale, 14th July, a celebration is held in Parc Bretou in Eymet with live music, food, wine / beer tents, dancing and a very impressive fireworks display at around 11pm. There is normally music / disco / celebration in the Bastide too, but I love the ‘very French’ celebrations in the parc.

A hugely popular event for Eymet during the summer is the ‘Oyster and White Wine’ festival on August 15th. Being a couple of hours away from Arcachon, fresh oysters are on sale in Eymet every Sunday morning in a couple of places, but this festival celebrates them in style. Le centre ville is packed with stalls selling all sorts of food and drink (as well as the obvious) and there is a real party atmosphere from noon until midnight. Even I was spotted dancing towards the end of the evening this year.

Some friends took us to a wine tasting at a local vineyard, I assumed it would take an hour or so, but 4 hours later we were still eating and drinking in the most beautiful setting. This is something I would like to do more of next year.

We attended a ‘pop up Indian feast’ night at another local vineyard, spent a lovely evening with friends eating great food and drinking great wine and were lucky enough to be put up in my friend Jill’s gite for the night before going back to get the B&B ready for the new arrivals.

There are lots of other events locally and further afield, some that we’ve been to and plenty more that we haven’t tried yet…most involving food and wine…but I think we’ve done well this year given how much busier we have been at Le Portanel. 

The first week in September is arguably one of the best weeks to live / visit here because the summer rush is over, the weather is normally still great and it’s the last week of the season for the night markets and foody outdoor events. We have four more very busy weeks ahead for the B&B before we slip into the quiet season. Where did the summer go?

Run for your life…

My early morning cycle to the boulangerie for breakfast supplies helps to clear my head for the day and it is lovely to get out into the fresh air while it is still nice and cool, but what I really like to do is to get out into the countryside for a long run.

I have always enjoyed running. ‘Cross-country’ was one of the few sports at school I was any good at and running has always been my go-to for keeping fit, clearing my mind, reducing stress, listening to audio books and, after joining my first running group the Woodbridge Shufflers a few years ago back in Suffolk, making friends and socialising.

In 2021, after we had found our first rental property in France, but before we’d made the move over, I joined a local Facebook group for the Eymet Running Club which organises social runs in and around the Eymet area a couple of times week. As a result, within a week of arriving, I joined their weekend social run + coffee and I’ve not looked back since. Through the group we have made friends with a lot of like-minded people who we socialise with now as well as run as often as we can.

The Eymet social running group meets Friday and Sunday mornings somewhere in the area. Friday tends to be around 5km and is especially welcoming to beginners and people looking to get back into running after a break for whatever reason. Sundays is often a route up to 10km but with options for shorter routes back and is followed by coffee and cake where possible.

Throughout the winter and when the B&B allows it during our open season, I drive over to a friend’s house near Loubès-Bernac / Thènac once a week and we spend an hour or so running through the woodland, vineyards, and country lanes around there. The countryside is beautiful!

Parc Bretou in Eymet has a 1km trail around it which is a good shady-flat-laps option. A short distance from Eymet, the lovely lac de l’Escourou also has flat and shady trails around it giving options for 3km, 5km and 8km routes. As part of my marathon training last year, I pieced together routes for my longer training runs making loops >30km, I also found a half-marathon route from Eymet Château to Duras Château, where I sat cooling off in a café with a cold beer while I waited for Tom to come and pick me up.

Eymet sits on a long trail called the Chemin d’Amadour, a 500km pilgrimage trail through some beautiful towns, villages and historic sites in south-west France. Earlier this year, John from our running group led us on a relaxed social run along part of this trail from the magnificent Chateau Monbazillac to the beautiful village of Issigeac famous for its Sunday morning market – about 16km of trails and quiet country roads. It was a fabulous morning. I’ve started to build a collection of routes which I keep in our B&B guest lounge, and they have proved popular with walkers and runners alike, so I’ll keep working on that.

There are also a lot of locally arranged races in the area, often largely off-road, often VERY hilly, including the LA FOULÉE EYMETOISE in October with 8km and 15km routes. Tom and I have signed up for the Cognac half-marathon in November and the Bordeaux half-marathon in December just to keep our running motivation up.

This time of year, with temperatures well into the 20s by 10am and often around 30 by the end of the day, an early start is needed, so I don’t get many opportunities to get out for a long run, but I try to make the most of the cooler days and the odd day where I’m not needed for breakfast. If not, I just enjoy my little cycle ride up to the boulangerie each morning and remind myself how lucky I am to live here!

Eymet Running Club Run

Getting the balance right

Last season was our first experience of running a B&B. Between the two of us (a high school maths teacher and an engineering project manager) we have plenty of marketable skills to offer but in VERY different industry sectors, so we had a lot to learn! Then consider that we had just moved to France post Brexit at the tail end of COVID, that we were coming to terms with the administration of starting a new life here and not to mention learning the language, it is not surprising that it was all a bit ‘full-on’.

This year, whilst we are clearly by no means experts and are still learning all the time about the B&B, admin here in France and of course the language, we are much more confident all-round and so we have been more relaxed as the season has really ramped-up this month.

Our bookings for this year and next are very strong, the feedback we have had is lovely and our ‘imposter syndrome’ feelings are diminishing. We have not been afraid to close the house on the booking platforms for 2 or 3 nights at a time so we can have some down time, enjoy the house, garden and pool to ourselves, take the van away for a couple of nights, or spend a boozy evening with friends without having to worry about getting up early for breakfast.

Throughout my life and my various jobs, I have been a firm believer in working hard and doing the best I can, but getting the balance right between work and play has not always been easy and has taken me longer to get the hang of. Tom still tells me that I need to just switch off and relax more, but this year we are doing much better at it than last!

Early in June we were fully booked for all 4 rooms on a Wednesday night with all guests checking out on the Thursday and the next lot arriving for a long weekend the same day. Some guests came down for breakfast at 8am, some much later, some checked out by 10am others needed to stay until 2pm. The first of the new arrivals for the day were here at 9:30am (mid breakfast service…) and the last arrived ~2am the following morning before we got up to start again the next day.

It is a lot of work on days like that, but then we had a few days with no check-ins or changeovers so after breakfast and room refreshes, the rest of the day is pretty much our own, the balance was restored and the following week we blocked all the rooms off for a couple of nights to give ourselves some down-time.

As I was writing this, an article was published in The Sunday Times about a trend towards ‘semi-retirement’ which fits nicely with my ‘getting the balance right’ post this month, and there are me and Tom featured in the middle of the article including our photo taken in Eymet village square – my five minutes of fame!

Now its July already and we are about to start what was our busiest 2 months last year. Schools close here next week, the summer festivals and night markets have started, and the summer season is officially in full swing. Bring it on et à la prochaine…

Early feedback for our 2023 season

How did it get to be June already? I have to say I am thrilled with the start of the season this year. During May we had more than 40 guests of 8 different nationalities staying with us with over 50 room-nights during the month. For many of our guests it was their first time staying with us, but we have also had several repeat visits from last year which is great. Of the ten reviews we received on during May, nine were 10 out of 10 and one was a 9 which are a delighted with and it puts us on an excellent overall rating of 9.9 after 47 reviews on the platform since we opened. The comments people have left on the booking platforms and in our guest book or elsewhere have been so lovely.

I can’t say it was easy getting back into our early morning routine for breakfast every day and I think I had mentally blocked out the amount of laundry and cleaning involved in running the B&B, but now we are back in full swing we are like a well-oiled machine! I enjoy my cycle ride to the boulangerie each morning before breakfast and the time spent ironing bed linen is a great excuse to watch all sorts of rubbish on Netflix etc.

The weather during May started much cooler than I was expecting with a lot of (badly needed) rain, but we have been up in the high 20s for the last week or so now and the pool is at a lovely 26C at the moment. The season’s wedding celebrations are well underway now and we have already had the house reserved for 4 wedding weekends in 2024. As well as wedding guests we have welcomed house hunters, clients in town on business, cyclists touring the region, golfers playing at Vigiers, people visiting friends or family in the area and people passing through en route to or from holidays farther afield.

It’s not been all work and no play; we have promised ourselves to take more time for us this year so during May we took the van for a few nights camping at Yelloh Village by St Emilion which is a delightful little town surrounded by glorious countryside and of course hundreds of vineyards. Highly recommended for a visit if people have the time while they are staying with us. We tasted wines and enjoyed a planche mixte at Etablissements Lauret and had a delicious lunch at Chai Pascal.

So, all in all as we move into ‘Flaming June’ we are feeling very positive about our life here in Eymet in the Dordogne and we can’t wait for the Eymet night markets and summer fêtes to get underway at the end of this month.

Planche Mixte Saint Émilion Reviews

Step Change

We have really seen a ‘step change’ in the way of life here during April.

In the B&B we have shifted from occasional bookings by exception, to the start of the season where we have guests in the house more often than not. It didn’t take us long to get back into the swing of it and we’ve already met some lovely people and had some great feedback.

The pool is ready and warming up nicely. We changed the sand in the filter before Tom brought it back from its winter hibernation, so it already looks really inviting! The garden has sprung to life and the terrace is looking great with the summer flowers coming out and the fruit swelling on the trees. I love to see the lizards scurrying about as I am watering the pots on the terrace in the morning 🙂

The biggest change has been the weather. At the start of the month, I was lighting the wood burner in the afternoons and putting on an extra layer or putting the central heating on if we had guests. By the end of the month, I found myself moving out of the sun into the shade because it is too hot. My gloves and winter layers have been swapped for sun hat and sun cream when I am out running now.

The weather has obviously brought a lot of changes with it. As well as the tourists arriving in Eymet I’ve noticed the arrival of the summer wildlife. On my run this morning I saw/heard Cuckoos, Hoopoes, Golden Orioles, Cicadas, Swallows and Orchids to name a few. The local asparagus and strawberries arrived on the markets in abundance and of course, more tables and chairs have appeared on the terraces of the bars and restaurants. There is a great vibe in the village. We had the Fête des fleurs et des abeilles in the village at the end of the month which is a sure sign the summer season is underway.

The wood / pellet burners and heaters at the entrances of all the Bricos have been replaced by patio equipment, BBQs and pool maintenance stuff. Before long it will be air conditioning units and room fans.We also had a few nights away in the van at Sarlat and really enjoyed exploring that side of the Dordogne including Château de Beynac and Les Jardins Suspendus d Marqueyssac. One of our resolutions for this year is to take more time during the summer months to get out and explore the beautiful region we are lucky enough to live in!

Le Portanel B&B Eymet