turenne-00701Turenne, a gorgeous golden sandstone village stretching up the side of a hill, was British from the 12th-15th Century. And now the Brits are gradually buying it back again!
It was part of Eleanor of Aquitaine’s dowry when she married Henry ll of England.
Some of the houses date back to the 14th Century, but most of them were built in the 17th Century for wealthy Nobles who worked in Administration.
A lot of them are more than just houses. They’re cleverly utilised for other purposes. For instance, if you look up you can see gaps in the bricks. These were for pigeons to live in because the droppings were collected to be used as fertiliser.
turenne-00703They were also a status symbol, as the number of holes represented the number of hectares of land owned by the inhabitant of the house.
(Wouldn’t you be tempted to add an extra gap or two?)
The sandstone walls collect the rainwater which runs under the ground and into wells.
If they didn’t, water would be a problem for the town.
Some of the houses have a round tower on the corner. These were added around the 16th Century. Before that, a ladder was used to go upstairs. But staircases were finally built, enclosed inside a tower.
turenne-00705They must have been the ultimate in modernisation and come-uppance, turning the neighbours green with envy!
I laughed at the sign for the local Echoppe, thinking that it was Franglais. But no, I was apparently wrong. The word Shop was apparently exported to England by Queen Eleanor and her entourage.
A few houses were originally shops – sorry, I mean echoppes. They have wide stone areas each side of the front door where they used to display their wares.
The narrow streets are very steep, and quite hard work to walk up. But old ladies in their 80s and 90s still live at the top, and regularly walk down to buy their bread and groceries every morning!
turenne-00707Originally the roofs were thatched. Steps are built at the edge of some of them, which were used during re-thatching.
Then came the slate tiles from a quarry 25kms away. They were extremely heavy to transport to the village, to carry up the steep hill, then to lift up on to the roof.
Right on the top of the hill was a castle, but most of it was demolished, leaving just two towers.
When it’s foggy or misty, one of the towers looks like a boat in the sea.
It was clear when we were there, so we couldn’t see the effect. But we did see the magnificent view down below!
Around the town there used to be forests, which were very important for the inhabitants of Turenne, both for the wood and the food that grew in them.
turenne-00716Apparently there are plenty of black truffles in the area, but of course that subject, and their whereabouts, is top secret!
The area is now popular for hiking.
Lots of fig trees grow in the town. They were used to feed the geese before corn arrived.
Both Catholics and Protestants have lived in Turenne.
The Protestants brought coins. Before that, the Catholics had to rely on the goodwill of their neighbours for help, if someone was sick, for instance. But with coinage, they could buy the services of a doctor.
turenne-00717(I’m not sure if that was always a good idea, knowing some of the ‘cures’ used then!)
Most of the houses are built in the Protestant style, right on the street, with a private garden and a well at the back.
A lot of influential and famous people were born in Turenne, including Popes and Presidents.
In 1942 the Nazis moved in to the area, although it was officially a Free Zone.
After that, there was a large number of Resistance Fighters based in the town.
Now it’s a silent, peaceful town. A passing car seems noisy. Two cars are a traffic jam!
Turenne is classified as one of the most beautiful villages in France.
I can understand why. It’s utter architectural perfection. But whether it’s a practical permanent place to live nowadays is another question!