From Orléans we hared down the toll motorways towards Bergerac, stopping only a couple of times to refuel either the car or ourselves. At one particularly green and pleasant rest stop, we snacked on baguettes and sweaty cheese as a TGV whooshed incongruously past sounding more like an airliner than a train.

We turned off the péage near Bergerac and, after half an hour of missed turnings and conflicting directions, found the villa in nearby Lanquais. Tom, who had already arrived, showed us up to the terrace at the back and pressed glasses of Bordeaux red into our hands.

Before we could settle in to this rural French idyll, though, there remained the little matter of picking Josh up from Bergerac airport. A couple of oncoming cars had flashed their lights at us on the road to Lanquais, reminding us that the Alfa’s headlamps remained defiantly unconverted from UK spec, and with no desire to be lifted by the Gendarmerie on our first day here, I called Josh to tell him the bad news.

Here is how that turned out:

RF (on phone)
Josh, I can’t pick you up. The headlamps are still set up for British roads and I’m blinding other drivers here. Can you get a taxi instead?

JOSH (on phone)
Balls. There are no taxis.

JEZ, KATRI, JEFF and DEVON arrive. They have picked up JOSH from the airport.

ALL
RF, you are a massive cock.*

* repeat ad nauseam

Still, that minor unpleasantness behind us (who am I kidding? I’ll be getting stick for that ’till the day I die), we settled in to enjoy our first evening. We ate baguettes and camembert provided by Tom, watched as the bats took flight from the eaves of a neighbouring house at dusk and generally relaxed. And then we got shitfaced.

The next day we headed out for a stroll around sunny Lanquais, taking in the château and the nearby lake. We were chagrined to find out that the lake was dedicated to a “miniature port” and that swimming was not allowed.

“Why not?” someone asked.

“Because of the eels,” Devon replied. “Because of the electric eels.”

That afternoon we took both cars to a Carrefour on the outskirts of Bergerac to stock up on food for the week, only le supermarché était fermé because it was Sunday. Thwarted, we drove in convoy to a nearby McDonalds, ordered a perfunctory few items between us, propped open our laptops and basked in the glow of the complimentary wifi. Jeff and Josh checked their respective fantasy football teams; I checked the progress of the Vuelta a España and more or less everyone checked their work email accounts. Disconnection anxiety reigned, but hey; it was sunny, and even McDonalds is bearable in France.

Unable to feed ourselves, that night we had dinner at the Auberge des Marroniers, the surprisingly cheap and even more surprisingly excellent restaurant at the edge of the village. And then we got shitfaced.

The week meandered on in a similarly relaxing fashion. We visited local villages (Limeuil, Lalindes and St. Emilion) and towns (Bergerac and Bordeaux); we canoed down the Dordogne, hauling the canoes onto a pebble beach along the way to stop for a thirst-quenching beer; we shopped at open air markets, speaking broken French to bemused stallholders; we ate croissants for breakfast, read the International Herald Tribune, played pétanque, picked apples in the garden and lazed in the sun. We drank like alcoholics and ate like kings.

Life in the villa was so achingly French that from a dreich Edinburgh viewpoint it seems almost absurd. The house was the very image of a traditional French farmhouse, at least as it exists in the mind of a British tourist, and the village around it was sun-drenched, rustic and quiet. Eerily so, in fact — we barely saw any of the inhabitants from day to day, and the village shop’s shelves were almost bare. Presumably our daily order of croissants and pains au chocolat was enough to pay the no-doubt piffling French mortgage.

All in all, the holiday was very good indeed, and by the end of it we were already discussing plans for the next one. My only regret is that the €6, 5-litre plastic keg of wine that Josh and I fought so hard to get into Devon’s carefully curated shopping trolley during our first visit to Carrefour was carelessly left behind. I was distraught. C’est la vie, I suppose.