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A few weeks back we had a day out for my birthday. I suggested to my hubby (Bob) that we should have a day out to a village called Collonges-la-Rouge, in the Correze, a popular place with tourists in the summer and about an hour’s drive away. My main reason for wanting to go was to buy a hat. There were two reasons for wanting a hat. Firstly it was a darn cold winter this year and out of the blue I decided a hat would be nice, and secondly I loved the hat that our great friend Jeff always wore. Jeff died very suddenly in early February. I had talked to him about his hat some weeks before we lost him, and he’d told me that he bought his in the boutique in Collonges-la-Rouge. And so we went.

The village was just beautiful and quite unique in that all of the buildings are built entirely of red sandstone. It dates way back to the eighth century when the monks of Charroux Abbey founded a priory there. Other buildings have sprung up over the centuries, and certain renovations have taken place.

In February there are few places open in small villages, most places close down for the winter months and rely on heavy tourist trade in the summer. But fortunately Boutique du Cantou stays open all year. Their selection of hats for men and women was varied both in style and price. I wanted a men’s hat, a nice felt one with a brim and a highish crown, preferably in black, and I found one which was a perfect fit and a perfect price.

After a tour around the village we were hungry and needed some lunch. There was a wonderful little restaurant open which also happened to be a manufacturer of mustard. On entering you found yourself in a shop filled with an amazing array of mustards, oils and vinegars, and tucked away in the back was the restaurant. We were shown to a table in a tiny alcove, and proceeded to have the most delicious lunch, starting with warm home-made rolls and a little assortment of their mustards. We were given: violette (made with grape juice), cepes (a local mushroom), cassis (blackcurrant), and lastly one I can’t remember the name of made with herbs.

For our main course, because it was chilly day we chose cassoulet (a hearty casserole of duck, haricot beans, pork and sausage amongst other things). And afterwards I treated myself to a desert called cafe-gourmet. This is an espresso coffee served with at least three or four deliciously different desserts – small ones!

In a nutshell it was a perfect lunch in a unique setting in a picturesque village on a day of sunshine and blue skies. Who could ask for more … other than maybe a new hat!

Next maybe we’ll go back in the summer when more places are open. I spied two other shops I’d like a nose around in. A craftsman selling knives – I love the way he advertises!

And a leather shop.