From Bergerac we stumbled upon the amazing Bastide of Monpazier. In this region there are over 300 bastides, but Monpazier was the best of them all and we found it purely by accident! A bastide is a central square which has overhanging second storey’s which act as shelter for the outer edges of the square allowing the town to enjoy markets all year round, all civic activities used to take place there an it had a wonderful feel about it. The rest of the town was built outward on a square grid system. There were simple block layouts where in one direct ie north-south, they built the roads to be two carts wide, and the other direction ie east-west, they build the roads one cart wide. So people could always be able to get down a street one way or the other. This little village was beautifully preserved and the day we arrived had a very serious mushroom market taking place. All the sellers had their different types of mushrooms in cardboard boxes at their feet. Each was labelled with the number of kilos in each box, the buyers would then negotiate on a job lot or a per box price. Each vendor would remain in the market until their entire supply was sold. It was amazing to watch.
Bastides were usually built on hills and were often walled cities to provide protection for those who lived in there.
I think our town planners could learn lots from the community building aspect of this layout. There was always a great atmosphere about this – day or night.
The most interesting thing we discovered about the modern changes invoked since the Bastides of medieval times were invented, as everyone’s windows and doors faced the streets they parked on (there is no foot path, all the shops and houses opened straight onto the streets) on the double width streets (where people were allowed to park their cars), they parked on the north side of the street from the 1-15th of the month, then the south side from the 16th to the end of the month. That way people shared the amount of cars they had parked out the front of their windows. This was inforceda local explained to us!