It is often said that the feeling of peace is one of the gifts to be most desired in a hectic modern world, and finding it can be elusive.
The concept is also tied up with the search for a technique for achieving calm in your life – and there is one way which is a sure winner.
Domaine a la Jarrige is now on the list of my top 10 hotels in the world.
If you think of a place you have been where you have experienced perfect tranquillity, it is possible to lure it into your head at the most stressful of times.
I was telling you last week about my long trip to the Limousin area of France – 400 miles south of Paris, and a million miles from the hustle and bustle of a big city.
After my five-hour, and very comfortable, train trip from Charles de Gaulle Airport railway station to Limoges, I burst into a smile as I walked along the platform to the ticket hall.
The town’s band was playing and the Mayor was there in his finery.
Now that’s what I call a reception – but it turned out to be for some real visiting dignitaries.
I picked up my hire car, and my worries about driving a left-hand drive manual on the right-hand side of the road soon evaporated.
A few minutes after weaving through the town centre, I was on a dual carriageway, then a motorway, slicing through some simply beautiful countryside in evening sunshine.
You don’t normally associate tranquillity with motorway driving, but it really was just that.
I drove 90 kilometres south and found the turn-off for my hotel – aided by a splendid satnav (or GPS if you are French) and a robotic French woman’s voice who spoke at just the right speed for me to take it all in.
I’ll tell you much more about the hotel another day, but suffice to say that the Domaine a la Jarrige is now on the list of my top 10 hotels in the world – and it’s not easy to get in there.
It’s the kind of place that old pal and Sunderland man George Clarke (of TV’s Restoration Man fame) would love – a beautifully renovated set of rooms which have stunning character.
After a splendid dinner, I drifted off after a long day in genuine silence – something you very rarely hear.
It’s a small hotel, and lovely hosts Marc and Yolande serve breakfast and dinner around a huge table with great company.
I asked fellow guests not to speak any English to me, and I learned more French in a few days than in years of dreary school lessons.
I drove many miles around the stunningly beautiful Creuse region of Limousin, and the photograph shows a view to remember after walking a few miles alongside the river and seeing this famous view of the Moulin (mill) near the rapids.
It put me so much in mind of the celebrated view of Durham Cathedral, with the old house below it.
This French view has also been captured by artists on thousands of occasions, and the area’s name of the Valley of the Painters is well earned.
There were impressionists here before Monet, and I spent an afternoon in the Hotel Lepinat in the charming village of Crozant.
This is no dusty art gallery – they have beautiful views, including the riverside ones I’d just seen, projected onto the wall, with picture frames floating over them to show how the artists saw it all.
There are so many great pictures to share – I’ve put it on my blog at www.afterdinnerspeakeralanwright.co.uk if you’d like to see more.
I spent my last day on tour with old Durham friends Anne and Derek – and that’s a great story for next week.