We arrived bright and early at the motorhome repairers on Thursday 25th August 2016 after having provisioned up in Bergerac the night before. We’d also sorted out everything we would need for our little sojourn on the bikes whilst ‘Ollie’ was with them for a few days. On arriving, the receptionist said the van would be ready at the end of the day! Doh! After all that preparation the camping trip was now ‘off’! Tim’s eyes lit up though as he was keen to get the van done and get back on the road again (read: ‘he was off the hook in terms of the cycling’).
Hmm, I was a little disappointed as I’d been looking forward to our tour on the bikes as the weather was superb, if a bit too hot, in the thirties. Ah well, the cycle tour would have to wait for another time, possibly when we are in the Pyrénées maybe (!). Tim will get his comeuppance! Still, I had the whole day to run Tim into the ground so we left the garage tout de suite on a tour across country, south of Bergerac, towards the Dordogne river.
We stopped to watch the plums being harvested by a machine that shakes the tree and catches the plums underneath. Interesting to watch but I imagine the novelty soon wears off when there are thousands of trees to do.
After a lumpy 20 miles or so we picked up the cycleway west of Lalinde which follows the disused canal and found a lovely spot for lunch down by the river.
France is never short of places to have a picnic! After lunch we headed as far as we could to the end of the canal where it meets the Dordogne at Mauzac-et-Castang.
We returned along the canal towards Bergerac where we were able to cycle a stretch of newly laid path traversing above the river and away from the main road which gave us some beautiful views.
So with the flat bit done and the temperatures now in the mid thirties we made our way across country again to pick the van up. We arrived back at the garage after our 50 mile round trip tired, hot and sweaty and made full use of the air conditioning in their office.
So with ‘Ollie’ now in fine fettle we returned to our original plan of exploring the Dordogne. We stopped for the night in the Bastide town of Belves at a free aire minutes away from the town centre.
Belves is a medieval town and classed as one of France’s ‘Les plus beaux villages de France’. It sits perched on top of a hill commanding far reaching views across the Nauze valley and surrounding countryside approximately 10km south of the Dordogne river.
On Friday morning, after having a mooch around the town, we swooped back down the valley to river level again to explore the towns and clifftop chateaux that this area is famous for.
During the Hundred Years War the Dordogne marked the frontier between the French held north and the English held land to the south.
We based ourselves, for three nights, at an aire outside Beynac-et-Cazenac as we wanted to explore the area by bike and canoe. It also had some very welcome shade!
The aire was a few minutes’ walk from the river where we could have a swim and a wade across to have a look at the village on the other side.
On Friday we just had a short ride into Beynac-et-Cazenac to find somewhere to restock on some food but my jaw dropped as we rounded the corner into the town. The Chateau looks out from the cliff 200m above the road with the village built into the hillside below it.
Thoughts of shopping went out the window for me, as now I’d seen the chateau, I wanted to get to the top. We weren’t prepared as we only had our cycling shoes on which aren’t ideal on steep slopes and would be a bit treacherous on the way down but nothing was going to stop me! Tim wasn’t happy and all I could hear was a faint muttering about it being highly unlikely that there would be an Intermarché at the top! Nevertheless, he dutifully followed me up and was rewarded by an ice cream and spectacular views at the top.
Having now persuaded Tim that it was worth the crawl up we minced all the way back down in our cycling shoes without incident! We found a small local shop to restock and when we got back to the aire we decided the best way to cool off was to sit in the river in our clothes quaffing a bottle of fizz. Why? Because we can!
On Saturday we took a bike trip to Sarlat-La-Canéda on market day. Big mistake! Sarlat, the capital of the Perigord region, is about 10km north of the Dordogne river. The old town would have been a must see but I just wasn’t feeling the love for it as it was heaving with tourists getting in the way of all the beautiful buildings.
Yes, I know we are tourists too. We should have left it until after August or at least not gone on market day.
We spent about an hour there before heading back down the valley to the river where we had lunch.
Next stop was Domme, another Bastide town, dating back to the 13th Century high above the river. It was a bit of a climb on the bikes to the top but well worth it for the views.
Tim did even concede that they were the best views he had ever seen!
The town is well preserved and, even though very touristy, it was much quieter than Sarlat.
We sat and had a coffee at a cafe with views right across the valley.
Now that we were on the south side of the river we made our way west to return to the aire via Castlenaud-la-Chapelle.
By the time we got to the village, which was directly opposite the aire we were staying on, I turned round to see Tim’s face set in the ‘you’ve pushed me too far’ position. Oops! To be fair he did look done in as we had done about 40 miles of hilly terrain. I did offer to wade across the river portering the bikes and panniers but he opted for the extra five miles to the next bridge across the river and back down the other side. I suppose it wouldn’t have done his street cred much good if he was seen slumped on the grass on the other side of the river whilst he watched the ‘Mrs’ struggle to carry all the stuff across!
As Tim had, by now, had had enough of the bike we opted to do a day trip down the river by canoe on Sunday.
This was a much more civilised affair with the current taking us most of the way with a little bit of paddling in between the faster running bits.
I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves as it was a spectacular even with all the other people on the river.
We’ve now refuelled, filled up with gas and shopping and we are heading further east along the Dordogne. We’ll soon be crossing into the the Midi-Pyréynées region with a stop at Rocamadour by the weekend or early next week. Hopefully it will be a bit quieter then with the schools restarting in September.
Happy Tuesday everyone!