The Dordogne has been our friend now for the last 10 days. With the temperatures in the mid thirties every day we haven’t strayed far from it. It really is the most beautiful river with crystal clear water and a combination of limestone and pebbles on the bottom. The natural beaches along much of it’s length are accessible and ideal for paddling and swimming.
We have cooled off in the river at some point everyday and I’ve been able to walk upriver and float back down gently with the current. Parfait!
We left the aire near Beynac-et-Cazanac on Monday 29th August 2016 and headed a little further East with no particular plan in mind. We drove through the little village of Carsac-Aillac which had a pretty area with some shade and picnic benches and decided to stop for some lunch. It turned out that the area was a designated aire and was so lovely we ended up staying for three nights.
A disused railway line, now a cycle path, runs straight through the village running east to Souillac and North to Sarlat-la-Canéda. We followed it cycling east until Peyrillac-et-Millac and then crossed over the river to come back a different way.
We needed to find a laundry on Wednesday so opted to use the cycleway to find one in Sarlat. It was only about 8km, flat (big thumbs up from Tim!) and lovely to be away from the traffic. Unfortunately, the cycleway ends abruptly 2km outside Sarlat. It’s a shame it hasn’t been extended to go right into Sarlat as the last 2km isn’t a particularly pleasant ride with several roundabouts to negotiate into the town. Sarlat redeemed itself on Wednesday though after our experience on Saturday with the market.
Even though Wednesday is a market day it was much smaller and much less busy with mainly local fruit and veg stalls, cheeses, foie gras and the like being pedalled.
We found a laverie at the top of the town and spent the 45 minutes whilst the washing was doing it’s thing wandering around the old town. Sarlat, now we could see it, is impressive! We arrived before the lunchtime rush and had time to wander the narrow streets, soaking up the fifteenth and sixteenth century buildings and restaurants with their tables spilling out onto the footpaths, ready for diners.
I’m not sure how you would choose where to eat for lunch as there were so many gorgeous places on offer. Lucky for us we had fresh French stick and cheese waiting for us back at the van so didn’t have that dilemma! So, washing done and a quick flit to Lidl we got back to the cycle path and free wheeled nearly the whole way back to Carsac-Aillac. We hadn’t really noticed but it had been a slight incline all the way to Sarlat. The afternoon was spent lazing by the river marvelling at how much we are enjoying the Dordogne area and how lucky we are to be doing this.
After three nights at Carsac-Aillac we felt the need to move on to Martel, another medieval town which made it’s name during the 13th and 14th centuries when the viscounts established a court of appeal here.
The aire just outside the town looked newly laid and in reality was no more than a large carpark but it was free and we picked up a really strong signal from one of the hotels wifi. We spent the evening, therefore, in silence binging on the internet!
Tim was as happy as larry doing some research for a new camera as I think we are in need of one. Ours has now got some black dots coming out on the middle of the photos. (Keeping it stuffed down the side of my cycling shorts hasn’t seemed to agree with it!)
We cycled to Carennac, another Beaux Village de France, on Friday. We’d parked up 6km away on the north side of the Dordogne as the village is very narrow and motorhomes aren’t allowed to go through it. Having now seen it I can see why.
The bridge across the Dordogne was also equally narrow and just wide enough for cars or small vans.
The village is very compact and well preserved and is best known for its Quercy architecture.
With the bikes back on the van we made our way to Rocamadour and parked up at the free aire at the chateau above the old town. Now we are into September we hoped it would be less busy even though it was a weekend. The aire was very quiet with about half a dozen vans staying so it looked promising. We had an early evening stroll down to the old town and to take some photos in the evening sunshine.
Rocamadour really does defy gravity with no less than seven churches built into the steep hillside.
In medieval times pilgrims flocked here lured in by the supposed miraculous ability of Rocamadours Black Madonna. Tim remarked, after looking at everyone hobbling up and down the many steps and steep slopes that, miracles or not, you can’t stop getting old! Mmm, another reminder why we are doing this trip now before we aren’t able to support our own body weight up and down all these places.
We felt in need of a good walk on Saturday from Rocamadour down through the valley. We tried to find a place mentioned in the Wild Swim, France book of a blue pool nestled in amongst the woods at the bottom of the valley.
Unfortunately, all we found was a stretch of stagnant water, emerging from the hillside, which neither of us fancied getting into. We noticed some diving equipment drying in the sun and spoke to the couple with it who told us the water is some 30 metres deep running underground and re-surfacing again a further 800m up the valley. Rather them than me, diving doesn’t really appeal.
It was disappointing not to find the pool we were looking for but the walk alone was worth it. The trees on the valley sides seemed to be turning russet brown and red before our eyes in preparation for autumn although it seems a bit early, especially with the temperature in the thirties.
The last couple of days we have been heading further south visiting several Bastide towns along the way.
We are parked up for the night at Cordes-sur-Ciel ready to explore it tomorrow before heading further south west and closer to the Pyrénées to see if we can do some walking and cycling. We are feeling that we have a bit of Bastide Burnout now and crave a bit of open countryside and mountains. Or as Tim said ‘I’ve seen enough of these
Bastar Bastide towns now!
We’d better get a move on as we have to be in Faro in Portugal for the 14th November 2016 as I have booked a flight back to the UK to see my parents. I haven’t told them yet so I hope they’ll be there otherwise I’ll have to prostrate myself onto other unsuspecting family. It’ll be a test to see if they read the blog anyway!
A la prochaine!