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Me, myself and Dordogne – 2 weeks in the Beautiful French Countryside

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Nov 7th, 2011, 12:20 AM
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Me, myself and Dordogne – 2 weeks in the Beautiful French Countryside

Background

I spent 2 weeks in the Dordogne area from June 25 to July 9 2011 as part of a 3-month holiday (April 28-July 16 – yep, almost maxing out my 90-day stay in the EU as a Canadian!) in Western Europe to celebrate a milestone birthday. Although I have been to Europe many times before (eg: annual trips to Europe, worked in Brussels, study abroad in Vienna during uni, my partner is from Germany which means many German holidays with his family), I saw this trip as an opportunity to see things I haven’t had a chance to see before or would be more difficult to see as a 2-week vacation. I must say that the trip planning (which started about 5-months prior to the start of the trip) was almost as fun as the trip itself – the excitement of trying to find the “perfect” hotel/B&B, the joy of scoring the cheapest train ticket available to reading the insider tips from fellow fodorites who have been to my destinations before.

My apologies that this trip report is so late as I had started a new job after coming back home so my schedule has been really busy until now. After nearly a 3- month hiatus from the Fodor community, I recently started reading posts and trip reports again. Ahh…all the wonderful trips down the memory lane and an abundant source of great information. I then realize I really want to write a trip report to share with fellow Fodorites. I would like say a special thank you to everyone who has helped me plan this 3-month holiday. My trip wouldn’t have been the same without your advice and insider tips – thank you for your generosity and patience. I hope you will all enjoy my trip report.


Why Dordogne

This 2-week holiday in Dordogne was like a holiday from a holiday which was much needed after traveling for 8 weeks prior with family and friends! I was alone for most of this trip aside from 4 days when a childhood friend flew in from London to join me in Saralat.

I always knew I wanted to incorporate the French countryside as part of my 3-month travel plans but I really had no idea which part of France I wanted to go to. This is my first time in the French country side and I didn’t even know about the beauty of the Dordogne area until I started reading this forum to research about other parts of my trip. So really, I chose Dordogne because of all raves and reviews about the area on this forum!

I dedicate my first ever trip report to Dordogne as I think it’s probably the highlight of my 3-month vacation. When/If I get around to writing trip reports for the other parts of my 3-month travels, I will label them under their respective countries

Dordogne Itinerary

Fly from Lisbon to Toulouse with Easyjet
Cordes – 2 nights
Rocamadour – 2 nights
Sarlat – 5 nights
St. Cyprien – 5 nights
Fly out of Brive to London with Cityjet

Logistics
I had just finished Lisbon and parted way with my friend who was flying home from the Lisbon airport while I boarded an Easyjet flight to Toulouse (55 euros). I had paid the extra 10 euros for the speedy access which I think is well worth it as you get to be the first on the plane, get to choose a seat in the front of the plane and have lots of overhead luggage space. But I think the best part about speedy boarding is getting to use a priority line at the check-in. My goodness – the line at the Lisbon airport was very long (I think I would have stood in line for at least 60 mins)! Luckily, I was done with check-in in about 15 minutes using the priority line.

The flight from Lisbon to Toulouse left on time and was uneventful. I was the only person who had purchased the speedy boarding so I was the first one on the plane and chose the first row on the plane (lots of leg room!).

I picked up my luggage and walked over to the Europcar counter which was located right next to the luggage conveyor belt among other rental car company desks. Picking up the rental car was perhaps that part that created the most anxiety for me. I was worried about not getting an automatic (even though I had paid for an automatic via Kemwel. Oh and I can’t drive manual.) and being asked to sign a waiver to say that I would pay Europcar for any damages up to the full cost of the car although I had purchased zero-deductible insurance through Kemwel (this actually happened to us when we picked up our Europcar rental in Rennes just 8 weeks prior although we had also purchased zero-deductible insurance from Kemwel).

Here’s my post on the forum re: this ‘waiver form” shenigan with Europcar:

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...deductible.cfm

But luckily, my anxiety soon faded after a very competent and nice gentleman helped me with my reservation at the Europcar counter. I asked him about the “waiver form” and his response was “We don’t even need to talk about insurance because you have purchase zero-deductible insurance”. He says the only automatic he has was either a Smart car or an A-series Mercedes. He suggested I take the A-series and assured me that the car is a very small and an easy-to-handle car (I specifically told him I don’t want a big car!). He says the car is just being cleaned and I just need to walk 400 yards to the Europcar parking lot and show my “ticket” to the customer service reps there to pick up my car. I easily found the Europcar parking lot (outdoor, just straight ahead of the airport exit) with my huge luggage, duffel bag (put on top of my luggage) and my purse. The guy at the Europcar “hut” handed the key to my black A-series Mercedes to me and even helped me hoist my huge luggage into the trunk. As I sat in the car to cool off (it was 35C that day) with the AC on full blown, I noticed that the car is actually a tiptronic (or “autotronic”). The same gentleman came over to see why I was still in the parking lot and I asked him if this car is on full automatic or set in the autotronic mode. Although his English was decent, I think I lost him when I told him I couldn’t drive manual (which I’m sure is a bizarre concept in Europe as everyone knows how to drive a manual) and I wanted to make sure the car was on full automatic. Then he offered to show me how to drive the car in the tiptronic mode around the parking lot. At this time, I was thinking to myself “no problem, I will just drive the car as an automatic because I’m sure the Mercedes is smart enough to see that I don’t want to shift gears” (right, not very smart in hindsight…you can chuckle now if you like). But luckily I listened to him and retained the most important piece of information that day which was “If you want to accelerate, just step on the gas and shift the gears by tipping right”. Boy, was I glad I remembered this piece of advice!

Off I go after a few practice rounds around the parking lot, inputting my destination of Cordes-sur-Ciel into my GPS (a TomTom which I think is essential, especially when you’re driving around by yourself in the countryside!) and following the driving instructions given to me by the B&B owner of Aurifat (who suggested I don’t take the first turn-off from the airport to avoid going through Toulouse city center). After driving for about 10 minutes, I noticed that the car was quite loud, like loud enough for me to notice the engine over the music blaring on the radio. I’m not completely clueless re: how to drive a manual and noticed that the engine rev was over 3. Hmm…having seen friends drive a manual before, I know that you have to shift gear when it’s over 3. I looked on the dashboard and realize I’ve been driving in first gear since I left the airport! So I started tipping on the tiptronic to get myself into a higher gear. Then the car was smooth sailing. Oh, I realized the car tops out at 120km/h, like the car won’t go any faster no matter how hard I floor the gas – is this because Europcar has “locked” the speed at 120km/h??

I attempted to read the manual in French the next day and quickly gave up on the idea of trying to “fix” the car to make it a full automatic because the last thing I need is a broken-down car in the countryside where I know it’s next to possible to find an automatic replacement if something goes wrong with this one. Why fix something when it ain’t not broken, right? Once I got the hang of driving a tiptronic, I actually really enjoyed the car as I didn’t have to step on the brakes all the time (can just down shift) through the winding hilly roads in Dordogne.

I paid US$1,080 for the automatic (compact 4-door of a Volkswagen or similar) with zero-deductible insurance through Kemwel for a 2-week rental. Not the cheapest but I think it is a decent price given that I wanted an automatic and zero-deductible insurance.

Alright, now that the logistics are laid down…let’s continue with the journey to Cordes…

Day 1 – June 25 – Toulouse to Cordes

The drive from Toulouse to Cordes was about 75 minutes. The first part was the freeway followed by the remaining drive on scenic hilly country roads of the Gaillac wine region. It was a beautiful sunny day and the scenery just took my breath away. I knew I had come to the right place – a couple of weeks of the beautiful country-side, fresh air, quaint villages and delicious food.

As the saying goes, you can’t rely on your GPS 100%. In my defense of the TomTom (a new version, purchased just a couple of months prior), it has been a trusted companion for the Brittany and Loire part of the trip just 8 weeks prior and an absolute essential when driving in the French countryside (especially since I’m on my own for this part of the trip!). But the biggest mistake was made while I tried to find Aurifat, the B&B which will be my home for the next 2 nights, because Aurifat doesn’t have a street address. So I was on google map before flying to Toulouse and decided to input the junctions where Aurifat was. Low and behold, the TomTom took me to a very steep and narrow cobble stone road where I knew I couldn’t go any further. After I turned the car around, it instructed me to drive down this lane to my right which looked more like a tractor trail. I turned on this road and proceeded to drive the next 500m on this VERY narrow road where the other side of the road was a straight plunge into a cemetery and the other side being a ! I was praying that no cars would be coming toward me because I had nowhere to go and I didn’t want to back-up the car on this very narrow road. All I could think about was plunging the car into the cemetery below!

500 meters the car and I emerged unscathed and at the driveway of Aurifat. Ian and Penelope Wanklyn are the proprietors of this beautiful B&B at the bottom of Cordes facing a beautiful valley. I had booked the Pigeonnier room which has its own separate entrance and a big balcony. The Pigeonnier room actually has a connecting room which can be opened and used for a family. My room was spacious and the furnishing was nice. The only down side was that the wifi couldn’t reach my room due to thick stone walls. This proved not to be a problem as I had very much enjoyed sitting in the backyard, which faces the beautiful valley below, to use the wifi (either during breakfasts or while winding down in the evening). It was a great value for 78 euros per night (breakfast included). Aurifat is listed as one of the B&Bs in Karen Brown’s B&B of France. The Wanklyns were very hospitable. Ian even provided a day-trip driving itinerary to visit the small towns around Cordes.

After settling in and making a few skype calls to let friends/family know that I’m alive and well, it was already 6pm. Using the map and a self-written Cordes guide-book that were provided by the Wanklyns, I decided to walk up the steep streets to enter the walled village of Cordes. The walk from the B&B to Cordes was so picturesque – filled with blooming roses and lavenders and quaint houses along the way. This was what I had always imagined seeing in my French countryside vacation. The climb up to Cordes was quite a work-out which was quite welcoming knowing that I’ll be dining on foie gras, ducks and other French delicacies in the days to come.

Upon entering the double walls of Cordes through the arches that were buit in the 1300s (?), I noticed that the town was pretty quiet. I hardly saw another person until I reached the main square where there were a few tourists. I was pretty surprised at how quiet it was. I’m guessing because all the daytrippers have left by now? I wandered over to one end of the square which opens into the vast valley below. The view of the rolling fields was spectacular. The heat was getting to me, even though it was already almost 7pm. I think the temperature was still in the low 30s and there was no wind. I decided to have an early dinner at an outdoor table at the restaurant right next to the panoramic lookout. Coincidentally, the restaurant was called “La Panaromique”. I had my first glass of Gaillac wine and a light salad which was decent but nothing special. I’ve dedicated my travel days to being the days when I eat light to offset all the delicious and heavy foods I’ve consumed during this trip.

After dinner, I took a stroll around Cordes to take photos and to take in the breathtaking view of the valley below. Then I wandered back to the Aurifat and relaxed in the backyard before the sun went down.

I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect start to my 2-week vacation in the Dordogne (although technically I was in the Tarn department for the first couple of days).

I hope this trip report isn’t too long or too detailed or too boring. Your feedback is very welcome. Happy reading
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Nov 7th, 2011, 01:55 AM
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Enjoying your trip report. You are very brave doing 2 weeks on your own, whilst driving around the beautiful countryside.

We spent a week in the Dordogne 2 years ago and loved it. Looking forward to more.
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Nov 7th, 2011, 05:16 AM
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I'm enjoying your report. I entered Cordes the same way, up on foot, overheated, and had to sit in that square looking out at the view for a while until my body temperature came down to a tolerable level.

Looking forward to the rest.
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Nov 7th, 2011, 06:34 AM
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Oh, good, good, good! Nothing like waking up and seeing another Dordogne trip report! I am definitely looking forward to this.
Thanks!
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Nov 7th, 2011, 06:41 AM
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The car sounded confusing but the rest is super. Also looking forward to more.
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Nov 7th, 2011, 07:04 AM
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Piccolina: what Kansas said! Great to see another Dordogne report, and I'm enjoying yours a whole lot.

You are so brave to be on your own, but it is such a good way to notice everything, which I think you are doing. your detail is super, and your writing very evocative.

thanks for your kind words about my Dordogne trip, which I must get back to, by the way!
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Nov 7th, 2011, 07:36 AM
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Day 2 – June 26 - Driving around Cordes and other quaint villages

I woke up at 9am with the sunlight flooding into my room through the balcony doors and the large window that overlooks the valley. What a way to wake up! I ate breakfast in the backyard under a big umbrella (the sun was already getting pretty hot even though it was only 9am!) and chatted with the Wanklyns as to what I should do for the day. Ian suggested I follow his driving tour for the day which turned out to be exactly what I needed. After breakfast and using the wifi in the backyard, the sun was proving too hot to stay outdoor. The forecast was calling for 40C weather! So I gathered a 2 bottles of water, some granola bars, candies (Haribo of course!), my Michelin green guide on Dordogne and my BFF (aka the TomTom) and was ready to set off for today’s journey.

First stop for the day was the St. Antonin Noble Val for its Sunday market. I arrived there past noon and was expecting the market to be finished since I had no problem finding a parking spot. But to my surprise, there were actually still a lot of shoppers (maybe tourists?) in the town square. The market branches off to the smaller alleys to the side of the main square which led to more vendors with their tables on the outskirt of the village. Some vendors (perhaps the popular ones) were closing down since they were nearly out of stock. It was actually a really nice market but the midday sun was making me really tired and lethargic! It also didn’t help that I didn’t have a town map since the tourist office was closed between noon and 2pm.

I walked the outside of the town trying to find the restaurant recommended in the one-page driving itinerary provided by the Wanklyns. I’m guessing the itinerary hasn’t been updated recently and the name of the restaurant has been changed and it is now called “Auberge Bretagne”. The covered patio was bustling with diners so I settled for a table on the patio as well. I had the set menu consisting of Bayonne ham with white asparagus, a very generous serving of lamb chops and a dessert which I declined because I was already so stuffed!

After lunch, I quickly walked back to the car under the scorching sun. Let’s just say hot leather car seats and shorts are not a good combination. I decided that it was time to just drive around and enjoy the scenery from inside the car with full AC!

Following the Wanklyn’s driving itinerary, next destinations were Vielfour and Brousses. The little windy road leads up the side of the Aveyron gorge which offers a view down into the gorge and the surrounding countryside. I didn’t stop in either of these villages – just passed by to take in the scenery and continued on to Penne.

I found parking in a lot (right in front of the Mairie) about 5 minutes from the small village of Penne. I wanted to come to Penne to see the castle ruins dating back to the 6th century which was built on an overhanging cliff face. From afar, some people say that the castle ruins look like V-sign with the two fingers chopped off. Penne was also quite unique as there are grains embedded on the side of some of the buildings (Does anyone know the meaning behind the embedded grains?). You have to look carefully to find them!

There was a 5 euro entrance fee to the castle and it looked like it was quite a hike up. But the lady at the ticket booth assured me that it was only a 5 minute walk! I figured I would be ok because I had a huge bottle of water with me. The uphill walk was over loose gravel but I managed alright even in my flip flops. There were metal railings to the side but I assure you that you don’t want to grab on to them on this very hot summer day unless you want to sustain first degree burn to your palms! I believe the castle had been purchased by a very wealthy person who is now in the progress of restoring the castle. I was the only person on top of this cliff that afternoon and it was a bit eerie to be the only person there. The view was magnificent over the valley. I wish I was more of a history buff and would do some proper reading of the castle – I’m sure the castle walls had many stories to tell.

Next stop was Bruniquel which was named after Brunhilda, the daughter of the King of the Visigoths, who is said to have founded the village in the 7th century! The town has two castles which are both over 700 years old. But this very hot summer day had taken a toll on me and I had no energy to walk up the steep street to the castles. Instead, I found refuge in the flea market outside the village and strolled through the stalls of old books and records. The radio in the car didn’t work well in this area so I was hoping I would find a cd for the car. Low and behold, I found a Renaud cd in one of the stalls! Ahh…there’s nothing like listening to Renaud while driving through the French countryside!

My final stop for the day would be Puycelsi, which is a fortified village with the external walls being completely square. Just to the side of the parking lot, there’s a map of the village with a self-guided walk in a clock-wise fashion. The view from Puycelsi is also very nice as the view expands into the valley below. I only walked one side of the village walls where there was a small stone church before returning to the car. I’m sure the walk around Puycelsi would have been very enjoyable on a slightly cooler day

Then it was time to drive back to Cordes which was followed by a light dinner of fruits and a glass of wine as I take in the view of the sun setting in the Cordes valley. This was my last night in Cordes and I realized that I needed to make a separate trip back to this beautiful area pronto. I would love to see the Gorges du Tarn on my next trip to this area…

PS: The Wanklyns told me that the thermometer hit 42C that day!
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Nov 7th, 2011, 07:48 AM
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Thank you everyone for your kind words and reading my report!

This was my first ever solo trip if you exclude business trips and the 4 days I spent in Paris on my own some 7 weeks prior to this Dordogne trip. I won't lie and say I wasn't apprehensive about it but I think most of my anxiety has to do with the rental car (haha). On several occasions, I did wish I had company but mostly I just really enjoyed my own company. There's nothing like listening to the same song on repeat in the car and not having someone to tell you to change songs!

BTW, can someone tell me how to bold the font in the report? Merci beaucoup!
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Nov 7th, 2011, 10:30 AM
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To bold the font use before and after the text in question.

In case it comes up again... when entering a place with no proper address use latitude and longitude. Rural B and Bs will often have this on their websites. Or check using Google Earth.
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Nov 7th, 2011, 10:32 AM
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I could have been more clear... use pointy brackets instead of the rounded ones like so: (b) Bold text here (/b)
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Nov 7th, 2011, 07:14 PM
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ParisAmsterdam - thanks for the bold tip nd the longitude/latidue advice. I'll definitely keep that in mind for next time!
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Nov 7th, 2011, 07:21 PM
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Day 3 – June 27 – Albi and Driving to Rocamadour


I woke up to another day of gorgeous blue skies in Cordes. After breakfast in the backyard, I quickly packed up my stuff so that the Wanklyns can clean the room for their guests arriving later that day I was planning to go to Albi for a few hours, then come back to pick up my luggages (didn’t want to leave the luggages in the car for theft and temperature reasons – not sure how well my laptop will fare being trapped in the heat in the car trunk!) and then drive on to Rocamadour which would be my home for the next two nights. It wasn’t a detour to come back to Cordes to pick up the luggages because I would have had to drive through Cordes to get from Albi to Rocamadour anyway.

Albi was about a 30 minute drive away. If my memory serves me correctly, the roads were mostly two lanes with a gradual decline into Albi. Again, it was a very scenic drive (is it possible to have a not very scenic drive in this part of France?!). Thanks for the Wanklyn, I easily found the underground parking lot. Being that it was a Monday morning, I expected most shops would be closed (Thanks Stu for the heads up!). However, that didn’t matter because I came here to see the Cathedral and the Toulouse-Lautrec museum. I also really enjoyed a city/town when it is more quiet

Before finding my way to the tourist office, I stopped by a local café/bar to have a noisette (an espresso with a dash of cream). It was quite the local experience as I was surrounded by locals having their daily chats (there was only one group of them sitting around the bar and I presume they were all friends). The proprietor behind the counter and I tried to have a conversation about where I was from and etc. Too bad my French isn’t good enough to have a proper dialogue! I really should pick up French again one of these days.

As I approached the tourism office which was next to the Toulouse-Lautrec museum, I saw a couple of gentlemen making a video outside the tourism office. I was the only one entering the tourism office and I felt like the video camera was suddenly on me! After I got a map of Albi and was exiting the tourism office, the cameraman and his partner were entering the tourism office and said to me in English “Great shot! You looked really good in our video.” It turned out they were filming an official tourism video for Albi. So if you ever get the chance to see the tourism office video for Albi, you might see me in it! (By the way, this was my second time in a tourism video during this trip. The first time was in Chateau d’Usse in the Loire valley where my partner, myself and another couple were all featured in a scene in the attic with an actress dressed as a princess. So you might also see me in the Chateau d’Usse promotional video!)

I walked around the outside of the Cathedral which was very large and different from other cathedrals (in terms of color, architecture). According to wiki, the Albi Cathedral is “formally the Cathedral of Saint Cecilia…and the seat of the Archbishop of Albi. First built as a fortress begun in 1287 and under construction for 200 years, it is claimed to be the largest brick building in the world. In 2010 the cathedral was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site”.

The inside of the Cathedral was equally impressive. I highly recommend paying the 3 euros to see the choir and the back of the Cathedral. After finishing with the Cathedral, it was nearly lunch time. There were a few restaurants across the Cathedral with outdoor seatings. I sat down in one of these restaurants and had the 3-course menu consisting of a duck gizzard salad, duck confit and ice cream for approximately 20 euros. The view of the Cathedral from my seat was quite magnificent.

After lunch, I walked around Albi and noted that the shops were beginning to open. Many shops had a sale and I did some shopping since the Toulouse-Lautrec museum was closed until 1:30 or so. After shopping, I did a tour of Toulouse-Lautrec museum which I very much enjoyed. Today wasn’t as hot as the previous day but the afternoon sun was intense nonetheless. Time to head back to Cordes to pick up my luggages!

After a brief stop in Aurifat to bid farewell to the Wanklyns, I was off on the two hour scenic drive to Rocamadour. It was an easy drive through mostly winding one-lane country roads while passing through forests, pasteurs and quaint little villages. It was still 39C at 6pm according to the thermometer on the dashboard!

I arrived at Domaine de la Rhue in Rocamadour and checked into my standard room (125 euros per night excluding breakfast. Breakfast was 8 euros per person). I noticed that there were a lot of big black flies around Domaine de la Rhue (outside, not inside the B&B). Christine said that this happens every year at this time. They were literally all over the place! I’m sure it was very comicable for the handy man at Domaine to see me dash from my car to the back door where most of the flies were congregating. Domaine has just installed portable ACs in each room which was very much needed on this very hot day! Aside from the black flies, I thoroughly enjoyed my room which was very clean and has a view of the backyard.

I was pretty tired from a long day so I just had a light dinner of baguette, Rocamadour chevre and fruits in the room. I stayed in for the evening, did some laundry by hand and caught up on some of my favorite American television shows.
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Nov 8th, 2011, 01:54 AM
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Day 4 – June 28 – Stopping the Car to let the Chickens cross the road!

After breakfast at Domaine de la Rhue, I was ready for a morning of sightseeing at Rocamadour. I was a bit apprehensive about the crowds at Rocamadour being that it’s one of the most visited sites in France but the crowds weren’t so bad (aside from a few groups of screaming school children at the sanctuaries but it wasn’t too bad).

There is a walking path from Domaine de la Rhue that leads you to Rocamadour (or maybe it was to L’hospitalet?) but today was too hot to take on this path and I didn’t want to walk the path alone (I’m sure nothing would have happened to me had I walked the path alone but you can’t be too careful when traveling alone). I made a mental note to myself that I should walk this path if I come back to Rocamadour one day with company.

I drove to L’hospitalet to take in the view of Rocamadour. After a few photo opportunities, I parked the car in the lot next to the elevator that takes you down to Rocamadour.

Standing inside Chapelle Notre Dame (where the black Madonna stands), I was in awe of the history surrounding this place. Pilgrims who have been coming here for over 1,000 years! After visiting the basilica Saint Sauveur and the Saint-Michel chapel, I descended on the Grand Escalier (216 steps which were once climbed by pilgrims on their knees) to arrive at the Rocamadour village. I was underwhelmed with the one-street village as it was very touristy. It was lined with tourist-filled restaurants and tourist shops. As my hunger was kicking in, I ended up eating in one of these tourist-filled restaurants (gasp!). I had a salad of duck confit (yes more duck!) topped with a rocamadour chevre. I sat outside under a shaded patio but there were black flies everywhere. I’m pretty sure I (and other diners) spent most of my (their) meal defending my food from the swarming black flies! I’m not sure why there are so many black flies in Rocamadour? Has anyone else experienced this? I didn’t see black flies anywhere else in my 2-week stay in the area.

After lunch, I ascended up the Grand Escalier and took the elevator back up to the parking lot. As I drove out of L’hospitalet, I pulled over at a vantage point to try to capture Rocamadour in the afternoon sun but it was just not the right lighting (I think Stu has said the morning sun is the best time to capture Rocamadour from L’hospitalet). Then I looked up in the skies and saw a pair of bald eagles soaring in the midday sun. It was quite a sight.

After gassing up the car at the gas station in L’hospitalet, I drove back to Domaine de la Rhue for a much needed shower and a change of clothes. Then I was off for an afternoon drive around the quaint villages of Autoire, Loubressac, St. Cere, Beaulieu sur Dordogne and Carennac. I stopped in Autoire, Loubressac and Carennac but only drove through St. Cere and Beaulieu sur Dordogne. Here are my impressions of these villages/towns:

Autoire
Loved, loved, LOVED this little village which is listed as one of the most beautiful villages in France. I have a picture of this house that looked like it was straight out of the fairy tales. The village was empty except for another 1-2 cars of tourists. I would place this as one of my all-time favourite villages in France.

Loubressac
On the drive from Autoire to Loubressac on a rural route, I had to stop the car to let a chicken and a rooster cross the road. Being a city girl, this is rare sight to be had! I was grinning from ear to ear after seeing this and thinking to myself that I was really on the French country vacation that I had always dreamed of!

Loubressac (also listed as one of the most beautiful villages in Franec) is perched high on a mountain with a gorgeous vantage point where there is a bench you can sit down to absorb the view. Unfortunately the bench was already fully occupied by other tourists (there were only a few other tourists there). The village is quaint with a shady town square holding a few picnic tables. I had a very enjoyable break of sitting on one of these picnic tables while eating chips and drinking an oragina. A gentle breeze was blowing through the trees and I was thinking to myself that I was so lucky to be able to experience a 3-month break from work to enjoy the summer in Europe. It was just one of those moments where I felt very grateful and realized how fortunate and blessed I am to be doing the very thing I was doing at that exact moment. It’s hard to describe in words but I think you get what I’m trying to say.

St. Cere
Drove through one of the main streets of St. Cere and noted that it was more of a town than a village as it had many shops lining the streets. I didn’t feel like stopping here (but would end up returning the next day for lunch) and continued on to Beaulieu sur Dordogne.

Beaulieu sur Dordogne
I didn’t stop here either except to pull into a parking lot to input Carennec into the GPS. I remember reading either on here or in the Michelin Green Guide that Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne is well worth a stop but I just wasn’t in the mood to get out of my car to have a wander here. Ahh..the joy the travelling alone and not having to answer to anyone but yourself

Carennac
Carennac (also listed as one of the most beautiful villages in France) is ranked up there with Autoire in my books. By the time I arrived in Carennac, it was almost 6pm and the clouds have rolled in. Carennac is situated next to the banks of the Dordogne river and I got my first proper view of the Dordogne river here.

I took a walk around the deserted town and ran into a few groups of tourists. Carennac had its collection of half-timbered houses (some were very lobsided!) and other quaint village houses. There were a few restaurants lining the “main street”. One of the restaurants was serving tapas which I wasn’t in the mood for since I was in Spain for the previous 3 weeks. The restaurant that was furthest away from the village was called Hostelerie Fenelon which was a B&B and a restaurant with a Michelin-recommended sticker. I was so happy to finally see a reputable restaurant (at least according to Michelin) after eating several meals of mediocre food at touristy restaurants. I walked in at 6:50pm only to find the proprietor’s family eating dinner inside the restaurant and the nice gentleman asked me to come back in 10 minutes.

I wandered around village for another 15 minutes and returned to the restaurant at precisely 7:05pm. Judging from the look on the proprietor’s face, I think he was either surprised at my punctuality or was wondering why anyone on earth would want to eat dinner at 7pm. I was seated at a window that opens to a view of the Dordogne river below. I wasn’t too hungry so it was unfortunate that I couldn’t stomach the 3-course menu. I ordered a cepes omelette being that I have yet to try the cepes and a side order of steamed vegetables. The omelette was delicious (but very filling! I needed to order a mint tea at Domaine later that evening) and the steamed vegetables were beautifully presented. I was very happy with this dinner! Miam miam!

Then it was a 30 minute drive back to Domaine de la Rhue for my last night there!
Piccolina is offline  
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Nov 8th, 2011, 05:20 AM
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Albi Cathedral and Autoire looked inviting. Very enjoyable TR!
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Nov 8th, 2011, 05:39 AM
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Great trip report. I will use it to plan our trip to the Dordogne in March.

If you don't mind my asking what do you do that allows you to travel for three months?
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Nov 8th, 2011, 05:43 AM
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Love the bold headings! ;^)
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Nov 8th, 2011, 05:36 PM
  #17
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Thank you for reading my trip report and your kind words =) I'm in the middle of setting up a photo account so that I can load some photos to accompany this trip report. Please stay tuned!

Paris_Amsterdam - I'm loving the bold headings too! Thank you

AGM_Cape_Code - I'm very happy to hear that you can leverage the informaion from my trip report for your upcoming travels to Dordogne. I'm delighted to be able to "return the favor" to other fodorites. Happy planning! (Oh, and I work for a bank and this 3-month off is a break between jobs)
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Nov 8th, 2011, 06:28 PM
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Piccolina: I am so enjoying your report. We were at a lot of the places you talked about in this last entry, and stayed at Domaine de la Rhue.

Loved Autoire, it was so charming, and the approach from the south (I think) was staggering!! Nobody there but a group of French tourists who were in a small enclosure near the one hotel/restaurant, eating lunch.

Your trip sounds wonderful. Thanks for telling us about it.
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Nov 8th, 2011, 10:05 PM
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The first time we were in the Dordogne (just around the time we were deciding to live here - it didn't take very long)we stopped in Carennac after seeing Rocamadour, Padirac, and probably Autoire, also one of our favourite villages. Then we came to Carennac. Shall we stop here said my husband. Oh, it's late, let's just go home - well, why not stop for a little while.

Well, it's one of my favourite memories, being in Carennac, a stunning village, with wonderful roofs, great tower, and amazing cloisters - particularly at sunset. Highly recommended.

As is At Home in France by Ann Barry, who had a house in Carennac. Usually I dont much like all the 'I moved to France books' that have come out. But hers is quite special.
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Nov 8th, 2011, 10:23 PM
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Carlux - I agree with the cloisters in Carennac at sunset. Thanks for the book recommendation. I'll check it out!

Btw, do you live in Carlux now (sorry if tha's a rhetorical question)? I passed by your village/town several times leaving Sarlat to various destinations (the GPS always takes me on the smaller country route when leaving Sarlat! But the GPS always leads me on the main road (D703?) when coming back into Sarlat).
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