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Schnauzer, live from Paris, Lyon, Nice, Averyon and Dordogne, join me

Schnauzer, live from Paris, Lyon, Nice, Averyon and Dordogne, join me

Old Jun 28th, 2013, 02:14 PM
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travelling along...
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Old Jun 29th, 2013, 01:38 AM
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I am enjoying your report. I do not drive in France[ DH could not stand the strain being a passenger ]. We are also Aussies and he is always a bit nervous to start but soon settles in to it.

I am looking forward to your time in the Aveyron as we spent a week there in 2012 and really enjoyed it.

Have fun.
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Old Jun 29th, 2013, 07:14 AM
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Looking forward to the next installment. rhon, my husband felt the same way!
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Old Jun 29th, 2013, 12:15 PM
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Enjoying your trip very much; thanks!
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Old Jun 29th, 2013, 01:29 PM
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Enjoying your report!
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Old Jun 29th, 2013, 01:37 PM
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Here I am back again.....
Saturday 29th June

Welllll, obviously as I am writing I survived my long journey from Provence to L'Aveyron, just over 400kms.

I had downloaded maps, printed them off with directions, bought maps, downloaded different maps on my iPad and studied them all for hours (and I mean hours), making copious notes. Anyway I was convinced by the group at school to get a GPS so when I picked up the car I "upgraded" a level and got a built in GPS and diesel, a little Citroen, in red.... The girl at Avis entered my arrival address into the gps and we discussed, so I thought, that I would go the shortest way with tolls. First gear engaged and I am off!

Out of the car park, in the right direction which is always a good start, however we had hardly gone 5 Kms when instead of following to Salon de Provence and the green route she/Fifi told me to take a right, I KNEW THIS WOULD HAPPEN... I followed her directions and we took a lovely scenic tour through the oil refineries, docks and industrial area of Marseilles. Okay then, not quite what I had hoped for... I tried to get back to the green route but she was determined.. Obviously the girl at Avis hadn't put in tolls so I was in for a very long detour. She was Russian so I forgave her.. Sort of. Yes, I should have pulled over instead of continuing via the marshes of Camargue (didn't even see any horses or flamingoes) but you know how it is. I didn't want to fiddle, I don't have a GPS at home so wasn't really sure what to do and was of course trying not to panic. Finally I saw a sign for Montpellier so knew at least I was heading in the right direction. I made up my mind that at the next green route sign I would follow and even saw a blue peage (toll road) sign, then of course I read a yellow flashing sign saying there was a traffic jam on the freeway.... Went around the roundabout churning butter and deciding what to do... Ok, continue as I am. I need the little girls room anyway and figured if I got stuck in a jam it wouldn't be pretty.

It was Saturday lunchtime but you would have thought it was 9pm, nothing appeared open in the little towns and I was getting desperate. I needed a break having now been driving around the countryside for 2 hours. Finally I saw a sign for a roadside restaurant selling meat as their speciality, not really what I wanted but by this stage I could have eaten a horse. Well, was I lucky because on the menu was brochettes of horse!!!!! Actually, she regrettably informed me it was "off" the menu today. Thank goodness for that. I had a quick beef brochette and salad, used the loo a couple of times and plucked up courage to press a few buttons on the GPS. I ticked tolls and crossed my fingers. Off I went again with Fifi at the helm. The next tricky bit was getting around Montpellier, either Fifi couldn't count or was determined yet again to take me via every industrial area when we came to the roundabouts. I rebelliously ignored her and followed the green.... Of course I had paid for the GPS mainly for three areas, the start, Montpellier and finding my B and B. she had buggered up the first,just about the second and I had yet to find out about the third.

We got into a groove and I began to trust Fifi a bit more, goodbye Montpellier and hello A75 north. Honestly I couldn't have done it without the GPS, there were too many exits and turns for me to have followed my maps. Soon we were climbing up and up, warning signs on the side of the road for deer, where am I Scottish Highlands now? Then suddenly out of nowhere we are suspended high in the air overlooking Millau, wow, I am driving over the Millau Viaduct, what an amazing feat of engineering this is. I had promised I wouldn't cross four lanes of traffic to take a photo but no need to panic the viewing spot, tourist shop and toilets were just a slip road away. I didn't want to leave my things in the car for long at such a tourist spot so I didn't walk far and took a pretty ordinary photo, also I was way behind schedule and didn't want to be dallying for too long. It was actually getting a bit stormy and dark in the sky and the last thing I wanted at this stage was to be driving in torrential rain. Photo and relief, lovely squat toilets, and I was back on the road again.

Back on the country roads cos of course we were now passed all the freeway. bits and finally we approached my destination Villefrance de Rouergue. It is an old town with the really old streets in the middle and a road that goes the way around the outside. Fifi gave a couple of pathetic instructions and then went very quiet at the critical bit. Typical.... I turned down a small side street which then became narrower and narrower, I pulled over to ask for directions as Fifi hadn't a clue. A kind man knew of the B and B and pointed me in the right direction which involved going right through the centre of the old town which looked more like a pedestrian street than somewhere you could drive. Fortunately I was the only car about as I know at one stage I was on the wrong side.... Oop la, there was my road and a parking spot right outside the house.

It is a huge house that used to be run as a B and B, however I discovered it is no longer like this and is basically self catering accommodation. The lady who runs it doesn't actually live here. Gosh I do find some strange places to stay. I have two pianos, an enormous kitchen with every pot and pan etc to cook with, a tv room, a huge dining room, a big front garden, my own private garage.

Tonight is the fete of St Jean in town, lots of marching bands and music etc. all the restaurants have set menus and lots of extra tables set up outside. I wandered in to town for dinner, the old centre part was practically deserted so I headed for the noise/music. If you can't beat them - join 'em. I bought my ticket for dinner and sat down at a long trestle table next to another couple from Bordeaux, she with very unfortunate brown teeth. Another group arrived but after eating my dinner and saying a few words about dental hygiene to my neighbour I decided I was tired and cold and things don't get going till late, too late for me anyway.

Back to my "house", made a cuppa and wrote my journal. It is quite cool here compared to Provence and I hope the weather improves as it looks a bit dull. I am wanting to visit some of the pretty villages tomorrow.
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Old Jul 1st, 2013, 01:54 PM
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30th June Sunday

Well this morning I did something I haven't done before and that is leave an accommodation early... I just didn't get a good feeling about being by myself in this big house. I didn't even unpack so that was telling me something straight away. I searched on the net for another place and found a B and B in Martiel. I hadn't wanted to drive to go out for dinner that was one of the reasons for staying in town but.... I just didn't want to stay, I had that nervous cold clammy feeling all the time. I emailed the new place and they came back straight away saying there was a room available, decision made. Martiel is about 10kms from town.

I had to go out for breakfast as I hadn't bought or brought anything with me. Before I left I emailed the owner of the house explaining that I wasn't comfortable staying there etc etc. and I was leaving at 10.00 rsvp.

I went to the local bar for breakfast and had a coffee and croissant, dipping my croissant in the coffee to look like I belonged. Back to the house after a tour around the town in daylight. No response from owner so I called the young girl who had let me in etc. she came over and was very concerned I was going. I tried to explain my feelings and she was very sorry to see me go. It was her first time looking after the house and I felt dreadful for her. She was nearly in tears, she tried ringing the owner, her husband and the previous lady who did her job. No one answered her, in the end I said here is the money, here are the keys and left. Immediately I felt better and the sun came out and I knew I had made the right decision.

My new BF Fifi and I headed off to Belcastel a beautiful old town. Picture perfect with a photo at every turn. I had a coffee to start and had five old farts in cycling gear sit next to me, there is just something a bit off putting about men after a certain age in Lycra. However they were more interested in their thigh muscles than me so I proceeded to do the tour of the town using the french version of the guide, how good is that?

Just an aside while I think of it, the flies in France are as bad if not worse than Australia and just about everyone still smokes.

I wasn't going to drive a lot today but of course couldn't help myself and continued on to Conques another historic town where the Santiago de Compostella walk goes through. Bigger than Belcastel and more significant historically but really touristy. I drove up to the lady collecting the car parking money and just as we discussing the car parking options someone pulled out right at the entrance so in I zipped, secure too as she was right there all day. Always a bit of a worry when you have your luggage in the car. It was now stinking hot, I had worn my jeans first thing as it was cool but now when I see people wearing jeans and it is hot and I think " what were you thinking" they are thinking "I am so blinking hot I wish I hadn't worn these jeans,"

Conques was certainly lovely but a lot of the religious significance is lost on me, but I did my usual walk where no one else is walking thing and had lunch with "Bruce" the Kelpie siting by my side. Now boiling I decided it was time to head off to the new B and B.

The new spot is in the countryside but I found it easily enough, the little hamlet isn't even on the GPS. It is a stunningly renovated farmhouse with pool, the only negative for me is that it is run by an English couple and all the other guests are English but..... I immediately felt at home, unpacked and met a lovely couple and Mum from Sheffield. The offered me a glass of wine and I settled in for a good old chat! Ahhh, very nice indeed.my room is great. After a while I went to the next village for dinner. Not normally the sort of spot I would choose, a bar type place on the corner.. But the omelette was cooked to perfection, the only drawback being the smoke and the flies....

Back for a sound nights sleep.... A good decision on my part.
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Old Jul 1st, 2013, 02:14 PM
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Are you staying at Les Fontaines? We're renting the cottage there in October, and your place sounds just like it. I look forward to hearing more about the Aveyron -- thanks for the report.
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Old Jul 1st, 2013, 02:23 PM
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Yes, it is! Are you from Hawaii? The owners mentioned there were Hawaiians coming in.... It is lovely here. It is late here now, so will write tomorrow.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2013, 10:34 AM
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What a couple of days! Glad you made it OK and sorry about the "vibes" from the house.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2013, 02:05 PM
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Yes, we're from Hawaii. Tell Andrea and Steve we're looking forward to our visit. And I'm looking forward to more of your trip report!
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Old Jul 2nd, 2013, 02:29 PM
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Alohatoall, I will say alohatoall! Thanks TDudette, feeling good now...

1st July Monday

Had a great nights sleep in my new comfy bed. Breakfast was continental but plenty to eat and I prepped myself for the trip to Albi. Fifi had woken up on the wrong side on the carport and was out of sync with her directions and timing, not terribly helpful, again in the town when I needed her she just doesn't say a word and then kept directing me off into the bushes every 50 metres, no idea why as there is only really one straight road into Albi. However, getting into Albi was easy enough and I found undercover parking next to the covered market, well signposted and easy to park. Tourist info office first to get my Albi pass, this had a great saving of 1 euro off the Cathedral and Toulouse Lautrec museum....

Albi Cathedral is the biggest brick building in the world and is truly spectacular. The bricks are red and it stands like a European version of Uluru (sort of). Pretty much the whole town is red brick which in the afternoon sun became unbearably hot. I preferred the outside of the cathedral to the inside to be honest, I thought it a bit dark and dull. The special tour of the inside Coeur was lost on me being the heathen that I am.

Even though I was hungry I continued on next door to the Toulouse Lautrec museum. The museum is part of the Bishops Palace and I loved the architecture of the building even though my tummy was rumbling. The museum offers a great selection of paintings, drawings and posters over several floors. Eventually my stomach won out and Lautrec was ditched for a chicken and salad baguette from the patisserie on the square. Ignoring the no food signs I made my way to the gardens (remarquable) next to the Palace and parked myself on a stone bench overlooking the river and munched away. Fab views over the river were to be had and it was oh so pleasant just sitting there taking it all in.

The town beckoned and I made my usual valiant effort to follow the map issued by the T.I. It was now getting unbearably hot just walking around, apparently Albi is the hottest spot around here and I couldn't argue with that. I had had enough and exited stage left to the car park. The car was nice and cool and I plugged in Cordes-sur-Ciel and headed back up north.

There was a garden in Cordes that I particularly wanted to see and accordingly to my notes it was open every day. I found parking right out the front but you have to decide up front how long you think you will be, which for me is always tricky... I don't know, never been here before.... Anyway put a couple of euros in the machine and made my way to the entrance and you've guessed it - closed on Mondays. Not defeated I walked up to the top of the village. It is very steep and soon I was huffing and puffing, as usual I went the path where no one else goes and hardly saw a soul. Finally I popped out in the middle of the village, so that's where everyone else was... Had the biggest rip off passion fruit gelato, minuscule serve, bah! Did the usual wandering around through the same tourist shops, soaps, knives, bags, and the same old tat. It was hot and I was ready to move on. I don't think I did Cordes justice really, but after Belcastel and Conques it was all starting to look the same.

I wanted to drive on the back roads home so chose small village on the way to put into the GPS, oops there was a choice, was it Tarn or Tarn Garonne, hmm don't know, they don't give you a north south option. Picked one at random and hoped for the best. Soon I was beetling along, forgetting completely that I had been given a choice and it could have been prudent to stop and check.....finally feeling thirsty I pulled over at a local patisserie and checked the map, yup, you've guessed again.... Completely the wrong direction , I had been driving south again but on a different road so all the names were new. Blast and double blast, 30 mins south instead of north. U turn and back I went up to Cordes passing the garden and parking area again. I was determined to travel on the back roads and managed to work it out this time. Got home at after 6.30.

Had a long chat with the lovely English couple by the pool, i think they felt sorry for me being by myself and asked me for a barbecue, how kind was that? They are staying in the self catering accommodation part of the house. They are friends of the B and B owners who came along as well. It really made for a great evening to have company and lovely food. That's more like it...... Not stuck in some house by myself. In fact the B and B owner here thought it could be illegal to advertise as a chamber d'hôte and not be on the premises. I never did hear back from the other lady.

A lovely end to a busy day. Tomorrow I have promised myself to take it easier.
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Old Jul 3rd, 2013, 10:26 AM
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2nd July Tuesday
Najac and hiking with Fifi

I was determined to take it a bit more slowly today and initially had given Najac the heave ho, after seeing so many other medieval towns but Andrea at Les Fontaines said I would be missing out if I didn't go and I couldn't stand the thought of missing anything...

It was another glorious day and I was getting better with the whole GPS thing, worked out that slower route meant back roads so back roads I went. Unfortunately this also meant wildlife running across the road. I came around a corner, don't worry didn't happen to me, but a car had stopped in the middle of the road as they had hit a baby deer and killed it it. I stopped to make sure the guy was ok and that the deer was dead, I was pleased as I couldn't have handled injured. He said he was waiting for a friend, at first I couldn't work out why he just didn't move it to the roadside and then later it dawned on me, of course they would be taking it home to eat. The french don't waste such delicacies. I felt rather sad for a while but at least it hadn't suffered.

Soon I arrived in Najac, easy to park, it was even free, right next to the Gendarmes, hopefully another secure spot. Quick visit to get "the map" and off I went - again. However, Najac had a completely different feel to it than other towns and I was so pleased I had come. The church was due to shut between 12-2, so I hot footed it down to the end of the village. I like a sense of urgency to get going.... but there was nothing exciting to see in the church.

Postman Pat(rice) was doing his rounds along these crazily narrow streets, and he kept popping up at every corner, I toyed with the idea of asking him if I could join him on his rounds as Najac is very steep but knew the answer would be no. Next stop was the half restored castle, privately owned by the same chap that hid the Mona Lisa and other art works from the Germans in the war. It was interesting and a work in progress I think. It was absolutely boiling by this stage of the day so I made my way back to the central part of the village for lunch. It was interesting to see how many houses were for sale in Najac, not sure why.

Lunch was a salad on the terrace at La Salamandre, this spot had been recommend on Fodors. I took my time with lunch, it was very busy and had a good buzzy atmosphere. I even took my time to relax and have a coffee afterwards.

I had made up my mind to not visit anywhere else but to just zig zag my way back home. It was great, Fifi directed me onto some tiny roads and it was as if I was hiking but just going faster. I only saw a couple of hikers and some cows, it was wonderful to be right in the middle of the french countryside. Most of the time i didnt even get out of second gear. But soon this was over and the whole atmosphere dashed as I had to go and get some cash from the bank next to the supermarket. I had a good look around the supermarche which sold the most fabulous stuff. I could have bought masses but of course lugging it home is something else. I did buy some Cassis for me, some blackberry liqueur for my new chums and some fleur du Sel.

I got home, donned the swimmers and dipped half of me into the pool! Chatted to my neighbours who asked me yet again for dinner. I declined as I felt I was imposing, but they said it wasn't right for me to be eating alone on my holidays. So I very thankfully accepted and we had another family meal together. Luckily I had bought the liqueur for them. Such gracious and friendly people, they didn't have to do that. For most of the time I have been fine eating by myself but there comes a time when it is nice to have some company.

The skies darkened and the predicated thunderstorm came through just as I was trying to get to sleep, masses of lightening and rain. My first for the trip...
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Old Jul 3rd, 2013, 11:03 AM
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I googled Albi Cathedral--it looks almost precarious it's so huge. Wish hub and I had gotten in some driving when we were based in Montpellier.

More please!
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Old Jul 3rd, 2013, 11:10 AM
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Oh I'm so glad you got out of the big unwelcoming empty house and have made nice welcoming friends at your new lodgings.

And also relieved to read you are now absolutely fine driving around on little back roads. Told you it would only take a mile or so!

I think a GPS in now almost compulsory for those of us driving without a navigator in the passenger seat. The roads are so busy now that the days of driving along one-handed with the map on one's knees and the finger of the non-steering hand tracing the route are long gone!

Take care on the next stage of your trip, and continue to have a great time! One day I hope to follow in your tyre tracks!

(If this was an email I'd sign off Love Julia, but as it's a public forum I won't, lol!!!)
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Old Jul 3rd, 2013, 11:26 AM
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Loving this, as I can picture almost every step of the way in my mind's eye.
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Old Jul 3rd, 2013, 11:37 PM
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St Cirq I am around the corner from you now! Are you in France? Hi Julia, glad you and TD re still reading, sometimes you wonder if anyone is actually following anymore. Probably a bit pedestrian compared to some other reports of crazy things happening!


3rd July Wednesday.

Keeping it simple today, everyone has probably gone to sleep...

Woke up to rain this morning, apparently it is only for today, hmm hope so. Said my goodbyes to everyone at Les Fontaines in Martiel. It has been a super place to stay, apart from the lovely house and hosts the location turned out to be ideal, it is so central to everywhere, highly recommend it.

Drove straight to Cajarc through the windy back roads, met some gorgeous black and white cows who were wandering in the road, they seemed almost surprised to see anyone actually driving past them. I had a good look around the town with the ubiquitous map in hand. Thank goodness for the T.I. Another old town with a good feel to it, right by the river which I have decided is a must! I then followed the Lot river which then lead me to Figeac. This is much a bigger town with heaps of history. With map in hand I followed from 1 - 30 and pretty much saw it all. Except Figeac closes between 12-2. Patisseries and boulangeries included. I wanted to go for dinner in Sarlat later tonight so was searching for a sandwich, do you think I could find anywhere open? Finally at about site no. 28 I found the patisserie and bought a tuna baguette which I only ate half of as it was so big.

The day was quite cool and rainy, the umbrella was needed, but not all the time, thankfully. It did put a dampner on the day but I can't complain, one day of rain so far.

Programmed Fifi and off we went to Sarlat a REALLY beautiful old town. Eventually found the B and B after a couple of wrong turns. Hosts very friendly, yet another English couple so the french is becoming a bit non existent. My room is very comfortable not quite as luxe as the previous room but perfectly fine. Because it is close in to the town centre, 5 mins walk, you do pay a premium but it is convenient.

Met another Aussie couple who are staying here. I went out for dinner to Le Gaulois which had been recommended by several people, the hosts here included. But to be honest it turned out to be a very expensive potato bake....I cook the same thing at home so I wasn't best pleased.... Oh well. Just as I was walking from the resto I bumped into the other couple and we walked around Sarlat at night together which was a bonus cos I would have just gone back home.

In my mind I had thought I had three days here so I had put a day aside to wander around Sarlat but I have now realised it is three nights but only two days. Duh.... Gosh I will need a holiday when I get home. There are some gardens I want to see tomorrow so better get to bed.
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Old Jul 3rd, 2013, 11:48 PM
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Schnauzer, I must ask: what is a potato bake?

Enjoy Sarlat! I am glad you poked around after dinner--the town is especially pretty at night I think.
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Old Jul 4th, 2013, 01:07 AM
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Hi Leely, potato bake is sliced/chopped potatoes layers with onion, garlic and chopped bacon and cream and cheese, then baked in the oven to crisp the top. Great side dish for feeding crowds, a good filler... But not IMO a dinner dish by itself. But that is just me.....
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Old Jul 4th, 2013, 01:38 AM
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Aah, schnauzer, this is why we self cater. I do variations on potato bake. We are especially partial to my potato and fennel boulanger which goes vey well with magret de canard.

I am enjoying your report, as we were in the Aveyron last year and hope to be in the Dordogne next year. [ At the moment , watching the Tour on SBS, is as good as it gets!!] You are doing very well!
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