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Trip Report: 10 wonderful days in the Dordogne and 10 not so wonderful days on the Canal du Midi

Trip Report: 10 wonderful days in the Dordogne and 10 not so wonderful days on the Canal du Midi

Oct 26th, 2007, 08:52 AM
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If one is willing to spend a week in one place in the Dordogne (personally I could spend a lifetime if only my wife would give up tenure) there are two cottages available for rental on the grounds of the Chateaux Les Milandes, once owned by Josephine Baker and describe in this string. I think the email was [email protected]
Jeff801 is offline  
Oct 26th, 2007, 11:30 AM
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Thanks for the great report - just begining to plan October 2008 trip to Dordogne. Loved your pics as well. Anxious to read the rest of the report....
blh is offline  
Oct 26th, 2007, 12:01 PM
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annhig is offline  
Oct 26th, 2007, 12:41 PM
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Hi Susanna, I'm enjoying your report, as the Dordogne is my favorite region of France - you bring back so many good memories! I've enjoyed many similar experiences with my family, right down to the goose gizzard salads at L'Entre Acte in Sarlat. I even had a sushi/foie gras dish at Cabanoix et Chataigne last fall.

Padirac chasm is definitely worth a visit - too bad about the strike!

hausfrau is offline  
Oct 26th, 2007, 05:57 PM
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Your photos are stunning!! Thank you so much for sharing them. They make me long to go back to the Dordogne.
CRAZY4TRAVEL is offline  
Oct 26th, 2007, 06:03 PM
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Anxiously awaiting the Canal du Midi report -- although it sounds like there was some trouble. . .
NeoPatrick is offline  
Oct 26th, 2007, 06:14 PM
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Thanks Coco for the url

susanna, I enjoyed your photos very much because they are so personal not the usual tourists sites. I enjoyed my trip in the Dordogne though it rained most of the time. I look forward to the canal du midi. We drove along side of it but not oon it
cigalechanta is offline  
Oct 27th, 2007, 06:54 AM
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Susanna - your photos are wonderful. They confirm our decision to visit this beautiful area of France.

Looking forward to the Canal report.
Royal is offline  
Oct 27th, 2007, 06:55 AM
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Thanks for all the nice comments.
Jeff: thanks you for the info on the cottages, I would love to stay there, I'll check it out.
Hausfrau: maybe you are the one who recommended the restaurant,if so, a BIG thank you!
Crazy 5 Eksckrunchy: your trip reports inspired me
Nikki: I'll try doing that next time, thanks
Dukey: that's the problem, I did tell them the night before to order me a cab, they don't listen.
susanna is offline  
Oct 27th, 2007, 06:56 AM
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Second part: Barge trip on the Canal du Midi from Castlenaudry to Beziers. Did I mention that on the last day in the Dordogne my tooth came out? While eating a very sticky caramel I noticed that it was kinda crunchy...well it was my crown from a back molar. My tooth didn't hurt and my french is limited and I didn't know "laughing gas" in french so I chose to just wait and see, so I started this portion of the trip with a HUGE hole in the back of my mouth, allowing me to only eat on the other side.

We met our good friends in Toulouse, they also had been traveling in the Loire and Paris. She was my business partner for 20+ years and we are still best friends, I'll refer to them as F & J. We stayed at Hotel Albert 1, recommended here and were very please. Nice modern 2*, extremely clean and well run, they had no problem calling us a cab the next day to go to the train station! We both had the large bed room @98E, niether room was the one on the website, a bit smaller but very nice.It is a great location and although I can't remember the name, we ate a few blocks away at Gourmand....something and it was actually one of our best meals of the trip. Toulouse was very young and hip, great vibe here, would love to return, our 16 hours were not enough. http://www.hotel-albert1.com/

We took the train down to Castlenaudry, about 1/2 hour ride, and walked over to where we were to pick up the boat. We would cruze for 10 days, only in the one direction, with lots of bike riding, walking and wine tastings, sunning on the deck with cocktails and having a very relaxing time...NOT!

Our husbands collected the boat, checked it out and got all the instructions for what to do with it, F & I walked into town to pick up groceries and supplies. We bought a lot and were so loaded down that we wanted to take a taxi back to the boat...but this town is small and we only saw one and he wouldn't pick us up. I'm sure he knew that we were only going a few blocks but we would have gladly paid anything to not have to carry everything that we bought. We forgot TP!!! When we get back to the boat and see that they have only given us 2 rolls I go into the public bathroom and borrow a few sheets, who knows where the next store is.

So the fun is about to start, 10 feet away from the port we enter our first lock. Although they have given us instructions we really have no idea what we are doing. F jumps off the boat onto the shore and J throws her the rope to pull the boat over, DH is driving, I am the cheerleader, way to go team! Let me just say that the lock keepers must be the kindest most patient people in the world. Well, miraculously we enter the lock and figure out how to tie it off...and then comes the BIG boat who has less of a clue than us, and now it is bumper boat time! They crash into us and loose a big bumper. Excuse you...they say nothing, no eye contact, what's up? So we think, OK, one lock and we are out of here and will never see them again..NO...they didn't mention that one lock may consist of 1,2,4,7 steps down before you exit, this one has 3 steps, so they crash into us each time. And the next lock is about 100 yards away...and the next lock is 200 yards away...and they all have 2 or 3 steps so within the first hour or two we have probably done15 locks with an equal number of crashes, again, thank goodness I bought all the insurance .

We tie up for the evening, have bought food for dinner that evening and have a big glass of wine, or should I say big bottle of wine. J says " is this a working vacation, I thought we were going to relax" someone else says (me)" the locks are suppose to be fun?" We drink and eat and laugh and have a restless sleep the first night, thinking that the boat will come untied in the rain and we will float away, to where I don't know!

About the boat. We rented a Clipper which was good for two couples. We each have our own bedroom and bathroom at opposite ends of the boat with the common area in the middle. We can drive from inside or up on top outside, where we will be sunning and relaxing most days. Did I mention yet that it rained 8 out of the 10 days and we will be confined to the main cabin only going out into the rain to work the locks. If you rent a boat it comes with practically nothing in it, so we are thinking we need another store run really soon AND we all need to go because we have to carry everything back on our bikes and backs. They say the canal is very dirty, all of the XXXXX goes into it so we are not anxious to drink the water on tap and bottled water is very heavy. They have given us ONE bath towel each that has to last for 10 days, eww! We have no garbage bags, tp, paper towels, no supplies really. just wine, cheese and salami. The next morning we are not close to any town or bakery so we eat what we have and motor off into the rain!

I should say here that I am really a city person and had no idea about what to bring on a boat. In my over packing I have off white fleece and linen shorts, nothing that works well on a rain soaked boat. I have nothing waterproof nor does DH. F & J have brought better boat clothes and we are eyeing them.

Off in the morning, motoring down the beautiful but wet canal, still having fun, or at least trying. There are locks everywhere. We are told that we need to do 60+ in the ten days but with all the steps we probably end up doing 150. Every time we sit down to read or play cards there is another lock and all hands on deck to work them! Anyone who thinks this might be slow and boring (me) is in for a rude awakening.

susanna is offline  
Oct 27th, 2007, 07:03 AM
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Ouch. I can't wait for more on this canal trip. I must say that for years I've been pining away that we never did the Canal du Midi in rented boat. We watched some and it always seemed so wonderful, but alas not for us any more. You're finally making it possible for me to gloat that "hooray, we never endured that torture!" Thank you.
NeoPatrick is offline  
Oct 27th, 2007, 07:23 AM
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Glad you had a good time in the Perigord. One note - the restaurant in Sarlat is called Le Presidial, not Le Presidential. Presidial was an old courthouse in the centre of Sarlat - you can recognize it by the tower which bears an amazing resemblance to Darth Vader's helmet (called Dark Vader in French!)
Carlux is offline  
Oct 27th, 2007, 08:16 AM
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hi, susanna,

I'm guessing we're in for a lot of rain and quite a few more locks. ooh dear.

your mention of how easy it was to get a taxi at teh albert 1ier made me laugh, cos we had the opposite experience. just like you in Paris, we'd checked the night before that there'd be no problems, but when it came to it, there were none to be had. so we had to walk all the way to the station with our bags [fortunately only one each and on wheels] up a less than salubrious street during rush hour. Everyone else was going to work and consequently walking in the opposite direction. at least we were onyl picknig up a car and had no deadline to meet.

but I did like the hotel. I'd even go back!

regards, ann
annhig is offline  
Oct 27th, 2007, 11:55 AM
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And again, here are the locks, in the rain. The lock keepers wife has made quiches and chocolate tarts to sell, yum, breakfast. She also has some ear rings for sale which we do not purchase. This is a theme for the rest of the trip, bored lock keepers have some unusual (to be nice) art for sale, some of which you will see in the pictures, local wine which we always purchase, jams and breads, yes, we can live on just this if need be.

After a full morning of locks we finally come to a small town and decide to ride our bikes in. The bikes are not the upgraded mountain bikes we were expecting. They are tied onto the front of the boat and that's where they mostly stay for the trip, evident in just about every photo. F has the best bike, hers seem to be just OK, mine won't shift on either side but it is flat so I can ride, DH's seat is so high you would have to be a giant to reach the pedals and we have no tools to adjust it and the gear is stuck in high so it's like an exercise bike, he has to stand up to ride it, J's has NO brakes and is unrideable. Consequently, the only good weather days that we will get we don't have operable bikes. They will refund half the money for the bikes but that's not the point.

We go into town and find a grocery store but how much can we actually carry on these bikes? We are told by other boaters not to shop in this town because they are expensive...but...they deliver and we don't care what they charge. We don't find them any more expensive , 100 E later we ride empty handed back to the boat and here comes a car with our groceries, we want to tip him but he won't take it, we merci beaucoup him to death and we go inside to unpack. Why does the boat smell like s&*t? Someone (me) has steped in dog doo which is right in front of the boat and tracked it in.(it will be the first of many steppings in poo) We clean it all up and take off again in the rain.

OK, it's kind of slippery on deck in the rain. First lock, DH is napping, J is driving and F and I do the ropes. Off we jump onto the bank, hold the boat until the locks open and are going to get back on and drive it into the lock when I slip, bounce on my tail bone and slid into the canal! I grab the weeds and hold on so as not to go under. F who knows me better than anyone yells at me "don't start crying and don't panic" ...OK, what do I do? She finds a tree root about 10 feet away, I try to hold onto the weeds and work my way down while J tries to not crush me against the bank with the boat and the lock keeper runs down and tries to help. I finally crawl up onto the bank, have a little cry fest and get back on the boat. I have to get all my clothes off and get in the shower immediately and then wipe off with sanitizer so I don't catch anything from the dirty canal. My tail bone hurts and I can't jump off and do the ropes now. I tell F&J for the first time, but not the last, if it wasn't for them being with us, I would have paid the abandonment fee and quit right then! We park for the night and make dinner and the wine makes my tailbone feel better.
susanna is offline  
Oct 27th, 2007, 12:04 PM
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and I thought that those boats on the canal looked soooo romantic.

have you read "narrow dog to carcassonne" by terry darlington?

he had more luck than you, but you might stil enjoy it.

regards, ann
annhig is offline  
Oct 27th, 2007, 12:09 PM
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Oh dear, into the canal. Talk about soaking in the atmosphere.
Nikki is online now  
Oct 27th, 2007, 01:00 PM
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I have not checked the geography of the Canal du Midi, but the Canal de Bourgogne has a similar section of numerous locks. Usually that is because the canal is going from one watershed to another, in the case of the Canal de Bourgogne, it would be between the Seine watershed and the Rhône watershed. Anyone considering a self-drive barge trip should take that geography into account. I can recommend the Canal de Bourgogne between St. Florentin and Montbard; about 50 locks, all of them single. It also has quite a few old stones: châteaux, an hospice, etc.
Michael is online now  
Oct 27th, 2007, 01:11 PM
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We did a self drive trip years ago with my parents, sisters, BIL & niece & nephews. It was April so not the best weather. My DH fell into the canal in a lock. My BIL, shorter and slighter, pull him out-he said he found strength he didn't know he had. Luckily my DH
AGM_Cape_Cod is online now  
Oct 27th, 2007, 01:12 PM
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(Sorry,hit post by accident) had a hooded sweatshirt that kept his only pair of glasses on. We had fun anyway.
AGM_Cape_Cod is online now  
Oct 27th, 2007, 01:53 PM
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If it's any consolation, I know of a couple who tried to do this on their own (i.e with just the one to steer, and the other to do the locks.) By halfway through they were miserable with exhaustion.

That said, while you paid the price with your tailbone and a dip in the spit, this is all making for a great yarn. Thanks for it!

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