We’ve been operating in overload since leaving Paris. The trip down to Bordeaux via TGV (Train de Grande Vitesse) was fast and comfortable. More comfortable than the airplane ride across the Atlantic. Picking up the rental car was a snap and with sketchy directions and a hand drawn map, we found our way out of Bordeaux. We missed one turn and ended up on a toll road. We got off at Bergerac, no sign of Cyrano. We only had a highway map from 2003 and not very detailed at that. We had received turn by turn directions to our “gite” from the proprietor. Unfortunately, he thought we were coming from Paris! The 3 hour drive from Bordeaux took 6 hours but we saw some beautiful countryside. This is an agricultural region and things are just coming up.
This is the land of foie gras and truffles. Goose and duck farms abound.
Our hosts at Barbeyroux welcomed us with a glass of cidre—sparkling wine made from apples. Our room is incredible, upstairs in a stone building that is hundreds of years old. Hand hewn timbers support the roof. We are the only foreigners here, the rest of the guests are French. In fact, most of the tourists we encounter are French. Many guidebooks describe the Dordogne as an “undiscovered” gem. They got the gem part right. If it is undiscovered, it is only undiscovered by Americans. So far, we have seen no Americans here, but lots of French.
As I said, we are operating in overload. There is just so much beauty here. The hills, valleys, the farm houses built by hands hundreds of years ago, chateaux, churches, flowers everywhere and on and on. Our first stop was Lascaux, the site of cave paintings made 17,000 years ago. This was possibly the main reason for coming to Périgord.
Then, we went to the second most visited site in France—Rocamadour.
Imagine building a château several hundred feet up a sheer stone wall in the 1300’s!. The place defies description. For those who are familiar with the “Chanson de Roland,” you can see where he embedded his sword in the stone cliff.
Then, there was the “Gouffre de Padirac,” a huge sinkhole and underground river which reminded us of the Lost River in Bowling Green, Ky or a similar thing in Horse Cave, Ky. The boat ride took us into one of the most beautiful caverns we’ve ever seen. The Frozen Niagara at Mammoth Cave pales in comparison.
We visited La Roc St Christophe, a truly incredible place. Occupied for over 55,000years, it defies imagination.
It is easy to see how man in prehistoric times could set up housekeeping there. The cliff offers numerous levels of rocky overhangs that would provide shelter from the weather, wild animals and unfriendly humans. During the Middle Ages, people built an entire city on the face of the cliff. They closed in the natural overhangs with post and beam walls filled with wattle and daub. There were shops and stables and churches. The reason for building there was protection from brigands and invading Norman armies. I guess life was pretty dangerous back then.
I hope you can see why we have been overloaded with everything here. I’ll take a break, post what I’ve got so far and add more later.
Many years ago, while vacationing in Martinique, Claudia and I were sitting at a Tiki hut at Anse Mitan. We observed folks anchoring their sailboats and dinghying in to the restaurant. "What a neat way to travel," we thought. Of course, we could never do that. Fast forward 35 or so years and we were anchored in Anse Mitan! During those 35 or so years, we lived other adventures as CLODS--Cruisers Living On Dirt. We didn't know it, but we were training for life on a sailboat. We built our own house, lived without running water or electricity, grew our own food, had a goat dairy and produced award winning cheeses. In 2004, we bought a small trailerable boat. Learned to sail, more or less, bought a bigger boat--a Pearson 323 on which we spend our winters in climes warmer than home.