Note that at the stop over for lunch I obviously had too much Pate de Fois and had a mild degree of post prandial brain fog, so that I became disorientated and backtracked a few times .
The aim of the day was to cycle to and through the villages of Domme and Sarlat, which I did again on a beautiful sunny day and again with the mercury reaching 34 degrees.
Domme means dome – the village is indeed perched on a mountain
A typical street really in any French village perched on a hill.
Next the village of Sarlat-la-Canéda and I have well and truely ventured into a delightful medieval yellow limestone town, slowly smothering in the soot and fumes of tourist buses and motorised holiday vans and all I can say if September is the shoulder of the tourist season, I would hate to be here during the peak.
The lunch time Pate de Fois that I convinced contributed to brain fog
Finally on the return lap I thought I would cycle part of the Piste Cyclable – an old disused railway line, which starts in Sarlat and traverses about 30 km and is very reminiscent of the various cycle paths in SA.
However the start of the cycle path in Sarlat is not well sign posted! I went into the local bike shop on the Main Street and for all the good it did me asking for the “cycle path “ – I may have just as well asked for the local brothel!
As is my custom, early to bed and early to rise…. absolutely necessary as the midday sun all this week will drive the temperature into the low 30s. Riding leisurely through cool hills and walnut plantations.
Adelaide has “The Reisling Trail”, the Dordogne has the “Nut Route”
The countryside in France has a unique bouquet of sweetish new mown grass with an occasional tinge of manure finishing on the nose.
The beginning of the elevation looks daunting but notice it darts at about 300 and is then downhill
Today was not without incident as I broke the shaft of the rear derailleur, no mean feat in a brand new bike.
For the unitiated, the black dangling thing should be attached to the rear axle
A “Romanesque” church
The gardens of the Castle la Treyne – now a hotel
The monastery of the town of Souillac
The Dordogne river
now follows a few pictures of La Roque-Gageac arguably “the prettiest village in France” nestled between the Dordogne river and the cliffs , indeed with houses built into them.
The small blip in the sky is a hot air balloon
Fried Pate de Fois and mushrooms , swimming to the point of drowning
This is the second most important, not To mention popular, destination in all of France, after the iconic Mont St Michel. I believe it is also the second most important catholic pilgrim site after the Camino, as a consequence of the Chapel of Notre Dame, which houses the “black Madonna”. ￼
The name Rocamadour derives from the local dialect which refers to a hermit who lived in a cave on the awesome limestone walls – ” roc amator” – he who loves rocks. Each to his own, I say.
And another thing, lest you think that the Roman Catholic Church has suddenly become inclusive and celebrating diversity, sadly it is not the case. The black Madonna was a not quite pure white statue carved from walnut wood which over the millennia, has been blackened by the soot and smoke of burning candles!
During July and August upwards of a million tourists visit Rocamadour each month! Thankfully I arrived early September when the numbers drop dramatically: 999,999. Seriously the town was decidedly peaceful.
The other quaint custom is that pilgrims even today are required to climb the 223 steps of the Great Stairway on their knees and once at the top they enter the chapel and are presented with a medallion, a parchment certificate and a list of local orthopaedic surgeons.
The original medieval pilgrims not only climbed on their knees, but wore chains around their ankles! A rather wincing vision that is to this day recreated at the biennial meeting of the local chapter of the Rocamadour Masochists.
The day dawns bright and sunny with a typical crispness that belies the coming heat ! It’s breakfast and I am the only cock crowing in the hen house – 3 Canadian women I guess in their late 60s are about to set out on much the same tour whilst about 6 Austrian woman who appear to also start a cycle adventure are all set up with brand new ebikes and cycle clothes that suggest they have travelled to Gourdon via Milan.
I am fascinated by the lack of obesity in the French population, given their enjoyment of food and wine! Then the penny dropped – the vast majority still smoke.
However we passed several fields of literally thousands of ducks. I think ducks are to France what lambs are to New Zealand. Around the bend in the country road was a huge factory that manufactured Pate de Fois and every other known way to butcher, press, grind or extrude duck meat into edible offerings. I suspect from the almost snow like appearance of the fields, that a duck down Doona factory would supplement their income…nor to mention fertiliser.
So the point of this preamble is that the factory, much like a wine cellar in the Adelaide Hills was open for tastings, so in I went, to be confronted by a customer who was one of the most obese humans I have even seen and who was adding to his gigantic shopping bag all manner of things “ducky” which cost him at the Check-out out about Euro 100.
This was a delightful ride, which the notes suggested was the shortest of the week but made up by it being the most hilly! It was dead easy! A pleasant cycle less taxing than the ride to Norton Summit and certainly not as arduous as the freeway path . It’s all downhill literally from tomorrow.
The Dordogne seems to specialise food wise in duck and walnuts.
“Canard de Duo” with Chips! The “two” refers to a ducks drumstick and half a breast.
A few pictures of several quaint villages on this first day which turned out to be cloudy with occasional warm spitting rain – a pleasant relief
It is precisely 24 hours since the Emirates B777 departed Adelaide and I am now sitting in the Nice airport, for a 5 hour wait till the flight to Toulouse with EasyJet. The universal aviation rule is that the flight opens 2 hours before departure, including bag drop, so I sit forlornly in the domestic terminal with my luggage tightly held between my legs – no such thing as an airline lounge in Nice.
The A380 that flew me from Dubai to Nice
Clearing customs and immigration was a true French farce. The immigration gendarme opened my passport at a blank page, stamped it and passed it back – taking less than 10 seconds whilst eyeing off the attractive young Emirates stewardess in the adjacent queue.
It’s 5 am in Toulouse waking up in a very basic but clean Airbnb, whose only redeeming attraction is that it’s 340m walk to the railway station. I slept well for 7 hours.
The taxi ride from the Toulouse airport to the city gave me a brief look at the old town and I hope to explore it a little on the way back
All of the amazing hotels of the National Parks in which we stayed, were built by the Great Northern Railway a century or so ago in an effort to open up the regions and hopefully lead to a huge influx of tourists and adventurers who it was hoped would obviously travel by train. Sadly great in principle but in practice it was a loss making investment. Almost all of the hotels were not financially successful.
The most exquisite was the Prince of Wales, refer previous blog. Last night stayed at the Glacier Park Lodge.
The more astute of you will notice that there is a day of cycling missing. The observation is correct, at least as far as I was concerned. It was a day of extreme wind, blustery and for a significant part of the planned route, uphill and into a headwind. Finally to convince me to stay in the support vehicle, a goodly part of the route involved cycling a major highway! I am too old to die!
I had more than sufficient exertion the day before on the trek to the Crypt Lake.