28 April to 1 May
Today we headed out on our next trip to the Southwest of France to the Dordogne and Lot River Valleys. We took a late morning train, so we didn’t have to get up so early. But this train was a little weird, on the seat selection it did not show a chair, but what looked like a bed. Low and behold, is was a bed.
A short trip on the RER C and we left out of Gare d’Austerlitz. 4 and a half hour train ride later we were in to Brive-la-Gaillarde.
We picked up our rental car and drove into Souillac to a supermarche to get some snacks. Then we drove to our hotel Le Pont de l’Ouysse. Like our trip to Periginan, this hotel was on VeryChic and was absolutely stunning. This hotel is tucked away on a small stream sitting beneath a Chateau. Looks like it feel out of a magazine.
We got settled in at the hotel and decided to go on Rick Steves’ driving tour of the area.
First town we stopped at was Martel. This is a small medieval town with lots of charm.
Second town we stopped at was Carennac. This is a slightly larger medieval town with equal charm.
Then we drove past Chateau de Castelnau-Bretenoux which has a dominating presence in the area.
The third town we stopped at was Loubressac, which we could see back to the Chateau de Castelnau-Bretenoux. This is a small medieval village with picturesque homes.
Then we stopped above Rocamadour in l’Hospitalet for some pictures.
We then drove down the valley and into Rocamadour, which trying to find parking was a nightmare. We had to park well below the town and walk up, say, 250 stairs. I got my workout in for the day.
We walked all the way up to the sanctuary to find out the restaurant we wanted to go to was closed. So we took our sweaty behinds back down those stairs to the car and back over to l’Hospitalet for dinner at Restaurant le Belvedere and some wonderful sunset views.
At the restaurant, I had a VERY traditional Dordogne Valley meal, including pate.
More about Rocamadour, this was once a sight for medieval religious pilgrimages. At the change from Pagans to Christianity, Black Virgins, were the statue of Mary. Pagans had an easier time with Mary if she was black, as this was the Pagan color for motherhood and fertility. At the base of the Black Virgin in 1166, an intact body was found there and then the pilgrims started. (Kind of weird, I know). During the area of pilgrimages (12th and 13th centuries) some of the most important pilgrims came here to pray, of which some took all the steps on their knees. Into the 14th century, up to 20,000 pilgrims would come to the site daily. Then after the wars in the 15th century, Rocamador feel off the map. Then in the 19th century, it become re-commercialized and now the few hundred inhabitants make their living off the tourists, just as they did off the pilgrims thousands of years ago.
After dinner we headed back to the hotel for the night.
This morning we woke up a little earlier so we could get to a Saturday market. We had read that Sarlat-la-Caneda had an amazing market and boy was that right!
After finishing up at the market, and buying the fixings for a wonderful lunch, we went to Canoes Loisirs.
We canoed from Vitrac to Beynac-et-Cazenac which was absolutely stunning. The river was very calm and totally manageable. The only bummer was that is was just a little bit cold. I would totally do this again on a warm summer day!
We stopped for lunch just before La Roque-Gageac after an hour of canoeing.
After we finished lunch (and a bottle of wine) we had another hour and a half to finish the rest of the trip. It was just beautiful.
We then were driven back to the base and got back in our car to head back to the hotel. Jer was a bit soaked from having the double paddle (and doing most of the work).
Tonight we had made a dinner reservation at the hotel because they had a 1 Michelin Star restaurant. We had the chef’s tasting menu and it did NOT disappoint.
This morning we slept in a little because the weather wasn’t great. After we got moving, we drove out to Gouffre de Padirac. This is basically a giant whole in the ground which then has an underground river that flows through it.
We did the tour completely in French, picking up most of what was going on with stalactites and stalagmites. Overall, it was really cool to see and great to do on a rainy day. Also, there as supposed to be a no picture policy, which Jer didn’t follow (I may have egged him on) and which he totally got yelled at for.
We then drove towards next grotto and stopped for lunch in Gourdon at Hotel la Promenade. Nothing special, but it worked.
Now we were onto Grottes Prehistoriques de Cougnac. This is a small family run grotto that has prehistoric cave drawings. Again, we did the whole tour in French! There are actually 2 caves, one with stalactites and stalagmites and the other with the prehistoric drawings. When we went from the first grotto to the second, we got caught in an all out downpour. Not just raining cats and dogs, but sheep, horses and cows too!
But this was totally worth it to see the amazing cave paintings! (And Jer again took pictures that he probably wasn’t allowed to).
We then needed to find a place for dinner so we went back to Sarlat-la-Caneda. However, we were a bit early for our dinner standards and went to get drinks at Le Glacier to get out of rain.
We then started to wonder around town until we decided on Pizza at Le Don Camillo. It was wonderful. We capped it off with some homemade tiramisu!
After dinner, we walked around a little to see the gas lamps turn on to brighten up the city. It is one of the only towns in Europe to still use gas lamps.
We were back to hotel and early to bed, after being soaked to the bone twice in one day.
We took our grand old time this morning with breakfast and packing. On Mondays, a lot of places are closed to begin with and since it is also holiday even more places are closed.
We checked out of our cute hotel and headed towards Brive-la-Gaillarde for our train home. We stopped in Souillac to make sure we had some stuff for lunch from the boulangerie and little bodega that were both thankfully open.
We then went to drop off car, which there were no parking spots. So round and round we went until we finally found a place.
We got on the train early which was lucky for us because of the crazy storm that blew through after we got on board! (As I write this, it rained A LOT this weekend). We again had the weird beds but made the most of it either sleeping/working/blogging.
We were back to Gare d’Austerlitz and then a quick RER C ride, and we were home before 6:30pm. Overall successful weekend away!