Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Amazing cave and pretty towns

Day 4: More back roads, a gouffre, a vertical town, and  pretty villages

So we really didn't know what to expect from this area of France.  When we told people we were going to the Dordogne (Sarlat, the Perigord Noir) they all looked at us with blank faces.  But I was convinced by my research that we would like it.  And today proved it!

We had a 1030am reservation to tour the Gouffre de Padirac.  We didn't sleep well so got a later start than we'd hoped and were not able to pass by Rocamadour first.  We plugged in Padirac into the GPSs and off we went.  The GPSs lead us on small back roads, the white ones on the Michelin maps, that twisted and turned through beautiful countryside.  We figured there were bigger roads around but just trusted the GPSs which were quite in sync with each other.  One was still in French (we figured out how to change the language a few days later) and wouldn't verbalize, the other verbalized too much.  Comical but frustrating at the same time.  Anyway, we drove through the pretty countryside for about an hour and made it to Padirac in time for our tour. 

Padirac was the cave I was most excited about and it was perfect as the first one.  We collected our tickets and elected to walk down into the cave. The opening is huge and deep.  Our legs were trembling when we finally made it down but I'm glad we walked.  Fantastic introduction to this amazing place.  We made our way slowly to the boats.  We were the only two people on our boat.  It was very quiet in the cave.  Pierre (of course) gave us a good overview of the cave and what we were seeing.  He even stopped a couple of times so we could hear the silence and feel the drops of rain falling.  Very cool.  Spectacularly beautiful.  We were the only two people on the walking tour which was very well lead by Anjeline (I think).  We lingered as much as we could and ooh and aahed at the magnificence of this place.  She delivered us back to the boat launch and Pierre took us back to the exit dock where 50 people were now lined up.  We were very luck to have our private tour! We bought the souvenir photo (of course) and spent some money in the gift shop before exiting.

Lots of steps into the cave

So beautiful

We bought the photo, of course :)
Gorgeous day
The weather was now absolutely gorgeous: clear blue skies, perfect temperatures in the low 70's high 60's.  We decided to head to Rocamadour and view it from L'Hospitalet.  It was about noon when we arrived, so the views were not the best but it's beautiful from that vantage point.  We parked by the castle and took the funicular down to some stairs to the bottom.  We found a café and had a quick (E20!) lunch of sandwiches, coffee and a soda.  Then we meandered the touristy main street admiring the pretty buildings and views.  We hiked up to the church and toured all of the open areas.  We then took the funicular back up to the castle and decided to hit some more pretty towns.
Rocamadour from L'Hospitalet


Pretty and touristy
Hiking up to the church

A beautiful pilgrimage church

Gorgeous door to the church
Beautiful views from Rocamadour
Our first was Carennac.  It's situated right on the Dordogne river and was just picture perfect.  We parked alongside the church and walked all about the deserted town, taking pictures and admiring.  Wouldn't want to stay there off season, too quiet, but it sure was pretty.

The Dordogne from Carennac

It's a precious town

We were tempted :)

Next up was Martel.  The drive there from Carennac was just beautiful.  Martel is a bigger, busier town than Carennac.  We parked in the lot across from the Tour de Tournemire and followed the Michelin Guide tour of the town.  Very interesting history and super cute.  We popped into the church and wandered around with a handful of other tourists.  The day was still pretty but we were getting tired so we had drinks before deciding on the next thing. 


After our refreshing halt, husband wanted to keep going and see more pretty towns.  We decided to go to Collonges-la-Rouge and it was worth the drive.  All of the buildings are a beautiful red sandstone.  Collonges has the similarly picturesque buildings as you might see in other towns but they're more striking and interesting because of the color.  We did the Michelin Guide tour, loved on the neighborhood cats, and took lots of pictures.  There were few other people about.


It was late by now so we turned on the GPSs and they directed us back to Sarlat.  They again routed us on small roads which was annoying.  We got turned around trying to find the parking lot (we would get turned around every night except for the last!).  We decided to have dinner at L'Instant Delice.   Here we encountered a very loud "ugly american."  It was a table of 8 and one woman made a big scene about her salad, which was not what she expected.  She loudly demanded "I want to see the English menu!" and got up out of her seat before the waiter could bring it her.  She kept complaining that she didn't think she got what she ordered (like they were cheating her or something) while another of her companions tried to stop her from making such a scene.  I apologized to the waiter because most Americans are NOT like that rude woman.  (Husband said he noticed them in Sarlat early the next morning loudly demanding someone tell them where the Sarlat market was--as they walked through it!  Clueless, rude and giving the rest of us a bad name.).

At any rate, the food was very good.  I had cepe ravioli and husband had foie gras starter and duck with delicious potatoes for his main.  I ate some of his crème brulee but did not like it because it had walnuts in it.    We made our way back to the apartment for the night (and hopefully to sleep).

Cepe ravioli and duck and potatoes
1. Small roads are scenic but time consuming.  We developed a love/hate relationship with our GPSs.
2. Off season is fabulous.  Pierre at Padirac said they have 6000 people per day in high season, whereas we were the only two on our tour.
3.  Rocamadour is super touristy but still very pretty.  It was pretty cool to hike the same steps as Saint Anthony of Padova to the church.
4.  There are way too many pretty villages in this part of France!

Next: a cave, a picnic, a troglodyte roque, another cave, and a star dinner

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