Into the Dordogne

Mende was farewelled this morning and it was back on the road and onto…well, somewhere around Rocamadour or Souillac.  It is an overcast sort of a day so a good day for moving along the roads.  We must say here that travelling along the back roads of France is completely different to the back roads of Italy, as roads in France are built to fit two real sized vehicles travelling in opposite directions and tend not to be built along the side of, or over the tops of, mountains!!

On leaving Mende we noticed the particular roof style used in the area;

roofThis seems to be specific to this area,

peculiar roof shapeanother example.

We passed through some lovely countryside, along the way we called into a number of Aires and Etapes (which we have no idea what etapes means except it does have camping) to see what they had as far as facilities go.  One of the villages we stopped at to look for an Etape was La Canourgue.

la canourgue

There were the usual selection of castles and ruins to see


modernEven a not very good modern example.

In this high part of the Dordogne with its steep ridges the land is often terraced for grape planting.

terraced land for vines

For lunch we stopped in a village called Figeac, where we found a parking areas for campers, we had our usual delicious lunch of fresh breads, pates, pickles, tomatoes and avocado.  There were a few other campers in the parking lot, all seemed to have owners that were away in the town.  However, one couple on returning to their van gave the usual wave of acknowledgement, which started our Franglais conversation with them.

It is quite remarkable how we can each make ourselves understood, we talked with them for a good 20 minutes or more, and it ended up with them giving us one of their books for Camping and Aire sites in France and we gave them one of the wee silver fern lapel badges in exchange.

We left Figeac for Rocamadour and arrived there in the late afternoon.  Of course this being Sunday, very little is open.  We looked at the amazing village of Rocamandour, built on the side of a cliff.  This region is really the start of the Dordogne and also Bordeaux, home to not only good red wines but also walnuts (and walnut wine), chestnuts, roquefort cheese and fois gras.  Hopefully a few things will be open tomorrow so we can engage is some serious tastings. 

RocamandourRocamadour perched at the top of a cliff, spilling down to it’s foot.


The lookout from which the above shots were taken was at the Hospitalet.  This is a thirteenth century ruin which was originally a place for pilgrims to stay on their way to Rocamadour and other religious shrine sites in this area.  These two shots are of the ruins.

hospiceThis shot looks through the exterior door to the Hospitalet, through the door at the other end to the church door

construction This is a very good example of the wall construction method.  The wall is faced on both sides with shaped blocks.  Then an infill of rubble is used to provide the fill for the wall as can be seen.

Not only do we seem to encounter the Sunday/Monday/mid afternoon closure times, but also at this time of the year (heading into winter) most of the camping sites are closed.  Hence the need to stay in parking spots. The facilities vary considerably, from no facilities through to those supplying various levels of power, water, waster disposal, and amenity blocks.  We were told that there was nothing open in Rocamadour so we headed back to the van to head on out to Souillac.  Just three kms out of town we find what is called a “Aire Naturalle Camping”, which is a large field basically, with a couple of amenity blocks, some power points, waste disposal and water.  What is more, there is no one around, with just one other van here, set in a quiet rural area it is quiet and peaceful. 

There is a farm opposite which gave us a close up of some local farm buildings, more often seen at speed and far away!!


farm 1farm 3

Unusual photo of the day goes to this one.  Bernice assures me that it is a pig.  I suspect that the locals disagree as, just around the next corner in the road, there was a hotel called The Lion.  Up to you which it is.


Now we are slowly heading our way down the Dordogne, roughly following one of the Back Road drives, enjoying the scenery and the local gourmet delights.  C’est la vie!


3 Responses to “Into the Dordogne”

  1. James Says:

    You should be sure to visit Martel, and the Castagne family at the Ferme Auberge de la Moulin a Huile there on Rue St Denis. That’s where we discovered walnut wine! Did you see the monument to Champollion, translator of the Rosetta Stone? See our Dordogne photos here:

  2. Mike Says:

    Etapes are accomodation facilities that share a common network – a bit like some motel chains.

  3. Bernice Says:

    thanx for all the info, we are in Sarlat at the mo…and loving every minute! Mike, we thought very seriously about Switzerland, but the weather (winter) combined with a certain persons aversion to height and the other persons crap knees, we have decided to add it to the “next time” list.

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