So we mucked the van out, saddled up and hit the highway once again on our homeward journey up through France. We had planned to travel around 165 miles from Carcassonne and visit the midi-Pyrenees section of Dordogne that we didn’t get around to last Summer. We took the toll road option for ease and speed. I must say it was quite an expensive route at just over €30. That said, it was fantastic driving, well up to the last few miles anyway. The sat nav pulled us off the A20 around 20 miles away from our target, Rocamadour. Now call me the eternal pessimist but I always think there’s going to be a hiccup somewhere down the line when we’ve had a very easy ride. Damn right on this occasion. I thought coming down from the Pyrenees was bad but on a scale of 1 to 20, mountains being around a 10, this was top of the effing pops. That little woman behind the dash is pure evil I’m telling you. If she were human I’d be up for murder. I sweated every inch of that 20 miles. I would rather have walked, barefoot, with Mark on my back. We have driven many miles around the Dordogne so we know it can be tricky in parts. This route took us through a ridiculously steep gorge on tiny roads with zig zag bends and sheer drops. Talk about drama! And you lot wonder why I drink!! The scenery was breathtakingly beautiful but most of the time I daren’t look. We finally arrived, all in one piece if not a little frazzled. It was a sunny warm spring evening and the birds were singing. Bugger the birds, where’s my gin?! The Aire was in a great spot, right next to the Chateau. The church bells played a splendid tune on the hour and the sunset was pink and gold. Seriously though, enough already, WHERE IS MY GIN?!
Rocamadour is yet another picture book, perfectly preserved, medieval town. It is perched on top of a sheer cliff face above the canyon of the River Alzou. How the heck they managed to build such a town with their limited resources going back so many centuries beats me. It is a miracle of engineering that’s a fact. The turrets and spires of the ‘Cite Religeuse’ , the heart of Rocamadour, are sandwiched between the jumbled higgledy piggledy roof tops of the medieval town below. The Mairie or town hall looks like its suspended halfway down the cliff. The Chateau sits on top like a crown.
There are seven little chapels on the way down, known collectively as Les Sanctuaires. The streets of the old town below are lined with shops, mostly selling souvenirs but there are one or two nice delis peddling good quality regional produce. Cheeses, foie gras and cured meats. Also lots of walnut based products as they are grown in abundance in these parts. I bought some excellent quality walnut oil, walnut balsamic syrup and Rocamadour cheese, which is a soft goats cheese sold in small medallions. I also bought lovely crusty fresh french bread. I feel a picnic coming on. Just need the wine! The tipple around here is Cahors ‘black’ wine. It is actually red but very dark, plummy and rich. Perfect with cheese. We wandered down to the river to eat. Idyllic. I love this country so much. I’ve spent the last 5 months struggling with my waistline as I do love to eat and drink’ (surely not I hear you say!!) France is always where the wheel comes off. It’s the cheese, it’s not my fault!
After lunch we strolled back slowly up the hill. It’s a fairly gentle climb if you take the road rather than the steps but if you don’t fancy it, you can take either the petite train or the lift up through the rock face right to the Carpark at the top. It’s good to walk though as you get to pass through the town’s four medieval gateways. At the very top of the valley is L’Hospitalet. This has the best view point for Rocamadour.
It’s a fantastic place. Worth the horrid journey in, we’ll almost. If I have to go back out that way though I’m staying here forever, simples!!
We spent two really lovely days at Rocamadour. The Aire is free. There are public toilets in the Carpark next door but no other services. There is a small, well stocked supermarket in L’Hospitalet for staples (wine) and a couple of good places to eat in the old town. Do take the petite train ride at night. The town is a wonderland after dark, so very pretty.
And so we finally drive on. Only a few miles this time and thankfully, it’s an easy route. No steep drops! Next stop, Martel! If you have time, stop off at the riverside Aire at Gluges on the way. It’s a tiny pretty little village right by the Dordogne. It’s about 3 miles out of Martel.
Martel is just charming. It resembles some of the more handsome towns in the Cotswolds. It’s very French though! It’s a town of many towers, 7 to be exact. Life is centred around the gothic ‘halle’, the market hall. You can take a little steam train to nearby St. Denis. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to wait as it only runs a couple of times a day out of season. The market is in full swing when we arrive. I do love a market!!
There are a couple of really nice looking restaurants. I do fancy eating out tonight as it’s Saturday and the town centre is only a 2 minute stroll from the van. I don’t feel like cooking after I’ve just filled my basket with goodies from the market!! Typical.
The church, St. Maurs, is rather impressive, particularly the stained glass, as is the gothic Palais de la Raymondie, now the Mairie. It’s a peaceful chilled place, non of the drama of Rocamadour but just as charming and characterful in its own right. We absolutely love it. I could happily live here despite the lack of beach. Every doorway is different.
I don’t think I could ever tire of France. It never disappoints be it coast or countryside. I adore the language, the style, the food and the sheer breathtaking beauty of this Country. Throw in the amazing wine for good measure!
I shall sign off for now my lovely readers. Time to scrub up and do Saturday night. Wishing you all a bon week-end. Have fun and keep safe.