Showing posts with label dordogne. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dordogne. Show all posts

Tuesday 13 September 2022

Swimming, Cycling, Chilling

Tuesday 13 September 2022

For two days Nido's been parked up on a campsite, shaded by trees and next to the Dordogne river.  We came here for a couple of reasons; I needed to be on electric for a Môn SAR Committee Meeting last night and the weather forecast was for some more extreme heat, so we needed to be some place where we could cool down.  We therefore came to Camping La Plage, as it was right next to the river (for Salty to cool down in) and it had a swimming pool (for us to cool down in!).  The campsite is part of the ACSI Discount Card scheme.  This is an annual subscription (I think it's about €20 per year) which provides us with a membership card and two books of campsites throughout Europe.  The campsites who are part of the ACSI scheme offer discounted fees out of high season, with access to all the campsite facilities including full-fat electricity.  In this case, the site is €16 per night (about £13.80) which is a bargain.  We'll make our subscription cost back if we stay on just two or three ACSI sites. The campsite's about ten minutes walk from the 'beautiful village' of La Roque-Gageac, a cluster of golden stone buildings built along the river and in some cases right into the towering cliffs and caves behind.  We've been to this place a couple of times before - once in 2013 and also in 2018, but this is the first time on this campsite.

We slept well amongst the vines at Monbazillac and made our way here via a Lidl shop in Bergerac.  Yesterday was a really hot day - up to about 34'C - and we spent most of it trying to keep ourselves and the van cool. The Dordogne is very low at the moment due to the drought in this region so didn't look too inviting for us to swim in, but Salty enjoyed a paddle and dunk.  We left him in the van with all the skylights open, chilling on his cool mat and went for a cooling swim in the pool, with a magnificent backdrop of limestone cliffs behind us.  It was a warm night and our bedroom area didn't drop much below 24'C overnight.

This morning I was up early and took Salty for a walk amongst the walnut trees just outside the campsite.  The whole Dordogne Valley, leading into Perigord, is well known for the many walnut trees and they can be found everywhere in abundance; many of the 'local produce' shops sell cold-pressed walnut oil - it isn't cheap!  The day started cloudy but still very warm and with high humidity. I breakfasted outside and left Cathy and Salty at the van to go for a bike ride.  Cycling the valley roads here are a delight, with so much to look at along the way - villages, beautiful houses and outbuildings, the river and valley, walnut trees, chateaux high on the clifftop.  I made my way along and turned right after a couple of miles to steadily climb about up a winding road, ending up a small hamlet with extensive views across the valley on one side and forest and fields on the other.  The free-wheel back down was great fun and a lot faster than going up! The only time this trip that I've nearly been wiped out was today when a car pulled out on me during the fast descent, needing some urgent braking from me, even though the road was clear and straight for about 600m; it was a British car!

Back at the van I had a bite to eat and a quick shower, before we all walked along the river towards La Roque-Gageac, following a well marked route which took us around and above the village, through beautiful ancient deciduous forest, with a number of small fields enclosed by dry-stone walls and abandoned old buildings.  They may have been forester or shepherd huts back in the day.  The path descended on the other side and we ended up in the narrow lanes above the village, with the cliffs towering above us.  Many of the properties are Gites and I would imagine they cost a fortune to rent during the holiday season.  We traced our route back to the van, via the river for another cooling dip for Salty, before we went to cool off ourselves in the swimming pool.  Dinner tonight was pork kebabs with a greek salad. Cathy made a delicious pudding of bananas, brown sugar, cinnamon and a splash of wine, wrapped in foil and cooked on the Cadac. It's just starting cool off now as we sit outside listening to the owls.

Our intention was to spend a bit of time in this region, but the forecast is for continuing hot weather.  This sounds ideal if on holiday in a cottage, but not so great in a tin box on wheels; the van is insulated for the cold but this also means once it gets hot inside it traps the heat.  Plus dogs (and oldies like us) are less resistant to the heat.  So we're going to start making our way slowly north, heading for the western end of the Loire Valley.  Then we'll follow the Loire eastwards before turning north to head back towards the Normandy coast and a date with the vet on Friday 30 September for Salty to have his worming tablet and a rabies vaccine booster jab.  That's the rough plan, but we've made these types of plans before and changed them a few days later.....because we can!

Shady pitch

A lifesaver in this heat

Out on my bike

This is what the bottle holder's REALLY for!

The Dordogne is extremely low

La Roque-Gageac

A lovely forest walk

Loo with a view

Perfect spot for apéro time

Sunday 11 September 2022

Wine tasting in Monbazillac

Sunday 11 September 2022

Nido's parked up surrounded by vineyards.  It's been a very hot day and the shade of the forests and gentle breeze through the vines of the Dordogne have been very welcome.  We're at a French Passion site.  This concept is where the idea from Britstops in the UK came from; private businesses who offer free park-ups to motorhomes and camper vans.  Many are pubs, restaurants and garden centres in the UK.  Here in France it's mainly wineries, cider makers, cheese makers and farms.  We're sat outside at 9pm, in a warm breeze listening to the cicadas and owls.

Our first stop this morning was only half an hour down the road in the tiny hamlet of Queyssac.  It has a church, a restaurant, a small Marie (mayor's office) and an aire which is shared with the restaurant customers.  We managed to park the van in some shade as the temperature increased.  With a rucksack carrying water and fruit, we followed one of two marked circular walks.  This one was about 8km and took us through ancient deciduous forest, through wildflower fields and past old farms and outbuildings.  It was much greener and fresher here than we'd seen in the rest of France; this is how forests help the environment. From the many 'mushroom picking forbidden' signs, it's clearly a favourite spot for foragers in the autumnal weeks to come; knowing the French they'll give the 'Interdit' signs a stiff ignoring.  We were doing well following the yellow way marker signs.  But, as is often the case, they started well then petered out in the latter stages of the walk, to the point where at a crossroads of tracks, there was no indication of which one to take.  The result was we ended up in a nice village, but just not 'our' village, so the 8km walk became 12km!  It was very hot when we returned to the van and all shade had disappeared.  It would have been a quiet, peaceful place to stay, but we would have baked in the process.

Luckily a friend of mine, who was travelling around here in his motorhome a few weeks ago, recommended a park-up in the wine region of Monbazillac, which was only a 25 minute drive away.  By the time we arrived the van air conditioning had cooled us down.  This French Passion site is at a winery called Domaine de la Lande, and also known as 'Les Avinturiers.'  The owners offer several free pitches, separated by small rows of grape vines and some trees for shade, with views of vines covering the rolling hills all around.  We parked up with two other vans and had a bite to eat before a welcoming cold shower.  The owner - a spritely old chap who speaks only (very fast!) French - came around to invite everyone to a free wine tasting at 6pm; by now there were about seven vans here.  

We sat down in his air conditioned sampling room and he took us through the history of the Domaine and the various wines they sell. We were able to get the gist of what he was saying.  We sampled six different wines, including a lovely sauvignon blanc through to a delicious, sweet dessert wine.  All this was free with no obligation to buy and he wasn't selling tonight - I think he wanted to get home for his dinner!  But he told us the shop would be open at 0930 in the morning.  He had various flags donated by different nationalities visiting in their 'camping cars'.  I had an Anglesey flag in the van, which looks similar to the flag of Normandy and gave this to him at the end, trying to explain where it is we live in Pays de Galles.  I'm not sure he understood me but he gratefully received the flag anyway!

It's very quiet here now.  The park-up is next to a country road that seems to be a bit of a rat-run for the youngsters on their motorbikes and in cars, but I think they've all gone home for their tea now!  It's pitch dark and still very warm - 28'C in the van, so getting to sleep tonight might be a bit of a challenge, but it does cool down into the early hours.  Tomorrow is forecast to be even warmer - possibly up to 36'C - so the plan is to try and stay somewhere near the Dordogne river, where Salty can take a cooling dip and hopefully we can join him!

Lovely buildings on our walk

Forest and wildflower meadows

What a view!

Toilet service point - stylish!

Hot Dog!

Post wine-tasting walk through the vines, vans in the distance

Saturday 10 September 2022

Hot in the Dordogne

Saturday 10 September 2022

Nido's parked up in an (yet another!) aire with free services, in the small village of Sourzac, overlooking the Isle river.  It's been a hot sunny day and tomorrow's forecast is even hotter - summer's back!  Having said that, we were quite chilly when we woke up this morning and a hot shower was welcomed.

Yesterday we stayed overnight at Aubeterre-sur-Dronne (yes - it was also free!).  This is one of the 'beautiful villages' of France, with a chateau, medieval hospice, convent and various churches, including a troglodyte one which was carved into the caves and rock.  On our way we stopped for lunch in the village of Mouthiers sur Boëme in the aire next to the church.  Had we arrived the day before, we could probably have joined in with the village fete which, in France, usually includes food, drink, live music and a late night!  The marquee, seating and bar were still all in place but everything else had been cleared away.

The aire at Aubeterre-sur-Dronne is next to tennis courts, a football pitch and a campsite. It's quite small, gravelled and had the potential to get a bit crowded.  Luckily just across the road was another large parking area on grass, backing onto a big flood meadow alongside the river.  We opted for this and spent the afternoon reading and catching up on admin.  It was quite busy and, as it was a Friday, French families arrived in their motorhomes, equipped with tables chairs and lots of food and drink; they were set on a party!

After dinner we left Salty in the van and took a walk across the bridge and up into the old part of the village.  It's typical of those around these parts - lots of tiny narrow streets opening into a number of squares as you wind your way up the hill.  The main square had most of the commercial shops and restaurants. But in other smaller squares and along some of the narrow lanes were eclectic bistros, bars, restaurants and various art galleries and potters.  There's even a butterfly and a puppet museum in the village.  The medieval buildings gave a feeling of how it may have once been, but in modern times they're almost lost behind all the cars parked in the narrow lanes. Most of the shops, galleries and all the churches and interesting buildings were closed, but we still enjoyed a peaceful walk around the village.

Warmed up this morning by a hot shower and boiled eggs (making good use of our Breton eggcups!), the first task of the day (after servicing the van at the free point on the other side of the road) was to find some new dog harnesses.  Salty is a Patterdale Terrier.  Patterdale Terriers like to hunt for rats, rabbits and pretty much anything small that lives down a hole!  If left to his own devices, he would pick up a scent and would be gone in a flash; if we're lucky we'd see his tail poking out of said hole, at worst he'd be gone and we'd never get him back.  Plus he's a rescue who had a miserable first 12 months as the runt of the litter and so is reactive to other dogs - he just doesn't like them.  He loves people and children but thinks he has to defend us and himself from other dogs.  So he has to stay on a lead at all times. One of the consequences is that he gets through a lot of leads and harnesses. During our short time in France he's managed to trash the two harnesses we bought with us, so we needed new ones.  I found three possible sources in the nearby town of Ribéac and luckily found them in the first place I tried - the Le Clerc Hypermarché.  Now, I'm not sure how long these ones will last, but they 'should' last long enough to get us home and source some more robust ones.  We'll see.....

The aire in Sourzac is by quite a busy road and being Saturday, the traffic is constant, especially loud motorbikes.  These are definitely no friend of Salty and if he hears one he tries to bury himself into a hole underneath the van driver's seat.  Other than that, it's a lovely spot with shade from the trees, picnic benches and walks along the river.  So after lunch we went for a wander to escape the traffic noise, walking along the river, finding fresh water streams by the church across the road, which in turn were feeding cool, clear running water to small concrete watercress beds.  Our route took us over the river and along some quiet country lanes, passing various old houses with lovely gardens. We like a good nosy on our lane walks!  It was a hot day and I was glad we took some water as we sat in the shade of the local football ground pavilion for a drink.

Dinner was eaten outside before the mozzies eating us drove us back into the van. It's a warm, sultry evening so doors and skylights are open.  The skylights and windows have fly-screens - the doors don't!  The adjacent church's - Église Saint-Pierre et Saint Paul - bells ring out every hour.  I understand they stop after 10pm and start again at 7am - I hope so!

On the corner of the road by the aire servicing point is the village war memorial, listing all the locals who died in both world wars and various conflicts since.  One side of the memorial is devoted to those men (and boys) in the village who were rounded up and shot by the Nazis on 11 June 1944, as retaliation for a recent attack by the French Resistance.  About 350 men from Sourzac and the surrounding villages were rounded up.  At 4pm the men over 60 or disabled were released.  The remainder were herded into three classrooms in the school.  Those who 'dressed like the resistance' were marked as terrorists. Those who had no papers on them were also designated. The hostages were taken away, lined up in 3 rows, arms in the air, then shot at about 9pm.  Two of the victims were barely 16 years old.  In total 54 civilians were massacred and another 115 deported to the concentration camps.

War is cruel and inhumane.  Some people like to glorify war, particularly those who have never fought in one. 

Park up at Aubeterre-sur-Dronne

View from Aubeterre-sur-Dronne 

Sourzac aire

At least someone got to cool off!

Watercress beds fed by a natural stream

War is cruel

Église de Saint Pierre et Saint Paul

Troglodyte restaurant built into the cliffs, over the road from the aire