The travel Brochure for this area states the the Dordogne valley has no less than 5 villages rated as the most beautiful Villages in France. It is not hard to believe and the locals of each obviously have a huge amount of pride in their homes and villages as each “commune” (village area) is essentially responsible for its own local economy.
We start Sunday morning with a visit into Chateau De Castelnau-Bretenoux, the castle overlooking our overnight carpark. Built in the red sandstone this castle was built in the 13th century and had all the glory and splendour of the grandest lordly homes and governance over the local area.
It was somewhat destroyed by fire in 1851 and promptly left vacant. In 1896 it was bought by the Lyricist Jean Moulierat, who gave it a new lease of life slightly influenced by his love of historical operas. Upon his death he donated the castle to the State.
The visit included the obligatory guided tour which was obviously incredibly informative for those who could speak French. The guide was very eloquent and could not fault his enthusiasm.
From here a short drive further up into the valley and a visit to Le Gouffre de Padirac. An amazing underground cave system that follows an underground river for more than 40km.
Millions of years of flowing water has carved out the most famous chasm system in Europe, the tour here, 130mtrs underground included a boat ride for about 1km to further sections of the cave with an English speaking guide.
We seem to have a bit of luck on these visits as we hit this one at about 12.30, and by the time we had finished and resurfaced the tour buses had arrived and the queue was heading to normal Europe type lengths.
Third stop for the day was the village of Rocamadour, “the ancient village suspended between Heaven and Earth”. Rocamadour is dramatically built against a cliff and has been a pilgrimage site for over a thousand years. At the top of the Great Pilgrims staircase (360 marble stairs) you find the seven chapels of the sanctuary and the statue of the Black virgin. ( this is the first time we have come across the cover up of singlets and shorts for interiors of religious sites so far)
An amazing little place, very religious on top level of Chateau and chapel and then a real tourist trap in the little village street on the lower level.
It was stinking hot here nearing 40degrees and the ambulance didn’t quite know whether to go to the top of the cliff or the bottom. Yet again a lot of people doing exercise they shouldn’t be doing.
We are know getting seriously short of time with a pretty big part of France to cover in 2 days if we are to make the Wednesday night Ferry from Calais back to Dover.
Our list of stuff to do under English language is growing as is our concerns of deteriorating brakes on Miss Stella, so looks as though it will be a couple of big days to get back especially as we are avoiding toll roads at all costs.
First and Foremost though we want to visit the village of Oradour-sur-Glane, so it is a 180km drive north this evening.