Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Week in Le Bugue and the Dordogne

Leaving Vers and Cahor, we felt that we had not experienced all the delights that the area had to offer but surely that's the case, wherever you travel. You just suck in a bit to cherish for your memory. Something to talk about to your friends or to reminince with your travelling partner.

Not wanting to take the motorways, we turned on Tommy and typed Rocamadour into our GPS. Surely with no more than 70 kms, Tommy couldn’t do much damage to our driving confidence. How wrong we were. This GPS has one wicked sense of humour. I’m sure he took us the long way with more goat tracks to be negotiated. Maybe goat tracks were appropriate as Rocamadour gives its name to the cheese produced from the milk of the small goats of the region.
As we came closer to our destination, the roads became smaller and the campervans became larger, or so it seemed. Tommy took us through forests, into valleys and over cliff tops. On entering the small village of L’Hospitalet, we were both in need of a good strong coffee before venturing into the famous destination of religious pilgrimage to kings and noblemen over the centuries. As we sat in the morning sun sipping on our coffee, the view across the Alzou valley from our café was breathtaking. There was Rocamadour clinging to the cliffside for centuries past.

Rocamour sits on the cliff face of the Alzou Valley as it has since the 1100s.

As Sue took a visit to back room of the café, I walked across the road for a better view of this village perched on the steep rocky cliff. Two cyclists just happened by, so I made an approach and struck up a conversation, that’s what I do. They were doing a cycling tour through the Dordogne with their whole world in the pannier bags of their bikes. We actually saw them earlier as we drove through the valley and saw them climbing up to the plateau we now stood on. How brave they were and fit as well.

Looking up towards the Chateau that once was the place of a fort to protect Rocamadour.
We decided it was time to explore Rocamadour, so we drove across the plateau to the car park at the Chateau where once there was a fort that protected the village below. Rocamadour sits perched on the cliffs rising 100 metres above the valley floor. The village sits in the valley and slightly rises up the cliff face to the “Grand Stairway” which then leads to a group of chapels. We decided it would be easier to use the Funicular rather than trudge the many very steep steps upwards, so we took in the many chapels and the Basilica.

Legend claims that Saint Amadour, a hermit Christian lived here. His undecayed body was supposedly found in a grave site during 1166. Nearby the statue of the Black Virgin was discovered in a grotto under the cliff ledge. Today the Chapel of Notre Dame houses the statue of the Black Virgin which is carved from the trunk of Walnut tree and stands 68cm tall. The guide book we bought claims that of the 300 ancient black virgin statues known in the West, 150 are in France.

We wandered through chapels, up and down steps taking in the amazing buildings and sculptured arches and doorways, not really understanding the meaning or significance of each building. Yet, we were in awe of how these buildings clung to the rock face over the many centuries.

Descending down the very steep stairway to the village below, we were faced with the crassness of “souvenir world”. We tried to close our eyes to the many souvenir shops and imagine the buildings as they might once had been, homes to the villagers going about their daily life. I guess the residents still do, but their life today is tourism. I did buy some great postcards and a great little personal souvenir totally out of context of where we were. I have this little toy cyclist sitting on my desk while I write this which came from Rocamadour. (I can hear you say - how is he going to get cycling into this post).......

We walked the full length of the main road of the village (maybe there was just the one road) and back again before returning to the Furnicular that took us to the very top of the cliff face and back to our car.

Just being Tourists - why not on this perfect spring day in a wonderful part of France.
It was time to find Le Bugue and our villa for the next week. It would be relaxing to kick back and call someplace home for a while.

My little toy cyclist wears the French National colours as he rides through the Dordogne.
He sits on my desk as I write this and we share some memories together on thos past rides.
Tell you more over the next few weeks. Not quite sure if he should be Poulidor or Anquitel.
I think the French might have had a special connection to Pou Pou.

Next week - Our home in Le Bugue.


  1. Your Tommy sounds a bit like my 'George' odd sense of humour at times!!! I fancy that toy cyclist sitting on your map.
    I have been out a couple of times on my bike only as there has been so much to-do. Must get my act together and get out more often. Diane

  2. Diane - How can you not ride while having a French summer and beautiful villages and country to see. We meet at 6.00am in 5 degree winter mornings at the moment but its worth it for the group coffee afterwards and a great way to start the working day.

  3. Hi Leon and Sue... fascinating as always. Those views really do take your breath away.

  4. Het - Thanks Craig. Rocamadour is pretty speccie. Off to Le Bugue next week - for a whole week. Great memories.
    Enjoyed your recent post.

  5. Leon, - that place is amazing! How have I not seen or heard about it? - I'll add it to my bucket list.

  6. Rocamadour is one of our favourite places in France, thanks for the visit.

  7. Rocamadour is pretty but I really didn't care for it. Maybe it was
    the tourist shops...? I liked Sarlat much better. It was only 20 mn down the road. Then we went back to my sister's house near St Cirq lapopie.

  8. Graham - too much to see and not enough time. We just do the best we can.

    LLM - We were amazed on out visit and looking back wish we could have stayed longer to have a better understanding of its significance in history.

    Nadege - I agree about the shops but as you say Salart is lovely and we visit it over the next few weeks on the blog.

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