Wednesday, June 22, 2011

La Madeleine - A Troglodyte Village

Mornings were taking on a pattern at Le Bugue – The morning ride then off to the local bar/café for a coffee and croissant while catching up on news at the local wifi hot spot. Each morning about 10.00 am, there was a dapper elderly French gentleman that would sit himself at the bar and have a small glass of Kir. He was of the generation that wore a beret and a tweed coat. A rather proper looking man he was.
He would look around and occasionally give us the eye but never acknowledged us.
I’ll let Sue tell you more.

OK. The beret for sure. Don't think the coat was tweed...but I digress....
Also, the kir was NOT small!
Each day I would smile, nod etc.. etc.
We were here each day because they had wifi and had the chance to catch up with home.
Finally Leon said. "you have to say hello".
Now I know that this is certainly not the French way. We should have kept going there, smiling and nodding for 3 or 4 years BUT, we're brash sort of Aussies and have no difficulty trading on that!
So the next day, the poor, unsuspecting bloke took his place and I went up with a big smile, introduced myself in French, told him we were Aussies (in French) and bought him his drink! How bold!
The next morning we were there when the man came in. He walked straight to our table, wished us a good day and shook my hand before making his way to the bar. That continued for our time in Le Bugue, and put a big smile on my face! I have to say the  man was also pretty smiley as though he appreciated our cheek!

The day’s adventure would not take us far from Le Bugue – not that you had to find something interesting in this region. La Madeleine was our destination.
The Abri de la Madeleine (The Magdalene shelter) was a prehistoric shelter and is now a site of Magdalenian prehistoric finds situated near Tursac, in the Dordogne département and the Aquitaine Région of South-Western France. It is the site of the discovery of the Bison Licking Insect Bite, a carving estimated 20,000 BC. (Wikipedia)
It’s only in relatively recent times that the cliff face town was abandoned, well compared to some of the other Troglodyte villages in the region. This one had a feeling of authenticity - others in the region had a touch of Disneyland about them. With La Madeleine, you could use your imagination to conjure up sights of what life may have been in this village. It was only discovered in 1863 and many of its treasures are now on display at Les Eyzies.
Further up the road there were more commercialized sights such as La Roque St-Christophe - they were decorated with furniture, implements and figures dressed in the era. More crowds, more costly - yes great sights But!!!
We did the drive-by with these sights and took in the exterior views - La Madeleine had a haunting atmosphere that the past inhabitants spirits may have still been there looking over our shoulder. Maybe it was because Sue and I were almost on our own.

Looking down on the Vezere from La Madeleine

La Madeleine sits on the huge bend of the Vezere River giving a great position of protection of any invaders on the river. It actually travels a couple of kilometres to retrace its course within 100m.

This carving of a bison licking itself was discovered at La Madeleine and is believed to be around 20,000 years old - carved by a neolithic artist

We looked out across the Vezere Valley from what was the home of a Troglodyte family of the past.

And we even walked into one of their homes set on this rocky cliff side.

La Madeleine Chapel, still well preserved - even to its stained glass window.

Just above La Madeleine are the ruins of the Medieval Chateau of Petit Marzac and the Dojon.

You almost expect some medieval knight to walk out of the ruins.
Sights like this that rose out of the forest made La Madeleine a place that I could revisit.

We did take a drive and came across La Roque St Christophe but there were just too many crowds and the car park was full, so we just took in the sights from the roadside.

Those holes in the rock face supported wooden walkways for the inhabitants. You can see how they carved the soft cliff face for their walkways.
In most cases, the only way to the cliff side villages was by a rope ladder and they had pulley systems to raise their provisions up the rock face.

The Dordogne and the Perigord Noir is a fascinating area and we could write so much more but on a blog there's just too much to describe - maybe there's a travel book in the wings one day. Maybe I'll call it "Wednesdays in France".

Here's two links if you'd like to read more on La Madeleine.


  1. I look forward to Wednesdays in France and today hasn't disappointed - what a lovely area - Yes maybe a travel book in the wings - you have the stories to tell.

  2. Thanks Dianne for your kind comments - Like you, we love our French memories and as I write "Wednesdays in France" they all come rushing back.
    Only 11 months till we are back now. Are you returning again soon?

  3. Loved the tour as always guys!
    And I loved your story about the gentleman and his kir (what good taste). You're spot on... it's not about how good your French is, it's about making the effort and not being afraid to sound stupid. When we lived there we'd always be making a fool of ourselves but the locals appreciated that we were trying and accepted us all the more for it.


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