Sunday 10/5/15 – Les Cent Cues is where we are staying near Milac in the French countryside, such a very pretty area. The home we are staying in has the original cottage and an extension that is mainly glass, so it shows the gorgeous gardens and allows so much light. It is a lovely bright and welcoming room.
Span and Andrew went into the village for fresh baked croissants for breaky, and brought back strawberry tarts for the girls for Mother’s Day, which was a lovely surprise…. and very tasty as well!
We went for a lovely ride to Cazals in the Lot district, to see one of the local markets; there is a market in the area every day of the week….. now a gal’s gotta love that!!!!. It was starting to close as we arrived, however we had time to buy some fruit and have a quick look round. It was marvellous, so many stalls and such variety of produce; stalls with spices, curry, herbs, seeds etc, cheeses, meats, fruit, veg clothes, tools….. you name it and it was there.
Had a beer and a wine at the pub on the corner and watched as the stall holders packed up for another day, before heading off to see Les Grottes de Lacave in Vallee de la Dordogne. These magnificent caves were accidentally discovered in 1905 by the French caver Armand Vire. Access down to the caves is by electric train, then there is about a 2km walk for a looksee. WOW!!! Mother nature is truly a remarkable lady! So may beautiful spectacles for us to behold…. simply awesome. We were to find there are many, many ‘rooms’ in them thare caves.
The first room that greeted us was 150 metres below ground and had two tall columns of stalagmitic formations, and a petrified waterfall of stalactites, that grow about one or two centimetres each century. Now that’s slow going indeed. The temperature was about 14 degrees, and the humidity was about 95 to 98….. so the guide told us!!! Another room had a formation that resembled an elephant’s head, with the trunk clearly visible; and yet another column that was estimated to be 20 ton in weight.
We saw another huge petrified waterfall that showed the passage of an ancient river, and a domed room that was approximately 60 metres high, with stones suspended high up – our guide tells us they are proof of earthquakes. Yikes….. not something we wanted to hear so far below the ground!!!
Yet another room was one of lakes and mirages, with stunning reflections of the arched and decorative ceilings. Some formations looked like the finest lace shawls, others like spider legs, or other animals. Mother Nature is such an inspirational and creative artist! In the last room were bigger, deeper pools and it is in this room that they hold musical concerts…….. Now that would be a great experience!
Temperature climbed to 33 today, so being down in the caves was a lovely respite. When we got back to the cottage, afternoon nibbles were in progress. There is a pool here, but that is not being serviced and opened until next week. Bugger.. missed by that much. We were very tempted to take the cover off and try our luck……
On the bikes and into town for tea, to the same restaurant as last night. The food is good, the ruby red beer still sensational, and sitting out in the square until late at night is so very enjoyable, as it does not get dark until around ten pm. Met a local couple who have a restaurante in the next village, who invited us for coffee and aperitif the next day…..
Monday 11/5/15 – Span and Andrew were up early for croissants again, which was to become daily routine …….. and a very nice one it was too!
Lazy day at the cottage today…. Span and Andrew gave the bikes a tubbing in the lovely garden, whilst Susie and I did some washing. Span loves washing the bike, and it really did need it. The Vstrom looked great when it was all done; it is now ‘looking million bucks’, and ready for the next ride!
The gardens of this home are just delightful. There is a little cookoo that is way up in a tree, gently cookooing most of the day and into the evening, and the big bumble bees are lazily buzzing by all the while. The bumble bees here are like in NZ, they are big, black, furry, slow and buzzzzzzzzy. It is a garden that would delight adults and children alike. Will let the pics of the garden tell the rest of the story, however there is no pic of the wee cuckoo or the lovely buzzzzzy bees.
Tuesday 12/5/15 – Went into the medieval town of Sarlat for a looksee and to do some shopping. We spent a few hours there just wandering the streets looking at all the ‘eye candy’.
Speaking of ‘eye candy,’ France has the bestest candy shops, and lovely gift shops. In one shop we bought some very cute geese salt n pepper shakers to post home, and spent a good while chatting to the owner who was a biker, and amazed that we had shipped the bike over. he just wanted to talk and talk.
Like so many European villages, the streets of Sarlat are narrow, and the buildings ‘Oh so French”. Love the French architecture, it is so unique, and complimented so beautifully by the many cafes and restaurants, that are in the open streets. The ambiance as you walk through the streets is just wonderful, and enhanced all the more, by the lovely smells wafting from the eateries.
Stopped at the bakery for a baguette to go with the pate we had bought in the food market, to have for lunch ‘along the way’. Had just enough time for a coffee and cake before we headed off again.
Whilst we were sitting enjoying our coffee and cake, a couple passed us with their wee dog in a stroller. She was 16…. blind and deaf, so they had made this stroller for her. She was so cute, and really did not look her age at all!
The countryside in the south of France is just stunning, and it was another hot day, so we found a lovely river, and settled in the shade of a big tree to have our lunch and watch the beautiful BIG majestic white swans and the people in row boats glide past… it doesn’t get much better than this!!!!!
Back ‘home’ and Span gave the Vstrom a bit more TLC in the form of an oil change, with much moral support from Andrew and Ray!!!! We have done about 8000km, so it is well deserved…. not to mention that the boys had a lot of fun doing it…. deciding what to drain the oil into.. how to dispose of it etc.. etc.. etc. Outcome….. Boys and Vstrom very satisfied!!
Wednesday 13/5/15 – Today we were in for a real treat. A mate of Andrews (Peter – P1), who now lives permanently in France, came with his mate (another Peter – P2), to take us for a ride and share some local knowledge. It seems a lot of Brits are moving to France in retirement… don’t blame them at all. iIt is very pretty …. a very relaxed lifestyle… and very cheap! The French countryside is so beautiful, with lots of colourful spring flowers and stunning fields of red poppies bobbing their heads in the breeze. This is further complimented by the many houses have roses growing up the white or creamy walls in stark contrast – so very pretty.
P1 and P2 took us for a lovely ride through the country side. First stop for coffee was overlooking a magnificent gorge. Px 2 told us this area is supposed to be the ‘jewel’ in southern France. The views were simply spectacular, and it looked as if someone had mowed down the middle…… it was so very green and looked like a manicured grass strip. So our first view of Rocamadour was simply stunning. It is about 100 miles north of Toulouse, and is perched high atop the plateau, overlooking the Alzou Valley.
Legend has it that this was the home of an early Christian hermit by the name of Zaccheus of Jericho, who died around 70 AD. It has a cluster of chapels and churches, and the architecture is simply amazing.
We parked the bikes outside the archway to the city and walked the short distance to a restaurant for lunch and a cool drink (it is 34 degrees), and to the lift that would take us up some 50 metres to the top of the plateau … beats climbing up the 216 steps to the top! We later found out that pilgrims would, and still do, make this climb on their knees, visiting the fourteen stations of the cross on their way !!!!!!!
There is a beautiful statue of the black Madonna in the Notre Dame Chapel, and in another chapel, the tomb of Zaccheus (St Amadour) to which many pilgrimages are made. Around 1166 his body, showing no signs of decay, was found in his grave and sepulcher in the cliff of Rocamadour.
The architecture of the Notre-Dame chapel is truly magnificent. The organ was the shape of the hull of a boat, the ceilings so very high. P1 tells us that the bell tolls every time someone is saved at sea, and the tiles in archway tunnel have the names of the people saved.
We also saw the legendary sword of Roland that is stuck in the rock high above the door to the Chapelle de Notre-Dame. Legend has it that Roland thew the sword high in the air from the Pyrenees, some hundreds of miles away, and it landed in the rock here! Gotta love the legends!
P1 took us back to see his home, that he built himself. Just amazing. The home was made of rocks that he gathered, and built in the old French style. It was small, quaint and very cool and inviting on this very hot day. He has his own small vineyard, complete with cellar and wine press and a small collection of vintage bikes, that had the boys oohing and arrrrhing!
Whilst we were chatting and having a cold drink, P2 told us a story (as legend has it… yep another legend) about a monastery that ‘long ago’, tithed the village people for walnut oil (walnuts are a big crop in this area). “It is said’ that the monks demanded this tithe, so they could lubricate the the axle that makes the world go round….. Love it…..a great yarn indeed!
Back home, we packed our bags in readiness for leaving tomorrow, before heading into the village for one last meal. It was a fun night and very balmy sitting it the small square, laughing and having some banter with the locals.
Thursday 14/5/15 – Andrew and Span did their last croissant run before we left, and treated Susie and me to a last strawberry tart..
All packed up, we said our goodbyes and headed off at about ten thirty. We were planning to go to Le Mans, but on further reflection and reviewing of maps, have decided to leave that to next year….maybe. We will instead head towards Spain and Barcelona, via the tiny country of Andorra, that lies in between France and Spain, in the Pyrenees mountains.