Europe 2014 – The Dordogne, Part Two

Monday the 2nd dawned bright and warm and as I did a systems check of the body upon rising, I was glad to see that the ear had cleared up and I wasn’t paralyzed from the fall.  So maybe that was just a bad day the day before.  Coffee tasted particularly good that morning, as did a pastry or so from the bakery across the street.  Maybe, just maybe, I dodged a bullet there.

As we hadn’t been on the bikes in some time, Joanna and I were determined to get a ride in, particularly as the weather looked like it would be nice for the next couple of days.  Before heading out on the bikes though we drove up to the top of Beynac to visit the castle there.  A short but very steep walk from the river, the drive takes you up out of town through a nice setting of farms and homes and then winds back to the site.  It is just as impressive approaching from that side as it is viewing it from far down on the river.

 

Castle at Beynac

Castle at Beynac

We parked and walked through the narrow lanes of the upper village to reach the entrance to the castle to discover that there was a fee of about eight euros to take the tour, not terribly expensive but the guidebooks had downplayed the interior trappings of the place and a sign indicated no cameras were allowed.  So we decided to forgo the tour and walk the perimeter; doing so brought us around to a small courtyard with a nice view of the valley below, and then returning to the car we discovered another path that afforded more views.

The Dordogne River from the Castle

The Dordogne River from the Castle

Back down at the site we prepared the bikes, but before leaving had a conversation with the older gentleman camping across the way from us.  He had approached us when we first set up camp, curious about our bikes, as he was a cyclist as well.  He mentioned to me that he had visited the states about 57 years ago when he was a cook on a freighter, which would have put him well into his seventies.  He’d had a cycling accident recently and was about ready to start riding again.  I just hope I’m still riding when I’m seventy.

We’d heard that there was a cycle path nearby and took off out of camp on the narrow two lane road of the area, not a great stretch to ride on with much traffic.  About a mile down the road we peeled off onto a smaller two-lane road that led us to the small village of Castelnaud-La-Charelle, which sits below the other major castle in the area, Chateau de Castelnaud.  We picked up the bike path there and rode a very pleasant six miles or so out to the town of Daglan, turned around and returned to camp.

Bike Trail Sign

Bike Trail Sign

We cooked in camp that night, nothing out of the ordinary and again spent time in the bar working on the blog, reading and charging our devices.  Up the next morning we again made preparations to ride and set off on the same route with the plan to ride a bit further along the bike path.  After we passed Daglan we continued on a small one-lane road until the path turned into a dirt section.  Not unpleasant to ride on, it provided a couple of challenging short ascents and descents until it came to an end in the village of Bouzic.

Joanna on the Trail

Joanna on the Trail

We parked the bikes next to the town water fountain (these are common throughout the small villages in Europe), filled our bottles and ate a bit of the energy bars we had brought with us.  Not long after our arrival a woman rode up on a Specialized road bike, dismounted, and came up greeting us in French.  We fumbled out a greeting half in French and half in English and when she realized we weren’t natives spoke to us in English.

Local Water Fountain

Her name was Sarah and she was spending a month or so in the area with her husband, before joining a group of other folks from her native New Zealand who would then embark on a bike tour that would duplicate the route of the 2000 Tour de France.  It was one of those totally random encounters you can become used to while traveling, how someone like this can pop up at the most unexpected time.  We passed a number of pleasant minutes conversing and then went our separate ways.

Joanna and I turned around and made our way back to camp.  Getting some laundry done was the order of the balance of the day as even the perfect vacation or trip can’t make those chores disappear.  With my taste having returned and a long drive ahead of us the next day, it made sense to eat out that night.  We thought about returning to La Petite Tonnelle but decided that a trip into nearby Sarlat, a town we’d not had a chance to spend time in was called for.

Site 21 from the Castle

Site 21 from the Castle

Upon arriving there, we parked in a pay lot and then walked up the main pedestrian street of town, looking for one of two restaurants recommended in the Steves guidebook.  By the time we determined exactly where we were in town, that position dictated our restaurant choice, Le Miradol.  Down a side street, this charming spot is tucked in against a rock hillside and a door in the back of the main dining floor leads to a small cave.

We were seated and in checking out the menu, noted a number of items that appealed to our tastes and sense of adventure, particularly the opportunity to taste Foie Gras for the first time.  We both settled on a very favorably priced prix fixe selection at a shade under 16 Euros apiece, featuring three courses.  Joanna started with the Foie Gras with toast and jam while I had a Salad Crudite (salad with fresh vegetables).  While expecting the worst, the Foie Gras turned out to be delightful, like eating a distinctive form of butter.

Jerry at Le Miradol

Jerry at Le Miradol

Our main courses consisted of a very nice Cassoulet with duck confit and duck leg and an interesting Coq au Vin in a dark broth accompanied by fried potatoes done in the style of the region.  Dessert consisted of a crème brulee and a delicately constructed apple tart with fresh whipped cream.  The meal was all I could have hoped for, given my disappointing experience a couple of days earlier, with the added bonus of being priced so reasonably.

We drove back to camp as the sun was setting, past 9:00 pm as it does here, so much later than at home.  This is another thing we’ve had to adjust to, but the added bonus of the extra hours of daylight has facilitated a change in our own internal clocks, so that our expectations of the day have shifted by an hour or so.  Where dinner at home might have occurred at 6:00pm, now it is closer to 8:00 some nights and that has quickly become the norm.

We tucked in that night ready for our drive to Pamplona.  After four dry days, we were surprised to hear rain that night on the roof of the tent and slept a bit uneasily anticipating having to break camp in the rain.  As occurred in Dunkirk though, the rain lessened a bit that morning enabling us to pack the car with wet, but not drenched gear.  We hit the road early heading towards Bordeaux and the long drive south to Spain.  Our days in the Dordogne had come to an end, days I believe we’ll recall fondly in years to come.

Two J's at Castle Beynac

Two J’s at Castle Beynac

Links

Castle Beynac: http://www.beynac-en-perigord.com/en/the-fortress.html

Chateau de Castelnaud: http://www.castelnaud.com/uk/

Parcours Cyclable Vallee du Ceou: http://www.germinalpeiro.net/Le-Parcours-Cyclable-de-la-Vallee-du-Ceou_a351.html

Le Miradol: http://www.restaurant-auberge-mirandol-sarlat.fr/

Foie Gras: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foie_gras

 

 

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