Travelling in France – The Dordogne

Our next destination is deep in the Dordogne not far from Rocamadour. The A20 is the speediest route from Amboise and after some 300 km the last few kilometres are pèage. The site is one that my wife has been watching on Facebook for a couple of years. A British owned site with glowing reviews and the option of a ‘Freedom Pitch’ which includes the hire of a small car. This is definitely the best way to view the gorges and villages of the Region du Lot where a motorhome would struggle on the narrow winding roads with overhanging rock faces.

The site is Chateau Lacomté (or Lacomte Country Club – depending on whether you read the logo on the swimming pool or the writing on their blurb). We had booked online for four nights with two of them being on serviced pitches and two ‘Freedom’ pitches. When we arrived we found that their website had been misleading to say the least. First, the cost of the pitch was for one person (!) and we had to pay a supplement of €7 for me for each of the four days. Second, although the pitches were described as all with electricity and water, to use the electricity was a further supplement of €6 per day. Then there was the Tourist Tax, then the booking fee of €15. To add a true insult to injury the Freedom pitch required the payment of an additional pitch fee of €7 in addition to the €35 fee per day which means they were essentially charging €35 per day for the hire of a 20 year old VW Golf (fuel not included). This is equivalent to a fortnight’s hire of a new car in a resort like Tenerife. The pitches are quiet, the scenery beautiful and the pool cool and inviting. The bar, however, is less so, with a pint and a half of bitter (London Pride) costing almost €9.

I have to say we took full advantage of our expensive holiday (€200 for four nights). Our first day out in the car took us through the Vallee de Ceré and we were able to park up and sample the local coffee in an amazingly unusual garden overhung with vines and looking directly onto the river full of canoists. The people living in the shell of a turtle were very welcoming!

Then on to Booziès where we drove across a bridge no more than 2m wide and had a spartan lunch.

The car park was a surprise. The charge was per day rather than per hour and it cost us just €2 for the day. We had planned on taking the boat to the nearby pretty village of St Cirq Lapopie but when we turned up for tickets we were turned away because we hadn’t booked and the whole boat had been taken by a party of pensioners! How we seethed! Still, it gave us time to explore and marvel at the wonderful scenery before taking a different route back to Figeac.

Our second day we spent by the pool and on the terrace chatting to a lovely Dutch couple, he an automotive engineer for Daf, she a homeopathic herbologist. Their excellent English made a long and interesting conversation until it was dinner time.

On our final day we took the hire car to Sarlat, north east of our chateau. The city is a marvel, everything in the same rough dressed sandstone, as ancient as my jokes and full of history and legend. The city is famed for its Fois Gras and almost every shop is bulging with tins or bottles of the stuff. If not then it’s knives and swords on display everywhere else. It you took away the tables and sunshades the place could be converted to a mediaeval film set in minutes. Up on one back street is a set of gardens including one with apple trees and a maze which takes its inspiration from the one at Chartres and the penitent (me) can wind their way through the maze contemplating on their sins (many) and their virtues (few) and finally arriving at the centre in a blaze of self-awareness. I did try!

Throughout our short break here we were constantly accompanied on our pitch by a sibling pair of young robins. The alpha would always chase the beta away but they always returned and became great pals so long as the crumbs of our croissants fell within their reach.

Will we be back? To the site, never. To the area, probably. In fact we have planned to spend the whole day at Sarlat tomorrow staying in the Aire just a few minutes outside the mediaeval city.

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