Zig Zag to France 2012 travel blog

May 1st a public holiday in Europe.

Apparently France has about one public holiday a month. This month they have two as May 8th is also one - VE day. Today is the last day of our week in the Dordogne so we planned to have a lazy one anyway although a lot of the tourist spots are still open. Some see it as a good thing, that the French know how to kick back and not work too hard. It probably is healthy to start work at 10.00am, have a midday break and Sundays off, it's just not what we're used to.

Our little house is right in the middle of this village (Domme) in rue de Jacques de Melville. It is certainly a medieval building but has recently been done up. Downstairs is a kitchen and lounge area entered from a small back yard -the house next door found room for a pool but this one has a small amount of grass and an area for an outdoor setting. The grass needs mowing but it's been too wet....The second floor has two bedrooms and a bathroom and a bit of a view over some rooftops and the third floor has quite a large attic style bedroom with another bathroom with shower and toilet. Ours has a bath. So we are using one bedroom as a dressing room and it's nice not to have our suitcases on the floor for once. It has been very comfortable for just two of us. There is a dishwasher (thank goodness) and a washing machine out in the 'shed'. All the mod cons. We have cooked for ourselves most nights with only two meals out. The only trouble with these touristy places is that they all do 'traditional food' which means lots of goose gizzards and other offal and they all do the same thing! So we avoided gizzards and had coq au vin. You can choose from the menu but they all do meal packages and so you end up having three courses (not counting the soup which is taken for granted as a first starter) and eating too much! To order a la carte and have two courses costs more than the four so they have it all tied up. We reckon the only reason that all French women aren't fat (and plenty are) is because most of them smoke!

We 'ave been good tourists. But the weather 'as been very bad. We 'ave 'ad a few fights as navigation is very tricky! Yesterday we found ourselves face to face with another car....and it wasn't the other guy on the wrong side of the road!

All the driving around here is on narrow country roads that wind around so that you have no sense of direction and Lily (GPS) always wants to take us the most cross country route, often not where the sign posts say. Yesterday I was navigating with a map, google maps on the ipad and Lily. No wonder it ended in harsh words and silences. It was a tough day of driving in awful thunderstorms, one clap so loud Mark and I nearly jumped out of our skins. The rain was very heavy and there was a lot of water on the roads. We did our best to sightsee but it was quite difficult to really capture the sense of the places we were driving through. Additionally, even the " Most Beautiful Villages in France" are not enticing in a deluge and when all the shops are shut and there's no life.

And now....the French. If you want to see the popular sights it's not easy. We headed off to Gouffre de Padirac - a famous cave in cave world. We asked at the tourist office about booking and they said 'no need'. Remember we'd missed out before because we hadn't bought tickets weeks ahead (from the office at the cave). When we finally got there there was a 2 HOUR queue. And it wasn't a once off because they had a long marquee type thing covering part of the queue line. And it was raining, so we left. So this is very French. They are keen for you to visit their attractions and they are well advertised but it is your challenge to actually get there and get in. There are no tours advertised as you might expect and there's no transport to the sites so you have to have a car. It seems set up for locals and the rest of you can do your best. But mostly (except for one)they are very pleasant.

We had just visited Rocamadour - another medieval village built as if it is coming out of the cliff - the cliff seems to form the back wall of the buildings including the basilica. The cliffs are limestone and they leak so there are puddles of water inside the oldbuildings.This town is a little more famous for it's 900 year old black madonna (poor thing looks that old) which has miraculous qualities. So the pilgrims climb the 200+ steps to the chapel on their knees. We took the lift! It took over an hour to drive there and the heavens opened when we got there so it was hard to get a feel for it.

We have been to two medieval castles, Castelnaud and Beynac, the first with a good display of weaponry (and high battlements from which the French could wave their private parts at the Breetish )and some explanations in English - that can make all the difference. The private parts waving didn't work at Beynac as it was occupied for 10 years by Richard the Lionheart - until he ran out of money. These have both been restored as the French seemed to have sacked most of their castles and towns several times over the centuries.We visited two fabulous gardens, both amazing just with the amount of pruning required. L'Eyringnac was the one I sent pictures of, we also saw Marqueyssac and that was our best afternoon because THE SUN came out. When it does it's quite warm. On Thursday it is forecast to be 24deg here. It's barely been over 13 for our week. Even the locals are whinging about the weather. Marqueyssac was several hectares of pruned box hedges and shapes. We enjoyed wandering around there as did the children there - like one big maze.

We visited the nearby town of Sarlat - much bigger than ours and described as a near perfect medieval town. They have a huge market on Saturdays and that is where we snapped the paella. Lots of produce for sale as we saw in Annecy as well as the usual market junk. There is another gorgeous little town near here called La Roque Gageac also plastered up against the cliff so we climbed about there. It sits across across a narrow road from the Dordogne river and is the embarking spot for river cruises (all abandoned because the river is in flood) We have seen the mighty Dordogne river from many angles as it is very windy in these parts and growing daily with all the rain. Almost everywhere you drive is delightful. It's a brilliant green and even the individual farmhouses are several hundred years old so at first you want to photograph every building. But you can't stop on the narrow roads! It's JUST gorgeous.

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