Taking in the Euro countryside by car travel blog

4 heads are better than two

Fateful steep and slippery day one walking day

Collonges la Rouge beautiful village

Beaulieu sur Dordogne from the bridge

French wheat crop ready for harvest

Walking around Beaulieu sur Dordogne

Strawberries bought for snacking en route

Peonies tumbling nonchalantly in mountain gardens

What it takes to be one of France's beaux villages


Morning view of sleepy Carennac

Rocamadour clings to the hillside

Inside the walls of Chateau de Castelnau- Bretoneux

One of the best views in the Dordogne valley

My very first castle!!

Another day another lovely view from the bed. Located in the bedrooms under the roof of this little family hotel in Beaulieu sur Dordogne, the room is all white, and blue and white gingham, so it is this that frames the window view. It's misty over the mountains, The church spire is visible and the bells chime for 7.30 am. The birds are singing enthusiastically and the trees are covered in vivid green new spring growth. On the other side of our room the Dordogne river flows silently by. You can see it from the bath. This is walking central.

We are here for 6 days of organised walking tour which means everything is organised for us, we just have to walk. We are staying at 4 different hotels in the area, our luggage is transferred for us and mostly we have to walk between hotels. This did not begin so well for me. The first night and day before we arrived had steady constant rain and on the first day the gradient was very steep and the majority of the paths were rocky, muddy and slippery. This presented a bit of a challenge for one of my knees which had thrown in the towel by the end of the first day's walk. Jim and the Melbourne friends we have rendezvoused with were fine but I thought I was finished. However after a days rest and a strapping at the local chemist I was good to go again. This was a relief as we still had a lot to look forward to in the coming weeks. Day 3 's walk took us more onto sealed stable roads in a loop up the valley of the Dordogne on one side of the river and then back on the other. On Saturday Jim nobly kept me company and we took the car to Chateau Rocomador which is over the mountain ridge in the Lot Valley. This was the third day in a block of 4 days of holidays for the French and this area was crawling with holiday makers eating in the restaurants, walking on the tracks, taking part in motor bike rallies, shopping, exploring the ancient towns, cycling. You can't blame them, the scenery, both natural and man made is gorgeous here.

On Saturday and Sunday we stayed in a medieval village, ringed around an ancient church. The road around the village must be where the ramparts once stood and there were many of the very old stone slate roofed buildings still intact. We visited a similar village, Martel, where the Saturday market was in full swing under an ancient

wooden shelter which must have seen Saturday morning markets every Saturday for hundreds of years. The area is famous for its walnuts which are sold shelled and unshelled, made into oil and we also sampled the local, sugary and very rich walnut cake. There were also plenty of the local sausages in evidence and lots of fruit and vegetables with a smattering of craft. When we met up with John and Ann they had completed the day's walk but added an extra 40 mins to it by taking a left instead of a right. 4 heads are better than two when it comes to interpreting written trail instructions.

The walking continued on to Carennac supposedly an 18 km walk from Beaulieu Sur Dordogne. The weather has warmed up considerably but still a very pleasant temperature for walking, through shady lanes, exposed up on the high plateau or down in the valley on tarmac roads. The walking plans certainly provide a variety of surfaces and settings. And then there's the animals. We've had donkeys braying at us, dogs barking and snarling and cows bellowing. Usually the instructions are accurate but sometimes they can be ambiguous, confusing or inadequate meaning that we usually run up a couple of extra kilometres retracing our steps. The Carennac walk finished with a brutal uphill loop when we were only one kilometre from our destination which added 5 unnecessary kilometres on to our journey giving us a total of 26 kilometres for that day including two for backtracking. Now the view from the top of the hill was spectacular but we were in no mood or physical condition to appreciate it and felt that the distance for that day really pushed our bodies to the limit. Amazingly the next days walking took you back up the same unrelenting climb again.

Carennac is one of the 155 "beautiful French villages" and it's not hard to see why. It is a beautifully preserved renaissance village with towering stone buildings, steep slate rooves and a maze of narrow stone roads winding through. It seems very much like a living village with lights twinkling in the windows and tv's visible in the evening. Locronan which is another of the designated villages in Brittany seems to be mainly an artists colony and retail outlet for their wares. Along the walking track Collonges la Rouge is also a very beautiful and well preserved ancient village which now draws people to see the architecture as well as craft offerings and some great eating choices. It's good to see that these villages are making their own living to ensure their preservation in pretty much their original form with a minimum of overt commercialism.

Chateau alert. If one chateau per day is enough for you, next stop is the Loire Valley

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