Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Aubeterre. More awesomeness.

Another couple of hours took us just out of the Dordogne into Charente, to Aubeterre-sur-Dronne. Aubeterre is a ‘beau village’, well-named, on a rocky outcrop above the river Dronne. We had a wonderful – if warm (36 degrees) – afternoon wandering around.

There is an unusual subterranean church; a chateau; a village perched on the sides of a steep hill; unusual antique shops; a square filled with the buzz of cafés and restaurants; narrow streets; sweeping countryside views. Beautiful indeed.
Climbing on the weir

The Dronne

The subterranean church of Saint-Jean

Pickle wasn't sure what she was looking at...

The chateau and visitors

the square


A seemingly random statue in the cloisters

Romanesque church from the twelfth century - only the facade remains. The rest was destroyed in the religious wars of the sixteenth century

For rent!

And the campsite was a delight. Next to the municipal plage of imported sand, it was easy to swim in the river above the weir. Crowded but casual, riotous – teenagers pushing each other off the raft, sliding down the weir and doing back flips off a fence into the river – but relaxed. Lovely.

We stayed another day!

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Le Bugue. Not bad, but not the best.

We set off reluctantly from St Leon. Such a lovely, relaxed aire – especially after the gravelled monstrosities we had stayed – or not stayed – in more recently. The aire was next to a car park and large boules playing aria, with a few groups taking advantage of it. There was even a boules shed pavilion.

Interesting sights on the way: massive limestone cliffs, huge flocks of geese... we are in foie gras country.

Our next destination, also on the Vezere, was Le Bugue. Not very far away, so we set off before breakfast, intending to stop at Les Eyzies.  However, it was market day, already crowded early in the morning, so we ignored Horse and carried on driving...until we took a wrong turn and really annoyed him. He threatened us with a 5 mile detour, so we stopped to turn around in the next available car park which suddenly appeared on our country road.

And what a lucky mistake that turned out to be. A huge campsite by the river proved to be The Perfect Breakfast Spot. Pickle loved it: although she couldn’t swim as the banks were too steep, there were all kinds of wonderful smells to be smelled.

picnic breakfast view

First thing, though, was to change our ferry booking to a couple of days later. The house was let out unexpectedly so we decided to stay on in France rather than try to find a temporary home for the motorhome in Guernsey. Easy done, two more days in France: yippee.

Now to work out where to go!

For now, though, after breakfast we realised that this wonderful parking was because we had arrived at a Tourist Attraction. World heritage, no less. The area we are in is near Lascaux, so on offer were grottoes with stalactites, stalagmites, etc etc and caves with prehistoric cave paintings in, at Grand Roc Laugerie Basse.

We felt we had to do the tourist thing, so opted for the grottoes, leaving Pickle to sleep off her breakfast in the motorhome. (We could have taken her in, but would have had to carry her for the whole forty minute tour, which included up 74 steps and creeping through caves. We didn’t think she’d mind missing it.)

And wow! Again! Everything – well, almost everything – is Wow!  The photos speak for themselves, yet cannot exactly convey the mystery the effect of thousands of years of dripping water. We learned how the different colours occurred - different plant and mineral coloration; that it would take 400 years for a stalactite and stalagmite, presently 2cm apart, to join up; and that there were many other similar caves inside the limestone cliffs which hadn’t yet been explored. Mindblowing.

a drop in history #stalactiteinformation

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It was the stuff of fantasy. I imagined what it would have been like to discover the caves by lantern light, crawling through narrow openings, shadows casting wonderful and fearsome images: fairy tales in all their glory. And fairy tales - folk tales too - have dark sides...

After that, we made our way alongside the river to Le Bauge, to a large aire next to the water’s edge. Pickle had a wonderful time, running in and out of the water. She will take her feet off the bottom and swim if the slope is gradual enough – she doesn’t like ‘jumping’ in off any kind of edge, whether this be a rock, a step or just a steep bit of bank. Throwing stones or sticks into the water really encourages her, but she has also become brave enough to venture out a couple of metres by herself, swimming a little semi-circle until she can touch bottom again.

However, we weren’t so impressed. We realised that, when touring, we are really Village People. We love the quietness of the smaller places, wandering through seemingly deserted streets and sharing an aire with perhaps only a dozen motorhomes. We like quiet country roads or even tracks, if they are not too rutted. We like quiet.

Le Bugue didn’t really tick those boxes. It was quite a picturesque town, but several major roads converged on it and it felt busy. We tried to cycle out into the country, starting off along the river bank.

I really don’t want to go into details. It was not one of our successes. Let me just say that it included giant bamboo looming menacingly above us or lurching out into our path; huge water pipes to negotiate our way across; a treacherously narrow river path, dangerously so even when pushing the bikes; sneaking our way past people’s private gardens: yes, there were fences, but we still felt like intruders; fast roads; a Hill – on a Fast Road – the worst combination....  We turned round relatively quickly.

Eventually, we found a good track along the other side of the river, which took us a reasonable distance through the fields, but even so, we only clocked up a meagre 14 kilometres altogether.

I took Pickle along for another dip in the river. All was well until a medium-sized scruffy mongrel – and it is not often I use the term ‘mongrel’ but it was well-deserved – came bouncing up to her, yipping.

Pickle let her displeasure be seen in very certain terms. She lunged, snarled, snapped – did everything to show the dog that she Meant Business, without actually really trying to bite or fight. The owner half-heartedly tried to restrain it, but we eventually wandered away.

All was well until the dog suddenly appeared again. Pickle was swimming at the time and hadn’t seen it. The expression on her face was priceless – she really didn’t know what to do. She settled for charging out of the water and giving it her all.
Richard could hear the barks at the campsite.
I managed to drag her away, exercising every one of my arm muscles, and retreated to the motorhome, where Pickle collapsed in exhaustion.

Between lack-of-cycling and dog-arguments, we were quite eager to leave Le Bugue – the first time we were happy to move on this trip.

Wonderfully obedient and respectable dog - our neighbour on the aire.  Absolutely no trouble at all. And looked remarkably like Pickle, too.  #notaPatterdaleTerrier  #Frenchdog