Published: October 31st 2007October 15th 2007
Forgotten France And Sickness Recovery
It seems that, while France is a major destination for many people the world over, there are large parts of the country that just get overlooked. If you do your research and have a good amount of time then probably the under-explored parts fit into your itinerary but, for the average guest to this nation, only the big tourist stops make it onto the must see list. Purely because of our long term goal, eventual arrival in Barcelona, did we venture into areas that were a bit less traveled. After experiencing the forgotten South of France, I would definitely say it’s worth your time if you have some to spare! Deep In The Dordogne
The Dordogne River Valley - we visited the Périgord section - is just west of the ever famous Bordeaux (wine country) region. It is a land of green hills, important castles, tasty food and British ex-pats. This area does get its fair share of tourists (along with the Brits), but this late in the season, the crowds dissipate and the tourist sights are nearly empty.
We, once again, relied on our B&B book to
find us a place to stay and were pleased to get a room in the back hills of the region in a small town called Le Coux. The Manoir de la Brunie was a decent sized house located on a beautiful manicured lawn which overlooked rolling hills of farm land. When we arrived, the people who ran the B&B were out, so we found a spot out on the lawn and read in the sun. Kel’s comment, “this may be my idea of heaven!”
We really lucked out yet again because the rooms were great, the people who ran the place were incredibly nice and the nearby restaurants were awesome, inexpensive, and tourist free. By this point in the trip I was starting to wonder if everywhere in France was perfect. Really every where we visited had great food, less crowds than usual and beautiful weather. What’s not to like? Really!?!?
(Quick Side Note: Turns out that the summer and spring/fall can be miserable in France. While our experiences were amazing it could have been different had we traveled this way earlier in the year. The crowds are overpowering, accommodation difficult to find, and prices expensive. Just wanted
to ensure that you got a rounded impression of the country. I wouldn’t want you to make a mistake on account of my glowing review.)
Our main day in the Dordogne was spent exploring the nearby towns and countryside. The real hits of our day were Beynac Castle and the nearby gardens of Marqueyssac. The castle is really a hard one to miss in this region. If you drive up the Dordogne long enough you will come to the town and you won’t be able to pass it by. Beynac castle sits almost five hundred feet above the town of Beynac, perched on the edge of a cliff right in the middle of town.
We drove up to the castle (laziness reigns supreme) and explored the grounds for about an hour. This castle was definitely not our first but was definitely one of the cooler ones we’ve explored. Its prime location overlooking the river made it a key fortification for defending the region. Since its original construction in the 12th century the castle has changed hands many times and was even occupied by Richard the Lionheart when the English occupied the region in the late 1100’s.
Shadows of God
castle feels as cool as its history. It has that genuine “fighting off invaders” feeling that you want from a medieval castle. So many French castles feel wimpy and comfortable while Beynac feels old, drafty and impregnable. Needless to say we thought it was pretty neat.
The nearby Chateau de Marqueyssac was converted into an extensive park of manicured gardens. While gardens are not usually part of our tourist regimen, we felt that the beautiful weather needed to be used to its full advantage. Thus, after lunch, we spent some time walking through the nearly 4 miles of path and manicured gardens. If gardens are your thing then this would be a good place to visit ;otherwise, skip this place. With that said, we had a good time on our walk, got some great views overlooking the river and truly got a chance to enjoy the weather. Moving Further South
As I said above, there are parts of the south of France which are really overlooked as tourist destinations. While the Basque region and the Pyrenees get some traffic throughout the year, the Rousillon area of France gets next to no tourists. This beautiful, almost
Spanish region, produces some incredible wine and offers travelers some beautiful coastal towns and interior mountains.
We stumbled into the region because of the lure of the town of Carcassonne, which we never actually reached. On our way to Carcassonne Kel began to feel like her seemingly ever-present cold was getting a bit worse. We stopped at the closest B&B in the town of Azille called La Dolce Vita. This small, quaint B&B met Kel’s present need which was sleep. While Kel slept, I went off to explore the nearby town of Minerve at the recommendation of the helpful hotel owner.
Minerve is a small fortified village that was the site of one of the many bloody battles fought during the Inquisition in the 13th century. Its location on a cliff overlooking the confluence of two rivers made it an easy place to defend from the siege engines which attempted to invade the city. Unfortunately, the crafty Catholics who were attacking managed to get to the only potable water nearby causing the resisting Cathars to surrender. Of the people seeking refuge in Minerve, 140 were eventually burned at the stake for refusing to deny their faith.
Minerve’s history is unnerving (play on words intended) the small town itself is pretty cool. While most of the actual castle fortification is long gone, the town’s architecture and dramatic location make it picture worthy and worth at least a few hours of anyone’s time. I spent a couple of hours walking around enjoying myself before I returned to wake Kel up from what I hoped was a healing nap.
Kel still wasn’t feeling great that night or the next day but we moved on anyway. Our trip took us only a few miles away to the very comfortable Go Holiday France. While not the most traditional name for a French B&B type place, the accommodation was wonderful and our hosts were just great.
Kel spent the next two days recovering from her horrible cold while I hung out, worked on all the France blog entries and lounged. We met a really great couple from Nottingham, England that were at the property to check it out for their upcoming wedding. Tammy and Nathan were tons of fun to have around. With new friends, wonderful food, lots of relaxation and the warmth of our hosts, the stay was just
what we needed.
When we finally forced ourselves to leave to head south Kel was feeling better and I, too, was well rested. The next stop, Barcelona for my 30th B-Day and a meeting with my parents. Hope everyone at home is doing well. We miss you all and will see you soon enough!
There are more photos below