Tour de Chev Blogdays 5 and 6

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September 21st 2009
Published: September 21st 2009
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La Rochelle to Sarlat la Caneda

Additional maps: Sarlat to Lascaux, Montignac, Ruffignac gnac, Ruffignac | Carnac to La Rochelle


Old town street scene, early morning.
Blogday 5 Sunday 20th September
La Rochelle to Sarlat in the Dordogne via much of Burgundy; by reason of getting lost a few times. This on account of my Michelin Road Atlas being somewhat out of date, like 8 years, and not showing recently constructed autoroutes. This is what happens when a boy from Cardiganshire goes on holiday (for the information of those readers who come from beyond the Welsh borders, Cardiganshire natives are famously tough when it comes to spending money.....folks from other areas of Wales describe us in rather less fulsome terms).
Meanwhile back at La Rochelle: up reasonably early and on our way south on the autoroute heading for Bordeaux where we would turn east for Periguex. A brief deviation to fuel up at a nearby Carrefour (petrol at supermarkets is 15% cheaper than at the autoroute petrol stations, followed by a smooth run south towards Bordeaux. Driving on the French autoroutes is a really pleasant experience. Not much traffic, virtually no articulated lorries (“semis” to those readers from the U.S.), and best of all, no White Van Man. For the benefit of those readers outside the UK our motorways are infested by tradesmen who drive white mid-size

The Vezere river
delivery vans, usually in the fast (overtaking) lane and usually about 15 inches behind the car in front by way of intimidating them to get out of the way. All this at speeds well in excess of the legal speed limit. The generic term for these drivers is “White Van Man”; so their absence on the French autoroutes is both conspicuous and very welcome.
Meanwhile back on the A10 heading south for Bordeaux and looking for the exit sign for Perigeux we cruised straight past the sign for Libourne which is on the route for Perigeux. It turned out that despite being a regional centre not too far from Bordeaux, Perigeux is not signposted on the A10. Another interesting feature of the French autoroutes is that an exit point is not necessarily a corresponding access point, so Exit 39A southbound for Libourne which we should have taken, does not have a matching Exit 39A northbound. Not to worry as Exit 41 south allowed us to reverse our direction to Exit 40 north which was signposted for Libourne. So we took this exit and reached Libourne without further drama, and then followed the signs on a nice country road for the

Good weather, good scenery, great motor. For the benefit of those who havn't seen the Mighty Chev.
autoroute to Perigoux. Somewhere on the nice country road we missed the sign for the autoroute. This is where the out of date Michelin Road Atlas let us down as the autoroute to Perigeux was not shown in it. So we continued on the appropriate compass heading (east) and through sheer good fortune found signs for the autoroute, which we then followed carefully and duly arrived, first in Perigeux, and then our destination of Sarlat: deep in the Dordogne. So deep in fact that it’s in another region altogether, called the Perigord.

Sarlat turned out to be a very charming medieval town (check it out on Google), but with the modern conveniences of electricity: running water, decent hotels and wifi. Our hotel, the Madrigal, was on the road into town which made it easy to find and the receptionist was most helpful in getting us settled in. Most welcome too after a rather long and occasionally stressful drive. A quick walk around the town followed by a very nice omelette dinner (we needed some plain food) at Vicky’s in the old part of town and so to bed.

Blogday 6 Monday 21st September

The idea with

Troglodyte at home
staying in this part of the Dordogne/Perigord/Whatever is to visit some of the many prehistoric sites around here. Jane, having a First Class Honours degree in archaeology, is interested in this stuff. First on the list was a place called Lascaux, famous for its cave paintings (check it out on Wikipedia) near a town called Montignac (also worth checking out on Google). The actual cave is off-limits to the public now because the bacterial pollution and humidity caused by the many visitors to the cave was damaging the paintings, so an exact facsimile of the cave and its paintings was created nearby. We went on an English language guided tour of the reconstructed cave which was fascinating. The cave paintings are thought to be 17,000 years old and the quality of the animal pictures is extremely good. This was followed by a delicious lunch in a restaurant overlooking the Vezere river in Montignac. This part of the Dordogne/Perigord is very beautiful and the towns and houses are a delight. I hope the attached photos do it some justice.
More ancient history followed with a visit to the cave at Ruffignac (Google Grotte de Ruffignac), which was even more amazing than

Food for thought. Foie gras on the hoof at a farm near the cavern.
Lascaux as we were allowed into the cave system itself. The cave system is so big that visitors are taken around on an electric train. We saw cave paintings one mile (yes, one mile) from the entrance: mammoths, horses and bison (I had half expected to recognise some of my former colleagues from Standard Chartered Bank amongst the paintings but there weren’t any human representations, only animal; and anyway my former colleagues were slightly higher up on the evolutionary ladder).

Another bonus was warm sunny weather, the first so far on the Tour, so the roof came off the Chev and we had some really fine motoring around the very scenic countryside here.

After that it was back to Sarlat, dinner (a delicious salad this time) and so to bed.

Jenks the Troglodyte
ps If you click on the photos you will get a slightly enlarged image.


22nd September 2009

Hi Tony, you are now in a part of France I know reallly well having owned a house there for 15 years. Fabulous scenery, lots of old castles which were fought over during the 100 years war, and best of all - duck. Every item on every menu seems to include some part of a duck so I hope you both like the stuff. Washed down with a bottle or two of Cahors (Bergerac at a push) and the colesterol should stay nicely balanced. Enjoy it. Cheers, Chris
30th September 2009

GPS Satnav
The thought of getting a satnav system did cross my mind, briefly, before departure but I thought that we could manage well enough with the available maps and occasional references to Google Maps. Big mistake. If we go touring in Europe again a satnav system will be the first item on the list of necessities. Finding our way around the larger towns and their one-way systems has been quite stressful. Also there's the additional advantage that if one gets misdirected by the satnav there's something convenient to blame.

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