France 142- Saint Cirq Lapopie/a steep hill /driving down the tiniest tunnels in the Dordogne

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October 18th 2018
Published: October 18th 2018
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Go on you know you want to do it! Say it - Cirq Lapopie - you know it will make you smile. Lapopie makes you grin from ear to ear in a way that saying Milton Keynes or Rotherham doesn't quite do. It is one of those communes in the Lot department of south western France. A member of the Les Plus Beaux Villages de France - the most beautiful villages association. Dotted round France are many of these beautiful villages as well as Villages Etape where local produce is sold and Villages that are flowery . I had read a lot about Saint Cirq Lapopie and decided without doing much research that that was where we were heading to today. It is sited on a steep cliff 100 metres above the river Lot and is quite definately a must go to destination for the French and for visitors alike. It lies 30 km east of the city of Cahors and is situated on the road to Compostela. So that was the plan . Pack up at Castelnawdry and head out on the French roads to Saint Cirq Lapopie.

Our route took us through the outskirts of Toulouse - a busy time to hit the city ringroads and motorways. Early morning traffic was a nightmare on the A61. It was a blessing to get around the city and back out into civilisation and sensible driving again. The A20 was less busy as we skirted Cahors and headed for the minor roads. Some single tracks , some took us through outstanding hamlets with the typical mellow stone buildings of the Dordogne. The mellow tiles of the roof of each house was full of character and each house was shuttered in a different colour. Pale pinks, pale blues, pale yellows and greens. All were displayed on the farmhouses and small cottages. Each village was the sort of place you would love to live in. The fields looks compact and well manicured. The trees cut to perfection and looked picture postcard perfect. It was a hard drive getting to Saint Cirq. In this part of France you find that you get lost easily and without the sat nag you would struggle to find your way round from village to village. The gardens were all full of cheerful Autumn colour from the Michaemas Daisies to the Dahlias. Purple in abundance and rich crimsons, plums and reds from the Dahlias , oranges, browns and peach from the Chrysanthemums. Autumn can be a lovely time and here in the Dordogne it was doing its best to impress us with Autumn colour in the hedgerows and in the trees .

The sun began to shine down on us. Funny how life seems so much better when the sun shines . We were looking forward to seeing the pretty village. We had no idea about parking but we were soon to find out. Good thing we don't have Suzy any more . She would have struggled on these narrow roads. Shame I didn't check the internet .

We arrived and with us so did others. This meant crawling down to the village . Yes it was steep and hard work for Glenn to control Gabby. Cars stopped in the middle of the road in order to take photographs . At the top of the village were a number of car parks for cars only. The idea was to stop people driving down the hill which we were trying to get down. As we drove down I caught glimpses of a medieval village with tiny streets radiating from the hillside. It looked lovely but we were struggling to find somewhere to park our girl. What we hadn't realised was that at the bottom of the village the authorities had designed an aire just for us bigger vehicles. We couldn't get on it due to Gabbys low slung underbelly.

From what we could see the medieval town was really pretty. We read that there were 13 listed historic buildings and the town was dominated by the Lapopies , the Gourdons and the Cardaillacs families . There was a fortress enclosed by fortified gates with several fortified houses . Open arcades of shops were taken over by craft workers . Much stone and wood with buildings erected between the 13th and 16th centuries . What were we missing? A wonderful little place glimpsed only through gaps in the houses.

With little alternative but to move on we had to find a place to turn Gabby round. We found the way out of village over a metalled bridge which crossed the Lot. This took us to the other side of the river where we had tantalising glimpses back to this pretty medieval village. We were in true Dordogne countryside heading for Souillac. Another one of my brain waves. The road was narrow with the river to one side and cliff faces to the other. At times the road was one car wide as it passed through hand hewn tunnels. Sometimes we had to drive on the wrong side of the road due to the cliff overhangs which threatened to remove Gabbys roof from her bodywork. As we drove we discussed air suspension. Big problem trying to get Gabby over some kerbs or down some slopes. We need air suspension. We had it on the back of Suzy but Gabby needed a more sophisticated system on both axles . When we get home we need to do our homework and see what options there are to sort out our problems.

Souillac was a disappointment. There wasn't as much there as I had hoped for . We found the aire. Another camping car one but we needed electricity tonight so staying on it was not an option. We needed a camp site and found one just north of Souillac. There was no-one around when we arrived . Just a note to park up anywhere and pay at 5 pm . The site was near a lake and the signs were up suggesting to be careful of some plots due to the water levels which had left the plots soggy. The showers were clean and tidy and filled with potties of every shape and size. Varying from pottery chamberpots to metal yellow ones that were used in the 40' s and 50's to hospital potties. The owner obviously had a fetish with pots to wee in. There was no shop nearby and no restaurant open. When I went to pay it turned out the owners were at a trade fair in La Rochelle and had left the campsite in the capable hands of an English man who lived nearby. He told me he had lived for many years in Hawarden and had been to college at Wrexham. Another small world experience as I knew both places well. He moved to the area years ago and bought a house above the campsite. Whilst he was looking for house he stayed in the campsite and was very friendly with the owners. He told me his wife spoke French and had worked in Geneva so this area seemed the idea place to move to. It was a lovely campsite - only issue the cupboard was getting bare again and sadly due to the owners being away there was no cook to open the restaurant .

Strangely this part of the trip with the exception of Souillac is coming together. Tomorrow we head further north . Glenn has found a castle worth visiting.

But finally go on grin again Saint Cirq Lapopie know you want to!


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