Hope you had a good week and your year’s winding down well! Our week began with a fantastic drive home from Albi, via some amazing cliff-side villages in the upper part of the Midi-Pyrenees region and the depths of the Dordogne. It’s incredible where some people make their home! First stop was Rocamadour, where, from the hill-top monastry and chateau, the town spills down the side of a gorge to meet a tributary of the Dordogne River. There are several churches and sanctuaries between the town (essentially one main street of medieval buildings) and the chateau, all built into the cliff. For 1000 years, Rocamadour has been an important pilgrimage destination.
La Roque-Gageac was next – another stunning town and member of the ‘The Most Beautiful Villages in France’ association. Built on the edge of the Dordogne River, and home to 400 people, many of its houses butt right up to the limestone cliff face, with some under precarious-looking overhangs. In January 1957, part of the cliff collapsed, crushing several houses and 4 people died. It’s a miracle this hasn’t happened more often. La Roque-Gageac is believed to have been inhabited since Pre-historic times and most of its buildings date back to the 12th century.
We continued on to Beynac-et-Cazenac, also built in the 12th century on the banks of the Dordogne and also one of ‘The Most Beautiful Villges in France.’ It’s imposing feudal castle, on the edge of a cliff, offered protection for the village behind and below it and was once beseiged by Richard the Lionheart. Some of the houses here are built right into the hill, with their rooves being the ground above them.
From there we wound our way through the area formerly called the Perigord province – now the Dordogne region – known as The Land of 1001 Castles. 42 of the 1000 castles are open to the public – the others are privately owned. This is rugged, beautiful, sparsely populated country with a castle or fortess on every hill, each positioned with incredible views down the valleys and gorges along the river. The whole area has a real medieval yet serene atmosphere, giving the feeling that it survived some terribly tough times and is now at peace and there’s a sense of permanence about it – history reaching into the present. We were lucky, I think, to see it all at this time of year, free of the summer crowds and traffic; however, most things were ‘closed for the season’ and, given it was Monday, closed anyway! Fortunately, although cold and overcast, the weather was much better than our snowy, slippery trip down last Friday!
Back at home for the rest of the week, we had one of the coldest days we’ve ever experienced (apart from our brief time spent in minus 17 at Mont Blanc!) when, on Wednesday, it was still minus 6 at 9am and peaked at 0 degrees! The pond next to the house had a 2cm layer of ice on it! However, it was clear and sunny, so from the warmth of our lounge, looked like a lovely day! We finished the week off with a 5 course dinner last night at our French teacher’s place! Just a typical French meal, beginning at 7pm and ending at midnight!!
The week ahead looks to be nice and relaxing. Sadly, it’ll be a week of au revoirs as we have our final art, French and dancing lessons. We hope to do a day trip or two if the weather’s OK, later in the week and we also need to plan the few days between leaving here and catching the train to London. Only 8 days left at La Villatte now!
Next week’s blog will give you an idea of what Christmas looks like in France!
Chris & David