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Week 6: Three star Pietons sous la soleil et la pluie in the Dordogne

FRANCE | Saturday, 6 June 2009 | Views [541]


I think I mentioned last week that we would be stuffed full of foie gras and red wine by the time I wrote my next entry. However, this was not the case. We were in for quite a surprise with our walking tour. We have spent 8 days on the tour in the Dordogne ('Doiigne!!' as the French say). Of those 8 days we walked at least 20 km per day over quite hilly terrain. Every second day we took a rest day, literally. This has really built up our fitness after the last couple of weeks, and our command of the French language and culture.

We have seen a range of terrains over this last week, as the photos will tell. Our path, marked out on obscure maps, provided by the company we booked with, and only marked by the guide the day before we left, has taken us on a journey through wooded forests (where we had to watch for hunters and deer), small villages perched on hill tops and through fields of cows and ducks and by river banks. We also never saw the mysterious farms that reputedly hold hoards of geese stuffed to produce foie gras.

We have decided that Cecile should qualify for the Australian walking team at the next Olympics or we should put money on her when she is closing in on the nearest 3 star hotel; because of her pace. Ian and I will qualify for stainability awards on hills and Paul will fit somewhere between the roadrunner and coyote because of his varied pace. However, our journey did introduce us to a range of French towns and their people. We met farmers ploughing fields and women picking beans, and over the course of the week, our French did improve somewhat, especially when we were looking for obscure paths. The French people are the opposite of the stereotype of rude and arrogant people that we all are led to believe. We have met an extremely delightful and helpful race of people who have taken great amusement in four Australians walking with small packs on their backs through the fields.

We have also learnt much about the quality of 3 and 2 star hotels in France. We have discovered that no matter how many stars a hotel can have it cannot often make up for the friendly and accommodating staff that can make your stay worthwhile. Several of the hotels we stayed in were run by families who have had the business for many years. As a client you are greeted each evening at dinner by the 'patron' and they will ensure that you are well looked after. Such was the case in Beynac and our second two star hotel 'Tamines'. The hotel in Tamines literally was the whole village on a small hilltop. They had a fantastic pool, yes it has been very warm, enough to swim. (I bet that annoys many people in NSW who I believe have had the wettest May on record) and a great restaurant. The hotel was called 'Labadorie' after the family name, but they also had an old Labrador dog, which fitted perfectly with the image. Our larger 3 star hotel in the town of Les Eyies had beautiful gardens, a sparkling pool, and a gourmet restaurant but were somewhat less personable.

Les Eyies is the gateway to many of the Prehistoric Caves and their paintings, in the area. If you are an Art Teacher or took a great interest in Year 7 History you would remember the famous paintings of Lascaux. Unfortunately Lascaux is closed to public access but there are many caves you can visit with artwork in the area. We visited the 'Grotte de Gaume' which is one of the only publicly owned caves in the area. We had the inequitable French experience buying tickets to a tour of the caves. They only allow 200 people through per day at hourly intervals. We were told that we could have a 12 pm tour but only in French. We waited by the main road in the dust for an hour for access only to discover at 11.45 we could have sat in a lovely picnic area up the hill from the entrance. The tour was delivered in French, but to an audience of 20 English speakers. C'est la vie!

This entry is coming to you somewhat early as we are about to embark on our tour of the Canal du Midi where internet access will be elusive. Paul thinks this will be good for Kathryn and Kathryn thinks it will be good for Paul. So the next time you hear from us we will have travelled along the canal and into Spain. Over the next week we hope to relax a little more and take in the sites along the side of the canal relaxing on a boat, rather than on foot.

Well I am off  to watch as the French say "le Foot"; Football. We also have enjoyed watching tennis live at Roland Garros as well. Who said that Australians were the only race devoted to sport?

P.S. On his return to Australia, please speak to Paul in French only, as he feels he is very fluent!

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