Friday, 17 April 2015

Travels in the South West

A scary number of years ago, when Understanding Frenchman and I had not long been together, we went on our first holiday, a trip to the Pyrenees with a group of friends. I still remember waking up early on the morning or our departure and feeling immense, childlike joy that we were setting off on holiday, packing up my trusty little Clio and setting off on our sunny road trip south.

On the way down, to break up the drive, we stayed in a hotel somewhere south of Rocamadour, with a swimming pool in the middle of the sunflower fields, and had dinner in a tiny medieval town perched on a cliff. As we continued on our journey the next day, we promised ourselves that we would go back. And finally, this year, we did.

We didn't go quite as far south, staying this time in a lovely gîte near Martel. On two of the days, we went hiking, visiting the little towns of Floirac and Carennac on the river Dordogne, then trekking through the stunning gorges of the Parc Naturel Régional des Causse de Quercy to Rocamadour. Rocamadour is a really stunning place, with its sanctuary and monastery practically clinging to the edge of the cliff face, accessible only by narrow cobbled streets and many, many stairs.*


Cliffs in Les Causses de Quercy

On the third day, we visited the Gouffre de Padirac, an immense hole in the ground which leads to a network of caves and passageways, through which runs an underground river.

You make your own way down into the hole, then a guide rows you along the river, a little bit like the Phantom of the Opera, before another guide takes you on a walking tour of the massive natural vault. The only annoying thing is that you're not allowed to take pictures, so here is one that I stole from the tourist office website:

Our gîte was equipped with a fitness room (which we didn't use) and a hammam (which we did), but in all honesty, the best bits of the trip, as well as the amazing sights, involved lots of sunshine, lying around in the garden after a long hike, and having barbecues out on the terrace as night fell and we could actually see the stars come out. As a break from Paris and a little sample of what the summer hopefully has in store, it couldn't have been better!

Actually, you can also drive to the top of the cliff and walk down, but it's not nearly so impressive.


  1. I visited Rocamadour when I was a little girl, and somehow I still remember it. Must have made an impression!

    The first picture is quite amazing.

  2. Wow, putting it on the (long) list of places to visit!