Today was a day of extremes: A river deep below the surface of the earth; and then way up and looking down on an incredible medieval village. The one constant was: Rain. Lots of rain.
Before I describe our downs and ups, there was some good news: Clean laundry! The nice people of our hotel did a load of laundry for us. There will be a charge, an unknown one at that, but whatever it is, it will be worth it. Unless it’s more than 10 Euros! There’s something about clean, dry laundry that brings a smile to your face.
So, off we went, about 18 Ks to the Gouffre de Padirac. The guy at the desk told us this is one of those things you must see in your life. And … he was right. Add Padirac to your list. BTW: Gouffre means a pit. And this was one helluva gouffre. See for yourself…
Back in 1889, three French guys dropped a long rope ladder down a giant gouffre, climbed down and discovered an incredible underground river. And lived to tell about it … and turn it into a tourist attraction. Not sure if I would have had the courage to climb down a rope ladder and then willingly crawl into an underground river.
These days you climb down a couple hundred meters (on stairs) and walk through the Gallerie de la Source, with the river at your feet and huge rock formations and stalactites dangling above you. One of them looked like a Wookie, another like an alien and a third like Mick Jagger’s lips (no matter what Justin said). Here’s the Wookie…
Then, you get in a boat and travel down the Riviere Plane to the Lac Superior (a lake) and a grand gallery with even bigger rocks formations and stalactites. It was hard to capture the grandeur in photos (and you’re not allowed to take photos while you’re in the boat), but here you go…
We rode back to our hotel above Rocamadour, in a drizzle, of course, dried off and walked down into the medieval village. According to the tourist website: “The first shock is the place itself … Built into the cliffside on successive levels, 120 metres in length, it clings high above a canyon through which flows the Alzou. As early as the Middle Ages, Rocamadour excited people’s admiration. In the 12th C., pilgrims crossed the whole of Europe to come and pray here. The village housed the relics of Saint-Amadour (a famous hermit who sought solitude in Rocamadour).”
Solitude? Not when the tour buses roll in.
To get down to the bottom, you walk through the chateau up top (where there are amazing views across the cliffs and gorge) and then down a serpentine path. At each S-turn, there’s a statue depicting one of the 14 stations of the cross. Down, down, down … and finally you reach the bottom and a street lined with shops, cafes, restaurants and a couple hotels.
We had dinner … and by the time we were finished, it was pouring. Rain, that is. And we had no choice but to walk up the winding path, through the 14 stations of the cross until finally we reached our hotel.
We opened a bottle of wine, and started trying to dry out all of the day’s damp clothes. We’ve got stuff on top of the heater, on a bungee cord across the bathroom, in the closet and on the backs of chairs. Ah, the circle of damp life! It’s never ending.
Tomorrow: We move on to Beaulieu, where I was previously on this trip. It should be a great ride, except, yep, it’s supposed to rain.