My Favorite French Rides (#1): A Brilliant Day along the Dordogne

Since I’m forbidden (and too scared) to fly to France and cycle, here’s a story from exactly a year ago, from before … well, you know what it’s before of … in the beautiful Dordogne region …

I think I owe the Dordogne an apology. But first, a little deviation … and some amazingly good luck that saved me a lot of backtracking.

In the midst of a brilliant and wet, 56-mile ride from Beaulieu to Sarlat, I came across this sign just past the famous Grottes de Lacave which, as the name suggests, are underground caves …

Uh-oh, I know just enough French to know what this meant: Trouble. The road was ferme in 4Ks. And, back in 7th grade French class, I remember Mr. Weight saying all the time: Ferme la porte. He seemed to have a thing about keeping the door closed. I wish I’d paid more attention back then in class, it sure would come in handy now. Nevertheless … Oh crap! There’s a barrier of some sort up ahead in 4Ks. And this way and road was by far the best, most scenic route from here to Sarlat. The alternative was to backtrack and take a traffic-heavy red road (the red ones on my Michelin map are a step below highways and quite busy). This would add at least 20Ks … and wasn’t very scenic. 

Damn it Steve … just do it. What’s the worst that could happen?

Are you nuts? This is risky. It’s better to turn around now and just take the alternate route.

Come on, let’s be adventurous, isn’t that why we’re here?

OK, OK, you win. Now ferme your port.

And yes, I talk to myself on bike trips. 

BTW: Mr. Weight was the first person I can remember with a total comb over. I mean those strands on the side of his head were wrapped around and around his bald upper dome. And looked ridiculous. He wasn’t fooling anyone. Not even us 7th graders. Every once in a while, if he turned his head and neck too quickly to reprimand an unruly student, a 3-foot long strand would un-attach itself from the top and fall victim to gravity. We’d try to laugh out loud. Some of us were better than others.

Anyway … back to the Dordogne. I rode about 3.5 Ks and came to another sign that said the bridge ahead in 400 meters was still ferme. I crossed my fingers and stubbornly kept going. Got to the bridge and saw that is was under construction. Here it is …

And look!  

I could get across it! Right through the middle. A car couldn’t, but me and my bike could. With room to spare. And there was nobody around to tell me I couldn’t go across the bridge. Whew, that was a relief. I was soaked, but smiling.

Now that we’re safely passed the bridge, let’s get back to my apology to the Dordogne: I’ve been raving about the Lot and Cele the past week, since, well, that’s where I’ve been riding. They really were really nice. But now that I’m in and on the Dordogne, everything is even more picturesque. I guess this is why this area is such a popular tourist destination for cyclists, and also for all those crazy people who choose to roam around locked inside of a car. They’re really missing out. For example…

I rode through a steady drizzle clouds, fog, along the river, along cliffs, up and over ridges, through pretty little towns and was constantly enthralled. The Dordogne is an amazing cycling destination. The old stone village and cathedral of Carennac was one of the highlights …

And so was climbing the cliffs just past Gluges on the tiny D 43 road …
And then to the village of Creysse where I stopped for lunch … and the rain began coming down even harder …
I didn’t mind the rain. Or the fog. It was cool to look up at the fog-shrouded hills and cliffs …
And then along the river and through several miles of walnut groves …

When I got to my hotel in Sarlat (a Best Western, of all places, which is high living for me), I was a wet and muddy mess. Not just me but my bike and my panniers and shoes and, well, everything.

The kind woman at the desk was nice enough to give me a towel, a blue one they use at the pool (which is closed for the season), to wipe everything off. Otherwise I would have had to destroy one of the nice white towels in my room. And that’s not very nice. And would totally undue my good luck at the bridge and lead to some sort of bad luck in the coming days. And yes, I’m superstitious and believe in karma.

 Let’s hope everything dries out by tomorrow…

Full disclosure: I did this route twice last year. The first time by myself (on October 18), the second with Justin, my nephew, who joined me for the second half of my trip. That’s why there are photos and videos of me.

Here’s the link to my Biking the Dordogne e-Book.

And here’s one more video…

2 thoughts on “My Favorite French Rides (#1): A Brilliant Day along the Dordogne

  1. The bridge episode reminded me of a similar instance when I rode from Calais to Monpellier in 2008 – sign say road closed . . . hey, we’re cyclists we’ll get through (and the deviation was about 12km) – well, we did get through but there was a river bridge being rebuilt that just had a single beam about 18 inches wide from one bank to the other. Tricky with loaded touring bikes, but we crossed to the amusement of the workmen on the far side.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s