We Laugh At Your French Train Strike!

Another French train strike has begun … impacting our trip, and our ability to get back to Paris and home. Home? You know, that place where I used to live. And hope to one day return.

But we refuse to let this deter us … and instead of complaining about the train strike, I’ll dazzle you with some videos from our last two days on the Dordogne, which were phenomenal.

For example…

This is the view from the top of the castle in Beynac where we stayed last night (the town, not the castle). You walk up and up the cobblestone stairs of the medieval village (Justin has an app on his phone and it said the ascent was 17 percent at one point) and there, at the top, is this amazing castle. And when I saw amazing, I think it’s an understatement.

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I think up here, on top of Beynac, on the parapets of the castle, is one of my favorite spots in all of France.

And then, we walked down and down the cobblestone stairs back down to the river (the Dordogne). It was a lot faster going down than up…

A few Ks down the Dordogne from Beynac is the town of La Roque-Gageac, which is on the river and built into the cliffs that rise above it…

This next video is of Justin riding past Beynac on the other side of the river…

Once you turn off and away from the Dordogne, you climb and climb and climb some more. It’s fantastic. And then … you descend, like this. It’s hard to take a video while riding down a curvy downhill at 35, 40 and then 50 Ks an hour, so I had to put my phone away and hang on with both hands…

Today, we headed back to Sarlat and the train station, for our train to Bordeaux. It was a short, 16-mile ride, but scenic (of course).

OK, that’s it. We’re in Bordeaux, and, instead of a 2-hour, direct train ride to Paris tomorrow, due to the strike, it will take eight hours with one transfer (knock on wood). While I’m a bit tired from all the traveling and being away from home and Susan and work (really, I actually miss work), I already miss my bike and the Dordogne and having a great (and often wet) ride every day. Then again, there’s always next year!

Biking & Baguettes

When Justin imagined biking in France, here’s what he saw in his mind: Riding down a beautiful rural road with a baguette in the back pocket of his bike jersey. Every now and then, he’d reach back, grab the baguette and take a delicious and yeasty bite and put it back. Until there was nothing left.

I know, he’s quite the romantic.

Well, what with all the non-stop rain, Justin’s baguette scenario just hasn’t been feasible. A damp, soggy baguette is well, a damp soggy baguette, and not something you want to eat. Or keep in the back pocket of your bike jersey.

But today, finally, sun! Lots of sun. Today was the day baguette & biking dreams are made of.

“Justin, won’t it get soggy and yucky from you sweating?” I asked.

“Oh yeah, I hadn’t thought of that.”

Strange that this was my first thought. I guess I’m not quite as romantic as Justin when it comes to bread products. Then again, I’ve suffered from the curse of the back-pocket sweaty baguette/croissant syndrome.

Voila!

Justin’s baguette came in a paper bag. We were set. Off we went, on a brilliant ride from Sarlat up and down lots of hills and past villages and chateaux and up to Domme. And, of course, Justin’s French baguette & biking fantasy finally came true. Here’s the video evidence … and a photo.

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53 Miles, 5 Videos & 2 Photos From A Great Dordogne Bike Ride

Finally … some sun!

We had a glorious ride from Beaulieu to Sarlat. This is actually a ride I did about a week ago, so I won’t re-describe it. Instead, here are five videos that give you an idea of what the Dordogne is like and why, perhaps, you should visit. Maybe even on a bike.

The video above is a few Ks past Beaulieu. It was a nice, long flat stretch along farms and fields. It was still overcast and foggy, but nice.

We crossed over the Dordogne and rode through the town of Carennac…

Later … along some cliffs that run along the Dordogne…

Then it was time for some serious and amazing climbs up to the tops of the cliffs…

Then  we passed Souillac and Le Roc and rode along the D50, and closed in on Sarlat.

Then, the last 10 Ks along a path into Sarlat, a cool medieval town with more restaurants and tourist shops than residents, I think. Here are two photos from Sarlat. We’re staying here two nights, so tomorrow a day trip. Not quite sure where, but I think it should be a great ride.

One of the best things about today’s ride: We arrive in Sarlat dry! What a difference not being damp and sopping wet makes.

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This is foie gras headquarters, so the geese are vital to the economy … and therefore get a statue in their honor in the middle of town

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An Ode to Justin: My Happy Traveling Companion

Thank goodness Justin is here.

Then again, since he’s been here: My nephew has endured a train strike and rain every single day, anything and everything from a drizzle to a cold downpour. However, he hasn’t complained. Not even once. Not even when I get grumpy. Like today, after it started pouring rain when we were halfway through our ride.

Anyway, and also, what with Justin being so young (29) and full of energy, he’s now also assumed the role of advance scout I once happily performed when Susan and I did French bike trips. He’s Steve and I’m Susan. And, speaking of Susan (who I do speak to every night on WhatApp), I was getting kind of lonely without her … and then Justin arrived. He’s quite the conversationalist, even if about a third of what he says is way over my head and/or beyond my comprehension.

Advance scout?

So, a couple of days ago, after we arrived in the hilltop medieval town of Rocamadour, dripping wet of course, Justin went on a walk. Way, way down into town via the steep serpentine stone road. He scouted out places to see and places to eat. Me? I took a nap! A really nice and well-deserved nap. Later, he showed me the walk … and the restaurant.

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Yesterday, when we got to Beaulieu, a place I stayed earlier on this trip and thought I knew … Justin went for a walk/hike while I … napped. Hey, after riding in the rain and then, even more so, the long drying out process (first myself and then all my clothes), I’m exhausted. Justin discovered a path down to the river and a pedestrian bridge across it (the photo below) and a whole new section of town I’d missed. He showed me the route later, after I woke up from a lovely nap.

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Then there’s the tech issues. Justin is a PhD in genetic engineering (and specializes in computational biology) and is a computer genius. Every time I have an issue with the blog or wifi or editing photos or … anything really, since I always seem to have problems with technology … he patiently fixes it. Plus: He figured out a way to download Google maps to his phone so we can use it while we ride, even when we don’t have wifi. Genius! And, he has a translation app that also works without wifi. More genius! The only thing Justin can’t seem to do is explain, in simple English, what the heck it is he does at work.

He also explained to me the story behind the Leroy Jenkins reference on Barry. So now, as we reach the bottom of a steep climb, I shout: “Leroy Jenkins.”

And today … Justin talked with the animals. Livestock loves Justin. They approach and want to talk.

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And now, right now, while I’m writing, Justin is on the Duolingo app, learning French. By the end of this trip he just might be fluent. Darn, listening to him learn French is making me sleepy … think its nap time.

From the Bottom to the Top of the World, All in One Drizzly & Fantastic Day

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…

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This is the pit you climb down to find the start of the underground river

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…

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Am I right: 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…

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This is the Lac Superior

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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.

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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.

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That’s me over on the upper right, doing my King of the World Impression (Justin came up with this line and took the photo)

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.