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Woodland track on the way to Tursac
Woodland track on the way to Tursac

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Route No 141 - Sunday 29 May 2005
to Wednesday 1 June 2005
A few days in the Vezere valley,
Dordogne region of France . . .



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Sunday | Monday | Tuesday | Wednesday |

Bill's gite in the Vezere valley
Bill's gite in the Vezere valley

A few days ago I received an e-mail from Bill, a friend who lives in Alabama. He informed me that he would be on holiday with two of his friends in a gite in the Vezere valley from 28 May to 4 June and there was a spare twin room which my neighbour, Jim, and I could use if we wished. We did not need to be asked twice and I booked a couple of cheap flights from Stanstead to Bergerac. Bill met us at Bergerac on Sunday 29 May and drove us to the gite. We were all set for a few days walking in the Vezere valley.
We had a suitably long lunch in a nearby restaurant before walking a couple of kilometers up the road to the Roche de St. Christophe. There is a huge ledge half way up an enormous cliff face. The ledge has been occupied by people since prehistoric times and the remains of a medieval settlement are evident. Even today there are similar houses built into the cliff face in many places along the Vezere valley.

Approaching the Roche de St. Christophe
Approaching the Roche de St. Christophe
Ledge on the Roche de St. Christophe occupied since prehistoric times
Ledge on the Roche de St. Christophe occupied since prehistoric times
Hoist to lift supplies to the occupied ledge on the Roche de St. Christophe
Hoist to lift supplies to the occupied ledge
on the Roche de St. Christophe
Hoist to lift supplies to the occupied ledge on the Roche de St. Christophe
Hoist to lift supplies to the occupied ledge
on the Roche de St. Christophe
Setting out from the gite bound for La Madelaine

(top)
The next day, Monday 30 May, we set off from the gite to walk to La Madelaine, another cliff settlement that had been occupied for thousands of years. After a good look round the remains of the settlement we followed a series of woodland tracks and lanes that brought us to Le Grand Roc, another huge cliff with a cavern open to visitors. We continued along the road to the little town of L'Eyzise on the River Vezere. In the centre of the town is yet another huge cliff with houses built into the cliff face and still occupied. We found a little restaurant in the middle of the town and settled down for a long lunch. A good deal later we set off up the hill from L'Eyzise towards Tursac and turned off onto another woodland track that brought us down into Tursac village. We walked up the road past a goose farm (I have to say that I do not like the practice of force feeding geese to fatten their livers), and back to the gite for another bottle of wine. We had walked around 23km today.

Left: Setting out from the gite bound for La Madelaine

Remains of the cliff settlement at La Madelaine
Remains of the cliff settlement at La Madelaine

Remains of the cliff settlement at La Madelaine
The River Vezere from La Madelaine
The River Vezere from La Madelaine
Tall bamboo grove near La Grande Roc cavern
Tall bamboo grove near Le Grand Roc cavern
La Grande Roc - there is a large cavern open to visitors
Le Grand Roc - there is a large cavern open to visitors
L'Eyzise on the river Vezere with houses built into the cliff face
L'Eyzise on the river Vezere with houses built into the cliff face
Wild orchids and grasses in the meadows near L'Eyzise
Wild orchids and grasses in the meadows near L'Eyzise
Woodland track on the way to Tursac
Woodland track on the way to Tursac
Very well fed geese await their fate
Very well fed geese await their fate
Woodland track behind the cliffd bordering the river Vezere
Woodland track behind the cliff bordering the river Vezere
(top)
On Tuesday 31 May, we drove through L'Eyzise to the car park at Le Grand Roc. From there Bill led us up a woodland track climbing up through a gap in the cliffs. There was a lovely view over a series of wooded hill from the top. We saw some farm workers planting the tobacco crop and it did seem a bit crazy for us Europeans to be subsidising our farmers to grow tobacco when there are strenuous efforts being made to help people escape their cigarette addiction. Bill's route brought us down to the bridge over the river Vezere at the edge of L'Eyzise about 1km from the car park at Le Grand Roc where we had started. The route had been about 12km. We drove back into L'Eyzise and settled down for another very long lunch. It was much hotter today and we spent the late afternoon and evening back at the gite, which had its own swimming pool. However someone had told the owner that we wouldn't be needing it, so it was locked up.
Wooded hills of the Vezere valley
Wooded hills of the Vezere valley

Wild orchid amongst the meadow flowers
Wild orchid amongst the meadow flowers

Farm workers planting the tobacco crop
Farm workers planting the tobacco crop

Typical view of farmland from our route along  the country lanes
Typical view of farmland from our route along the country lanes

Another cliff rising out of the farmland
Another cliff rising out of the farmland

(top)
This morning, Wednesday 1 June, we drove to Montignac, a little town on the river Vezere, where tickets are on sale for the Lascaux II cave. Having bought our tickets we drove up to the cave and waited for our allotted tour. The guide was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic and the commentary was continuous for the whole hour and a quarter of our visit. The cave paintings were stunning. I had no idea just how extensive they were. They covered the whole domed roof of the cavern just like a fresco in a cathedral. The drawing is very sophisticated with particular species of animals depicted so accurately that the exact species can easily be identified. The paintings in the original Lascaux cave were becoming damaged with tiny stalactites formed from the damp breath of the many visitors. It was decided to close the original cave and make a copy in a nearby cave as exact as possible. This strategy has worked very well and we saw a faithful reproduction of the original drawings. After our final long French lunch Bill drove us to the airport at Bergerac for the evening flight home. What a brilliant surprise break. Thanks Bill!
The little town of Montignac on the river Vezere
The little town of Montignac on the river Vezere