High Hopes in the French Alps

The Bowels of the Earth


Looking up to the entrance to the Padirac Caves - fancy an abseil?!


We left Entraygues late morning saying our farewells to Bernice and Norman knowing full well we’d be popping back on our return in a couple of weeks or so and headed off towards our friend Chris and his partner Jany who live in the little hamlet of La Champelle-aux-Saints, in the heart of the Dordogne in the South-Western region. En route towards Aurillac we noticed the local airstrip quite clearly from the road. Can’t help it, noticing airstrips if thery’re around.


Rocmadour, Monastic Town


We found the place easily enough with the SatNav in full cooperative mood and waited for a few minutes before Chris showed up. We were given a lovely little cottage/gite all to ourselves for as long as we wanted. Our plans were only to stay for one night though.

As we arrived quite early in the day we had plenty of time to do a couple of few touristy things like visit the Gouffre de Padiracs. Chris was happy to take Tizzy for a walk whilst Dennis and me visited the bowels of the Earth, being punted through the amazing pre-historic caves by somewhat recent decendant of the Neanderthal! it is meant to be a compliment he was rather rugged with a monobrow, thick long hair and a swaggering gait!!  Unfortuantely, we couldnt take any photos so feel free to click on the above link if you’d ike to see the place. It was spectacular and incredible, there’s so much beneath the surface of the Earth it’s so alien as well as beautiful. Really worth the visit.

Our next stop was Rocmadour a fascinating Monastic town carved out of the rock face with a rough climbing route that invites those inclined to crawl on their knees in willlingness to share in the sufferings of Christ, of the 14 Stations of the Cross. Rocmadour is  a beautifully chiseled town, and has had an impressive list of historic pilgrims.


Red Turrets in Collonges La Rouge


We then had a chance to visit Turenne which has quite a colourful history. Dating from the 13th to 16th Century although it does boast a tower from the 12th Century. The story goes that Turenne was once a principality a country within itself with a vast area of rule. The ruler being the Viscount of Turenne from the family of Hugenot. Don’t quote me on this but apparenty the story goes that the Viscount was a bit of a gambler and gambled away all his wealth including his castle and ended up having to relinquish his Viscouncy to the people in payment upon which, and when the deeds were verified and all was signed away, the people dismantled the castle brick by brick and built the village of Turenne out of the stones, so all that remains of the original castle is just one small window amoungst the ruins. I think somewhere within all this there was a Napoleonic connection but not completely sure without doing a bit of research.

And finally we took in a last minute visit to Collonges la Rouge before the sun finally set. Another fairytale village which included another ‘Shell, St Jacque de Campostelle’ pilgrim route. I think there are around three different routes, but these two that we’ve seen so far take in the most incredibly beautiful places. The perfect resting places for the weary pilgrim traveller.

As the main rock here is limestone the village was built with limestone and included an iron element it is this mix that gives the brick it’s red colouring. Apparently, in the evening when the sun sets, it looks like it’s been through a nuclear attack it’s so red! That’s just what we heard from the locals!

Another historically interesting day.

October 22, 2010 - Posted by | Holiday

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