14 May 2006

May Day in the Vézère Valley

It's been two weeks since we got back from our short trip down to Sarlat and the Dorgogne/Lot area. I probably should wrap up my reports now. The two weeks since our return have been busy: we prepared our vegetable garden plots by roto-tilling them, and we tilled up a few new spots to plant as flowerbeds while we were at it.

This past Sunday we went to the big market in Amboise and bought plants to set out, and we set them out yesterday afternoon. It was a hot day (by our standards) so we waited until after 6:00 p.m. to put out the tomato, eggplant, bell pepper, and cucumber plants we got at the market. Today we are supposed to have thunderstorms so we hope we will get some rain, which we really need. Rainfall since early April has been insignificant.

Wood sculpted into mushroom shapes at a lumber mill near Sarlat

Meanwhile, I have a couple of Dordogne topics left. Here's one. On Monday May 1, we planned to go to the Musée de la Préhistoire in Les Eyzies-de-Tayac, a few miles northwest of Sarlat. We started the day by driving from Vézac over to St-Cyprien, along the banks of the Dordogne River, and then we turned north toward Le Bugue.

Local wine that we bought the morning of May 1 in Sarlat, while we were out
looking for fresh bread. May 1 is a holiday and many shops are closed.
Luckily, the boulangerie we found had bread AND wine.

I knew from reading general postings and trip reports on Internet travel forums that there was an Intermarché store in le Bugue, and that we would probably be able to fuel up the car there. Intermarché usually has 24-hour gas pumps where you can pay with your bank card, so you can buy fuel whether or not the supermarket is actually open. There's an American woman that I "know" from Internet forums who has a house near Le Bugue, and she's written about going to the Intermarché and Bricomarché (hardware) stores there.

The town of Le Bugue is not so prettied-up as Sarlat. It felt like a real place, a little gritty, with all its own particular warts and blemishes. Still, it also seemed like a pleasant town. It sits astride the Vézère River, with a nice riverfront and a high bridge. After filling the Peugeot's tank at Intermarché, we parked near the tourist office and walked across the bridge to have lunch in a restaurant on the other side.

View from the bridge over the Vézère at Le Bugue

Another view from the bridge; somebody has been doing "donuts" on the quai.

Stunt-driving on the quai is dangerous, I guess.

An old mill on the Vézère at Le Bugue

From Le Bugue we drove up the Vézère through the village of St-Cirq and on to Les Eyzies-de-Tayac, where the Musée de la Préhistoire is located. Les Eyzies feels like a resort town, with a long strip of souvenir shops, cafés, and pizzerias, as well as a campground right in the center of the town. Being there was more like being in California than in an old French town. Walt and I went into the museum, while our friend Sue opted to take a walk around the town to take pictures and enjoy the nice weather.

The museum in Les Eyzies is in a new building.

Sculpture representing a Neanderthal man at the museum

The museum is full of glass display cases where you can see thousands of stone tools and artifacts that have been unearthed all around the Dordogne area. There are also casts of human and animal skeletons that have been found there and that date back several thousand years.

View from the museum terrace down onto the main street in Les Eyzies

Need a haircut? Sign seen on the main street in Les Eyzies.

The weather was warm and lizards were lazing on rocks heated by the sun

After Les Eyzies, we drove on to Montignac, where another American "friend" of Internet acquaintance has a house. I thought Montignac (pop. 3000 or so) was the nicest town we saw along the Vézère River. The famous Lascaux caverns are there.

A view of the Montignac "skyline"

The Vézère valley is beautiful country and has been inhabited for at least 10,000 years. Along the way from Les Eyzies to Montignac (about 15 miles), we stopped and admired sites including La Roque St-Christophe, a stone cliff that dominates the valley, and the 16th-century château de Losse, which is perched on a rock outcropping over the river.

The riverfront at Montignac with its outdoor café-restaurants

On the way back to Sarlat, we noticed a roadsign for a place called La Grande Filolie, and saw on the map that there was a château there. We decided to go find it, and we were glad we did. It's a large, very picturesque complex of buildings dating from the 14th and 15th centuries and set in a gorgeous little valley. The Michelin guide describes it as half-château, half-farm. There's a gravel road around the place on which you can go for a stroll and take some nice pictures.

Looking across a pasture at La Grande Filolie

La Grande Filolie, dating from the 14th and 15th centuries

I have a few more Dordogne/Lot topics I want to do before I get back to my reports on life in the Loire Valley. More California friends arrive this week and next so things here are going to be very busy.


  1. I think I know where I'll go for a haircut next time I'm in Les Eyzies.

    Once we arrived in the Dordogne on a Sunday night with no food. None of the stores in Le Bugue were open so Lewis and friend went into a place called Le Pub for help. A little while later the two guys came out following a mec who had keys in his hand. He took them to the trunk of his car, opened it and gave them a baguette. The kindness of strangers was at work...

    We had a tin of fois gras and the bread was just what we needed that night.

  2. Evelyn, you can go get your hair cut chez Evelyne in Les Eyzies, or the next time you come to see us I can take you to see Jocelyne Barbier down in the village. She has fans: Walt, me, Charles-Henry, Alfred, and Sue. Among others...

    For supper tonight, I had some pâté de foie de canard spread thinly on sliced bread. Canapés, I think you would call what I made. Delicious. The tin of pâté came back from Sarlat with us. Bises...


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