Thursday, 8 January 2015
Canoeing the Vezere & Dordogne in October 2014 (Pt 3)
After a leisurely breakfast we returned to the canoes and began our day on the river. We will be visiting castles and villages along the way until we get to our next hotel at Beynac. First of all we slide along the river until we reach the cliff and bridge at Vitrac.
Then it was the long straight stretch with the village of Domme looming on the cliff ahead of us. A layer of mist hung over the river but we could already tell that it was going to be another hot day. After coming under the Domme cliff we arrived at the Cenac bridge and a stretch of bumpy water taking us along to Roque-Gageac.
We admired the glistening white cliffs here as we rounded the bend and got our first view of the village.
At Roque-Gageac we pulled over at a canoe outfitters as some restoration work was going on at the public place. Since a major cliff-fall at the village a couple of years ago they have rebuilt the river wall and road in front of the village. It looks smart too. The only downside is that some parts of the higher village are now permanently closed off - you can no longer walk up to the troglodyte cave dwellings above the village. Some of the cliffs are now also covered with a metal mesh.
Steve and I did take the time to walk around the village on this visit, something I haven't done myself for quite a while.
Some of the footpaths around the back of the village are also impassable these days - as being deemed unsafe. We still managed to see most of it though.
After some refreshments in the hot sun we got back in the boats to start the next leg of the paddle down to Castelnaud - not forgetting to look back at the picturesque Roque-Gageac as we left.
In no time at all we were arriving at Castelnaud where we took our guests up the hill so they could visit the splendid castle.
As we had plenty of time we also took our guests to visit the Chateau Marqueyssac which sits opposite the castle on the other side of the Dordogne. This was built to spy on the first castle but is now home to an extravagant and formal topiary garden. We sat down and had our picnic lunch here too whilst admiring the views over the countryside.
We walked back to the river from here visiting a cave on the way where we tasted some of the local wines. At the river bank our canoes we still there and we were able to paddle the last stretch of the day down to Beynac. Just another half-an-hour on the water.
We soon approached the canoe ramp at the end of town and pulled ourselves ashore. Our hotel is just a step across the street so in no time at all we were sitting in the sun having a beer and reflecting on our day on the river.
In the morning we walked up through the village to visit the castle as soon as it opened its doors. This castle has quite a different feel from it than the one at Castelnaud. They were mortal enemies during the 100 Years War between France and England.
It was a very pleasant walk in the early morning sunshine as we descended back down the village to the river-side where we began to make preparations for our last day on the river.
We slipped into the water and immediately took the passage on the right side of the island just below Beynac. This is the quieter, slower side and I always hope to see something. Perhaps a Nutria gliding into the water or some Eagle Owls roosting. This island also has a large Heronry in the centre which can have dozens of birds in the spring-time. Today we see a couple of pairs of Swans and some quite grown-up cygnets.
As soon as we are back in the main stream we are under the railway bridge with the Chateau Milandes in the distance. In fifteen minutes we approach the ramp here and pull up our canoes for a visit. This is the place made famous by Josephine Baker and it is interesting to visit the castle and gardens and learn more about her and her life.
After our visit we had our picnic lunch at the JB memorial in the lower village which has tables in the shade of a large tree. It was then time to begin our last paddle by continuing on down to Siorac.
Our guests Nancy & Mitch were in a bit of a hurry so they scootered off whilst Linda and I took every opportunity to explore every island and to take our time on the river. It was a beautiful day for it and though we got into some shallow scrapes as we meandered down the path less travelled we had a very enjoyable afternoon.
We took a width berth at this place where we saw almost 40 swans gathered in one place.
It was very beautiful under the canopy of the Autumn leaves in some of the narrower channels.
At some places I had to get out and drag the canoe 'African Queen' style through the shallower sections. It was fun though and I think Linda enjoyed the Katherine Hepburn role.
In the end our days on the river were finished and we had to pull up our canoes for a final time.