Travels Through The Dordogne ~ Travel Diaries Series Part 4
22nd July. We’ve left Montignac behind, heading further South on our travels through the Dordogne in France. This gives our first glimpse of some prehistoric Troglodyte villages. These fascinating ancient dwellings are carved into the rock face and La Roque Saint Christophe is a fine example.
So without hesitation, we take a left turn off the scenic route below the main attraction. Before we know it, we’re parking in a large woody area, which is empty because for once, we’re early!
La Roque Saint Christophe – Travels Through the Dordogne
A short walk takes us passed a cafe towards the entrance, which also has a shop and information. To be honest, we don’t normally visit this sort of thing anymore. It’s resigned to the “used to do that with the children” memory. However, today, we feel like familiarising ourselves with these fascinating structures.
By the way, it’s a 10 Euro entrance fee and Nige isn’t too keen to pay. Instead, he reluctantly comes along, not wanting to miss out on what I’d only tell him about later, if he didn’t come too.
The Longest Rock Shelter in Europe
Ahead are groups waiting for a guided tour, so we dart through the gate to beat the crowds. Now, we’re in the village, stretching out in what seem like layers through a cliff face. Then, various room-like areas come into sight, in what was once a whole village.
Unbelievably, this Troglodyte village sits 300 feet above the ground and is over half a mile long, making it the longest rock shelter in Europe. On top of that, it’s roots go back 55,000 years, so this is one important attraction.
Today, you can see where everything’s laid out, from a reconstructed area displaying weapons once used to the primitive kitchen area.
Whilst walking below the huge rock overhang of the colossal shelter, brings great views across the countryside and down to the Vézere river below. To be honest, it doesn’t take long to get round. At the end of the day, we think it’s a good introduction to these hillside dwellings, found throughout the region.
From the intriguing Troglodyte dwellings, we venture on to another fascinating location at Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil.
Here we head straight for the Aire in the village. Luckily it provided some shady spots, out of the heat and this free-form style parking is actually really good. First of all, there’s nooks and crannies between hedged off sections, providing secluded little parking areas. Then it’s quite roomy, so you don’t feel on top of each other. We choose a little corner with plenty of trees to keep in the shade, it would be great if all Aires were still like this one.
We remember passing the Aire here back in 2005, but not quite realising what it was. If anything, it seems to be slightly less hemmed in, so we wonder if they’ve moved it along towards the end of the mixed parking.
Getting a bit confused
Besides motorhome parking, the one thing France is very good at is walking signs. So, after lunch, we began a route starting from the Aire and heading out towards somewhere called The Gorge d’Enfer otherwise known as Hells Gorge.
The forest type path lead us up above the village before winding back towards our starting point. Unfortunately, something went wrong because we never actually found what we thought we were looking for – a gorge! Instead, we now think the actual Gorge d’Enfer is prehistoric carving’s which you pay to see just before walking uphill through a a wooded gorge.
If anyone knows, please tell, because we got a little confused. Anyway, the walk was lovely, taking us through wooded trails before leading back to the village, roughly a 10km circular route.
Food and a Fete ~ Travels through the Dordogne
Well back at base, exhausted from the walk, we realise there’s an evening fête about to start. Les Eyzies by the way is another Troglodyte village, with dwellings carved into the rock face above the road. Its location beside the river is just beautiful, with a small centre of shops and eateries built out of stone.
It’s Friday night and the French are doing what they do best – food. So bang on 7pm we followed the music toward the Mairie’s lawned area where various stalls have set up for the night.
The smell of local produce cooking over hot stoves fills the air. There’s refractory tables lined up in rows, wine stalls and crepes but the main food of thought here in the Dordogne is Fois Gras. I’m not a fan, although I’ve only ever tried it once before, I’m not keen on opting for it again.
Fois Gras and Canard
But, this is the Dordogne, so I take the plunge and order a hot fois gras whilst Nigel orders Magret de canard from the busy, smokey stall. Soon both dishes arrive, handed to us on a bed of hot roast potatoes.
By now, the tables to sit and eat are full to the brim, eventually we manage to squeeze between some obliging locals.
The food is full of flavour, but a little too rich and stomach churning for my liking! Fois Gras has an almost silk-like texture, a cross between blancmange and hot pâté, after a few mouthfuls I’m done!
Nigel in the meantime decided to buy a local bottle of Rosé, which goes down better with each sip. We weren’t going to have a dessert, but then a couple of friendly French guys plonk themselves opposite and offer a share of their patisserie selection. That did very nicely thank you!