Canoeing the Dordogne

Welcome to the Dordogne!  The Dordogne is a valley in the west of France in the Aquitane region between the Loire valley and the Northern Pyrenees. We traveled here by car for the 4 hour trip from Carcassonne.  The drive was beautiful. We were lucky enough to stay in the heart of the medieval quarter of the village of Sarlat in a 13th century villa called  La Villa des Consuls. Sarlat developed around a Benedictine abbey founded in the late 8th century in the heart of the Périgord Noir and grew to a thriving medieval village in the 13th century.  The area is known for it’s truffles and ceppes (another delicious mushroom). Our first evening there we took in the sights and sounds of the storybook village and enjoyed a wonderful dinner at a Michelin rated restaurant called Les jardins d’harmonie, where we tried the delicious truffles and ceppes. This part of France reminds us of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. You feel like Belle might just come around the corner singing on her way to the market! The next morning we had breakfast in the village La Roque de Gagerac and discussed how we would spend our day.  We all agreed: Canoeing down the Dordogne river!  We drove over to a nearby village called Vitrac, rented 2 canoes and got a map of the river. Jack and Daddy shared one canoe and Mommy, Ava and I in the other. We raced to the first bridge, the girls won, and then we all went at a leisurely pace. We passed several little villages built into the rock. We had stopped at one for breakfast earlier. The mountains and cliffs the villages were built into were spectacular. The houses were built up so high. There were a lot of steps in the cliff villages, very steep steps. It was almost like climbing down a Mayan Temple, except instead of seeing rain forests, you saw mountains and valleys all green and yellow with red and orange rooftops. On the map, it said we must pass under 3 bridges before we get to Castle Nord, there we would get lunch and explore. After that, there was only 2 more bridges before our final destination. About two hours later, we reached Castle Nord. We pulled our canoes onto the beach and looked straight up above us to our destination.  It was beautiful, but it was going to be quite a climb! When we reached the top we watched a demonstration of how a trebuchet worked. It was very interesting, I had no idea how much work went into shooting one boulder. They had to tie this and pull that, by the time you got it ready, half of your army would be destroyed. We then toured the castle before heading back to the canoes. They had remodeled every room to look exactly like it did when people lived there. There were bridges and ruins and armor. They had actual swords and boulders that they used in the trebuchet on display as well.  The view from the top of Castle Nord was spectacular. We relaxed and enjoyed the warm sun and gentle breeze as we gazed out over the Dordogne river snaking its way through the verdant countryside. After a  chocolate crepe, we got back into our canoes and paddled to the drop off. We went back to Vitrac where our car was waiting for us. When we arrived, we got into the car and drove back Sarlat. We got dressed into warm clothes and got paninis and gelato. We explored the city some more and visited the shops. We followed the twists and turns of alleyways and saw some pretty French houses. Soon after returning to the hotel, we fell into a deep and peaceful sleep, preparing for the day ahead. Below is a photo of the villa we stayed in.  We loved napping and people watching from that beautiful terrace. Au revoir Sarlat! Be sure to scroll down to see all of the photos!

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