A Trip to the Perigord in September 2014 (Part 3)

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A mishap this morning meant we missed each other for our pre-breakfast walk. Bob was apparently somewhere trying to get a wi-fi connection. I just walked a small loop around the villages up to Pech Malet where we usually stay and around the castle in the early misty light. I also went down the cliff path to make sure the canoe was still there. It was.

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At breakfast we chatted to a couple from New Zealand who were on a driving holiday. I suggested to them that they might visit the Cele valley an hours drive further south and told them about the charms of the place and the cave paintings at Pech Merle. I also told them about my friend Richard & Helen at the Metarie Basse in that region. A great place to stay. I had an email later to tell me that they had actually taken up my advice. I was pleased with that.

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After breakfast we packed and carried our gear back down to the river. Ahead of us we had a day of visiting small riverside towns and huge castles before arriving at Beynac. We slipped into the stream and began by disturbing the ducks bobbing about the place. As usual we were alone on the river with not even a fisherman to be seen.

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After leaving the castle and casting a long look back we tackled a series of three islands as we came around the bend. We paddled quietly down the narrow side of the first two and then expanded some effort to cross channels to the quicker water on the far side of the third island. This was just to enjoy the choppy water. After that we took the quiet route again at the island opposite the Plage de Soleil and generally meandered about the river as we saw fit. As usual herons lazily lifted into the air in front of us and the ducks made various complaints. We drifted under the cliff at Vitrac bridge and then took the long straight where we could see the village of Domme towering above the river. I’ve never managed to visit this place as it is a stiff and long climb from the river bank.

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We then approached the bridge at Cenac. This is where Christophe has his canoe base for Canoe Raid. Always feel a bit sad here as we used to stop and visit Christophe’s father George and sometimes have a snifter of Port or Pastis.

The river speeds up a little at this point and on the next stretch it gets a bit bouncy and you have to negotiate some rock fields. It’s no fun hitting a rock head-on and being catapulted to the front of the boat!

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Before long we approach the high white cliffs as the river takes a right-angled bend and approaches Roque-Gageac. As we come into town we have to dodge the famous Gabarre tourist boats which are replicas of the trading boats that used to take the wine barrels downstream to Bordeaux. If they are going fast enough we can have some fun on the bow wave.

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We pull up in the small town for some refreshments. Sometimes a small market is running, but not today. Bob goes off to run around the town whilst I sit down for a beer. The narrow streets off the only road through the village are an intricate maze of steps and paths.

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Suitably refreshed we re-embark for the next leg of the journey down to Castelnaud. It only takes us half an hour but we spend the time spinning the boat around to admire the view in both directions as we leave Roque-Gageac and approach Castelnaud. We also make sure that we are on river left so that we can fully appreciate the size and grandeur of the castle at Castelnaud.

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After we pull the canoe up the beach at Castelnaud we take a break for lunch – the usual kind of picnic. I then show Bob the footpath that leads up to the castle on an ancient Roman road and then leave him to to visit it. I, meanwhile, return to the riverbank to watch the canoe and have a pleasant doze in the sun.

Some hours later we return to the river for the last leg of the day as we paddle the 30 minutes down to Beynac.

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We slip past the castle under the imposing cliff and arrive at the boat ramp at the end of town. We put our canoe out of the way on a grassy bank and slip into the Hotel Chateau where we are staying tonight. In the late afternoon we have time for a quick dip in the pool before changing for dinner on the terrace overlooking the river.

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In the morning we manage not to get confused and go for our regular pre-breakfast walk. We walk along the river front before taking a back road up to the castle. Unfortunately I miss a turning onto a footpath – when I’m back here in October I look more carefully and can see that a sign has been deliberately broken that points the way. Anyway today we just follow the road up the castle and from there we can admire the views up and down the valley.

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We then take the usual route down through the village on the cobbled lanes enjoying the views over the roof-tops as we go.

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After breakfast we re-consider our plans. We have no hotel booked for tonight anywhere downstream. I had thought we might stay in Siorac. My plans are to return to Paris but Bob has to get to the rendezvous on the Loire to begin his cycling holiday. We decide that if possible we will paddle down to Siorac as originally planned but then catch a train late this afternoon and get as far as Limoges, stay the night there, and then go our separate ways the following morning. In view of this Bob decided to forgo a visit to Beynac Castle as it doesn’t open until 10am anyway. Off we go then for our last day on the river.

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For some reason I don’t have many photographs of this last day on the river, but we cruised out of Beynac and took the right-most branch at the island there in the hope of seeing some Nutrias. We didn’t – though we did see some swans – we were careful to keep our distance.

In 20 minutes or so we arrived at the take-out for the Cahteau Milandes, famous for the Josephine Baker story. We weren’t that rushed so Bob had some time to visit the chateau before we continued.

We then meandered down the river dodging in and out of various islands and sometimes taking the fast water as we went. It was a very enjoyable day. I like this stretch. You almost always have the river to yourself.

Finally however we reached the bridge at Siorac and pulled over at the beach at the little hut owned by the Canoe Raid outfitters. Unfortunately they could not rendezvous with us as they had other clients to deal with but they had left Bob’s luggage in the hut and all we had to do was break-in and get it! (Not really – they’d left it open).

We found somewhere to have lunch and then we traipsed up through the village to the railway station. A few minutes later the little train rattled along and we jumped in. The end of a fine trip. Thanks Bob.

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