Tag Archives: Beynac

Autumn 2016 Newsletter

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Hand-crafted and Fully Guided Canoe Trips that combine the pleasures of paddling down tranquil rivers with an insight into the history and natural history of the region whilst we enjoy the local cuisine and stay in small Inns and B&Bs as we make our way gently downstream in beautiful & dramatic countryside.

A Green River Canoes Poster: http://goo.gl/GRZBSF © Steven R House 2014

Autumn Canoeing

On the Vézère, the Dordogne and the Célé rivers in France

You still have time to enjoy a late holiday break to the South of France with us. September & October are great months for paddling, and of course these are wonderful places to canoe in the Autumn.

It is still warm: very often it is still warm enough to swim in the rivers. We have the  7 Days in the Perigord and the 6 Days on the Cele trip. Or you can push both trips together for our 12 Days 3 Rivers tour. The rivers are quiet: we are often the only people on the river, and of course the châteaux and castles and restaurants and wines are as fabulous as ever.

The tours include visiting the 25,000 year old cave paintings in these regions at Lascaux & Pech Merle, and we can fit in visits to other caves if we wish: Castel Merle, Rouffignac and Font de Gaume for example.

The number of châteaux we canoe past is almost too numerous to mention: the Losse, Belcayre and Clérans on the Vézère, the castles at Montfort, Castelnaud and Beynac as well as the châteaux of Marqueyssac, Fayrac and Milandes on the Dordogne and also the Devil’s Castle and the Chateau Cabrerets on the Célé.

We also visit and stay in numerous pretty villages – Les Plus Beaux Villages de France – which include Saint-Léon-sur-Vézère, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, Beynac-et-Cazenac, La Roque-Gageac and Castelnaud-la-Chapelle. With a little bit of effort we can also visit Domme, Cardaillac and Saint-Amand-de-Coly. These are all tiny country villages in stunning settings. We will also visit the regional town of Sarlat-la-Canéda, preferably on market day.

But, of course, rivers are our main focus and the scenery and wildlife are just as stunning in this season and we will have the bonus of autumn colours.

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

Admiring the cliffs on the Célé river, Lot France

6 Day Célé Tour

A 5 Night, 6 Day tour in which  we spend three days paddling the Célé river and a day hiking a section of the Way of St. James. We also visit the cave paintings at Pech Merle. An extra day can be added if we wish to paddle on the Lot river for a day or we can swap the hike day for a paddle day.

On this tour we will stay in a farmhouse above the Célé for the whole tour. This will save us packing & moving on every night. Every day is but a short drive to the river. Not even 20 minutes drive. Our host Richard & Helen will prepare lovely home-made meals for us and we will enjoy the conviviality of their home.

We will rendezvous with our canoes on the first day and then keep them for the three days it will take us to paddle down to the confluence of the Lot river. We will picnic along the way for lunch and stop at the pretty villages along the route. We will also have ample time for little walks & hikes here & there.

Full tour details are here. The brochure is here.

The Chateau de Belcayre on the River Vezere, Perigord, France

The Chateau de Belcayre on the River Vezere, Perigord, France

7 Day Perigord Tour

A 6 Night, 7 Day tour in which we canoe down the Vézère & Dordogne rivers with visits to caves to see 25,000 year-old paintings, troglodyte dwellings along the river, huge castles and beautiful chateaux.

On this tour we spend two days paddling down the Vézère river and 3 days paddling down the Dordogne river.

The Vézère valley is famous for being the ‘valley of man’. Almost 200 sites of Neanderthal and CroMagnon antiquity have been found here. We will see and explore some of them, including the renowned Painted Caves at Lascaux. But the Vézère is also beautiful for other reasons, including fabulous chateaux, stunning scenery and wildlife.

The Dordogne river is  famous for its more recent history, the 11th and 12th Century for example, which are represented by the huge castles we shall pass, which are reminders of the 100 Years War between France & England. We shall paddle past these as well as numerous smaller chateaux  built for more peaceful times. We shall have plenty of time for visiting some of these as well as the stunning villages along the way.

Full tour details are here. The brochure is here.

Beynac on the Dordogne river, France

Beynac on the Dordogne river, France

12 Day 3 Rivers Tour

An 11 Night, 12 Day tour in which we canoe down the Vézère, the Célé & Dordogne rivers by combining the 6 and 7 Day tours above.

Full tour details are here. The brochure is here.

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Guest Blog: Day 8: Last day on the Dordogne

Last day on the Dordogne from Beynac to Siorac-en-Dordogne

We started out the day with a buffet breakfast at the Hotel de Chateau – we changed our itinerary a little for the day due to the possibility of rain around 1 pm.  We have been so lucky with only a little rain part of one day of paddling.

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Last day on the Dordogne river as we start from Beynac

First stop this AM was the river for our first of several short paddles today.  We were just out of our put-in spot when we had 3 choices of channels.  Marlee and I were paddling together today (we have gotten into a good rhythm!) and chose the narrow one that Steve suggested that had heron rookeries along the banks high in the trees.  It was wonderful to see the herons flying all about us – not many people go down this channel so we must have surprised them.  In all of our paddles today on the Dordogne we are skirting around islands and checking out narrow passages – following Steve and Annie!  We never got into any trouble, although Steve had to get out at one point when they were stuck on a log – Marlee and I sailed over it!  Too much great food on this trip for you, Steve!

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Josephine Baker’s beautiful Chateau des Milandes

After about an hour, we take out and are transported by the van up to Chateau Des Milandes, former home of Josephine Baker. Josephine was a former African American burlesque dancer in the US and fell in love with France, moving there in the late 1930’s.  The chateau was built in 1489 and had many owners.  Josephine purchased the chateau in 1947 and called it her “Sleeping Beauty” castle.  We had a wonderful tour of the chateau which contained replicas of many of the same furnishings of those in Josephine’s era.  She had 12 adopted children of different nationalities and several husbands. She unfortunately died destitute in 1975, having been kicked out of her beautiful palace at one point.  She truly was an extraordinary woman, having worked in civil rights with Martin Luther King and also volunteering in the service during WW II along with performing and taking care of her many children.

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A beautiful Eagle Owl at the Chateau des Milandes falconry show

The chateau was magnificently decorated and even had a wonderful Bird Of Prey demonstration out in the garden – one of the best I have seen.  I even got to hold a peregrine falcon!  There was a ferret and several kinds of owls, including the largest owl in France, the eagle owl which magnificent eyes.

Time to paddle another 45 minutes – exploring islands and staying out of the way of nesting swans.  Steve tells us that they can be very aggressive at this nesting time of the year and that we should give them a wide berth.

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Our last picnic together, at Allas-les-Mines, Dordogne

Our last picnic lunch today was at a community center that had a picnic table.  Steve (George) has done an excellent job of providing us with a wonderful variety of foods for lunch – cheeses of France, meats, salad (even with avocados!), fresh French bread, gherkin pickles, potato chips and always some type of fruit and the bar of Belgium chocolate!  Of course the obligatory white and red wine accompanied our picnic! The last few days we also had Lu’s, a chocolate covered shortbread cookie.

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A garden of potted flowers at Beynac

Our last paddle on the Dordogne and of the trip lasts approximately one hour – I am very sad to see this part of the trip end as I am so at peace on the river.  Steve has taught me so much about paddling and I feel so much more comfortable about getting out of a tight situation than on that first day!

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Patty, Marlee and Cheryl at Beynac Castle with the chateaux of Payrac, Marquessac and Castelnaud in the distance

One last castle to visit – the Beynac Castle, built in 1238 by the English, which sits high above the town of Beynac where we are staying.  The views from this castle are amazing – we can see up and down the Dordogne where we have been paddling.  This feudal fortress of Beynac is part of the large system of castles along the Dordogne, which was the division line of the English and French possessions during the 13th century.  Much restoration is going on in this castle.  We walked down and down from this castle right back to our hotel.
In an hour we are off to dinner in another larger village, Sarlat.  We stopped for an aperitif at a local bar and then we were on to dinner at a restaurant recommended by the canoe rental company’s owner.  It was one of the best dinners we had!  It was a late night and we had to prepare for our departure tomorrow.

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Our wonderful travelling group, (L to R), Patty, Cheryl, Paul, Marlee and Annie at Sarlat, Dordogne

Green River Canoes Back Book Cover

Details of this tour can be found here: Green River Canoes 12 Days 3 Rivers

Guest Blog: Day 7: Day 2 on the Dordogne

A day on the Dordogne with Chateaux & Castles

I am looking forward to castles and chateaux today – plus our paddle on the Dordogne from Montfort down to Beynac.  Breakfast at the hotel and we are off again at 9am – directly to the river so we start our paddle early today.

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Marlee approaches the riverside village of Roque-Gageac

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Looking down on the Dordogne river at Roque-Gageac

Our first stop is at the La Roque Gageac, a cliff hugging village built into the rocks.  Here we have coffee and then walk up through the village to see where the rock slide occurred in 1952 originally and then another just 3 years ago.  There are still remnants of where the rock slide wiped out some homes and closed down the street though the town for 2 years back in the 50’s.  It is a beautiful little town with steep streets of cobblestone, a beautiful little church and gorgeous roses.

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(L to R) Cheryl, Marlee, Steve, Patty and Annie at Roque -Gageac

On the river we see baby ducks, herons and the beautiful scenery dotted every now and then with a chateau or castle.  There are old fashioned galleon type “tour” boats on this river so we have to watch for their wakes and also their passage.  There are also many places along the river that rent canoes or kayaks – can’t begin to imagine what this river will look like in the summer!

d30 Approaching Castelnaud Castle

Approaching the castle at Castelnaud on the Dordogne

Next we leave the canoes for a tour of the English Castelnaud Castle – a wonderful old castle with tight spiral staircases, cases of armor, movies explaining about the castle history starting in the 1500’s and how the catapults worked in defending the castle, displays of old weaponry used in medieval times and even a latrine that was merely a hole dropping down into the surrounding countryside – many stories high!  What a surprise that would have been if you were walking under!

f50 Gorgeous views from the top of the castle

Gorgeous views of the Dordogne from the castle at Castelnaud

Next we traveled by van to a local wine tasting store – tasted some local wines and then ogled over all the various pates, salts, wines, candies etc. that they had.  No room in my suitcase for any purchases…….

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The gardens and chateau at Marquessac, Dordogne

Marqueyssac Gardens were next. This is a wonderful formal garden where all the boxwood hedges are trimmed twice a year.  The hedges were being trimmed as we walked through – they use hand trimmers and a string stretched out tightly to make sure the line is exact for trimming!  By the time they finish trimming everything once, it is time to start over!
It was time for our last paddle of the day – Marlee and I are in a groove paddling together now!  It is approximately ½ hour to the next town of Beynac where our hotel, the Hotel de Chateau, sits across from the river after a 2 minute walk.  It also sits directly underneath the Chateau Beynac.

Dinner was in the hotel (I managed to only eat ½ of everything and am not going to bed stuffed tonight!)  Internet is a challenge here as it only works in the lobby area – but we will make it work!  That is all for tonight!

Green River Canoes Back Book Cover

Details of this tour can be found here: Green River Canoes 12 Days 3 Rivers

Canoeing the Vezere & Dordogne in October 2014 (Pt 3)

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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.

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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.

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We admired the glistening white cliffs here as we rounded the bend and got our first view of the village.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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We took a width berth at this place where we saw almost 40 swans gathered in one place.

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It was very beautiful under the canopy of the Autumn leaves in some of the narrower channels.

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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.

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In the end our days on the river were finished and we had to pull up our canoes for a final time.

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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.

28 Reasons to go Canoeing: 15: Discover the river at dawn

Inn to Inn Guided Canoe Trips in France and the Perigord, Dordogne region

Canoeing as the sun rises at Beynac on the Dordogne river, France

Discover the river at dawn

Off for an early start on the river. A long day ahead and a long way to go. I love sliding onto the water before the sun is up. The mist is rolling on the water like vaporous tumbleweed, and the water-fowl, still sleepy, disappear and re-appear.

This is beautiful on an autumn morning. The canoe glides over the water which always seems to be unnaturally calm at the early hour.

On this stretch of the Dordogne in France, if you time your launch correctly, you can look back on the sun rising over the misty Castle Beynac, and turning around can paddle towards the spires and towers of the Chateau Milandes spearing above the mist. Magical times.

 

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Details of our Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips and our brochures.

28 Reasons to go Canoeing: 12: Follow the stars

Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

A night scene from a paddle underneath a full moon passing the Castle at Castelnaud on the Dordogne river in France.

Follow the stars

Have you ever tried canoeing at night? It can be tricky but if you choose a clear night with a full moon and you paddle a stretch of river you have paddled many times before then you are in for a treat.

The water glistens, the stars shine and perhaps a few distant buildings are still lit up. We’ve canoed a stretch of the Dordogne in France where the castles are lit up until midnight. It’s an amazing sight. And then the lights go off and the river regains its own dark beauty.

You have to attune your senses to the sounds of the river as only the faintest glisten gives the movement of the water away. Strange plops and splashes herald some activity by the wild-life perhaps, but you cannot be sure.

Just be careful though and keep a torch handy and I would avoid the rapids!

My photography blog tells the story of a particular night when I went out to take a night time shot of the lights over Beynac castle.

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Details of our Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips and our brochures.