Tag Archives: Dordogne

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 9: Lascaux and farewells

A visit to the Pre-Historic paintings at Lascaux

Our last breakfast together at the Hotel de Chateau in Beynac – everyone is a bit tired and sad that our paddling and exploring with Steve and “George” is over…..  The van is packed and we are off to the Lascaux Caves II, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  These are the world’s most visited painted caves.  The caves were discovered by 2 boys in 1940 and were closed to the public in 1963 due to the fact that the original cave paintings were being harmed by the public.

Lascaux3

Cave Painting at Lascaux II

Cro-Magnon Man created these most amazing paintings of deer, cows, horses and stags, along with various symbols (it is still not known what they represent) 17,000 years ago.  It was important to salvage this unique piece of history so in the 70s, specialists set out to recreate the original cave paintings down to within a centimeter and a new cave was opened 200 meters away from the original cave in 1983.  Our tour started out in French, but then we were able to join an English speaking tour that was right behind us.  It was so much more meaningful for us to have the English guide explain about the animals, how they were painted, how the artist showed that the animal might be running and how animals were superimposed on others.  The colors of red, yellow and black were vibrant and the guide said that in the original cave they were even more vibrant as the humidity in there is about 98% and preserves the colors well.

Lascaux2

Cave Painting at Lascaux II

We are off to Brive and the train station.  Patty & Paul will pick up their car here to continue their travels in the Loire Valley and then on another OAT river cruise.  Annie, Marlee and I board the train back to Paris where we will then catch a taxi to the airport Best Western.  Our train experience was a real adventure.  Apparently the coach that we were supposed to be in was not at the end of the train as planned – so we could never find our seats!  Not speaking the language was a real problem as we did not know what was going on.  We chose any seat and at the next stop we got kicked out of those seats!  Finally moving ahead 6 cars dragging all our luggage through a moving train, we found seats – and were able to complete the journey in those!  Arrived safely at the Best Western 10 minutes from Charles de Gaulle airport.  Tomorrow ends our wonderful adventure here in France – I have a 10:30 AM flight to catch back to the US where I know that Marc & Abby are anxiously awaiting my return!

Steve House of Green River Canoes Ltd and Steve Lines have been wonderful to us – driving us safely everywhere, providing the canoes they rented from various French companies along the rivers, setting up all the lodging and restaurant reservations – but mainly providing us with humor, and a wealth of information.  These guys have known each other since their late teens and early 20s – they played in a band together in England where they were originally were from.  Steve Lines still lives in the southeast part of England and Steve House, co-owner of the company, lives in Antwerp, Belgium.  We so enjoyed their banter with one another and all the funny English sayings that we were privy too.  It was truly a special experience!

Thank you for joining me on this journey to the beautiful country of France – land of beautiful rivers, bustling towns, small quaint flower filled villages and history dating back many thousands of years.

Green River Canoes Back Book Cover

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

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.

a1 5-19 Last day on the Dordogne

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!

e43 Another view of Josephine's beautiful chateau

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.

c23 What a beauty!

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.

e45 Our last picnic together...

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.

f53 A garden of potted flowers

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!

g63 Patty joins us

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.

h75 Our wonderful traveling group

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.

a5 Getting closer - rockslide here closed the road for 2 years b

Marlee approaches the riverside village of Roque-Gageac

c20 Fabulous views

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.

c21 Steve and his ladies

(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…….

g69 Looking down on the chateau

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

Guest Blog: Day 6: Day 1 on the Dordogne

A long day on the Dordogne river, from Cazoulès to Montfort

Sadly we leave the farm today and say good-bye to our wonderful hosts who have provided us with excellent home cooked meals, wine and homemade aperitifs!  We are off at 9 AM on our adventure on the Dordogne River.

It is approximately a 90 minute drive to the river but we make a few stops along the way – explore another little French village, have coffee, & hit the grocery store (Steve needs to stock up for another wonderful picnic lunch).

a6 Getting ready for our adventure on the Dordogne-start at Cazo

Getting ready for our adventure on the Dordogne at Cazoulès

The canoes arrive at the put-in spot promptly at 12 noon and we are off!  This river is much wider and quieter than the Célé – we see several types of birds along the shore and in the water – even a blue heron that we chase down the river and then he flies back over the top of us.

b11 Ready to paddle again!

Ready to paddle again after lunch at Saint-Julien-de-Lampon

There are purple marten nests built into the sand and this is the first time we have seen cormorants also.  We are paddling from Cazoulès to Montfort – we pass by a magnificent chateau high on a hill near our take-out point which is rumored to be owned by a Saudi prince.

b16 Interesting caves and crevices

Interesting caves and crevices on the Dordogne river

We meander past limestone cliffs and marvel at the ferns and other plants growing out of the rocks and we even explore a small cave via our canoes eroded into these rocks. We arrive in the town of Montfort and to our hotel, the Plaisance for our one night stay here.  We relax out on the patio before dinner – it is delightfully warm, a real treat!

c29 Relaxing on the patio

Relaxing on the patio at the Hotel Plaisance, Vitrac

Dinner is at the hotel and a 4 course extravaganza!  I should have had ½ of each course – hate going to bed on such a full stomach – but I am exhausted….  Good night to all!  Another day on the beautiful Dordogne awaits and will be full of castles and chateaux along the river tomorrow!

Green River Canoes Back Book Cover

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

Guest Blog: Day 3: A Paddle to Les Eyzies

Vézère Day 2: Troglodytes and Chapels

Another foggy and drizzly day to start – but then we lucked out and the sun peeked out every now and then in the afternoon!  We have to leave our wonderful host Roland this morning. After some interrogation he reveals he was born and brought up in Hong Kong but is of German descent.  His mother is here from Germany for a while and we see her working in the gardens.

We breakfast, pack the van and we are off for the canoe put-in spot right here in this little village where we stayed. We will paddle from St. Leon to Les Ezyies – a long day of paddling, but not hard at all.

a7 Our last day on the Vezere

Our second and last day on the Vézère

We stopped mid-morning at the La Roque St. Christophe (a city built into the side of the cliff where Cro-Magnon man lived and others followed up until the 1500’s).    It was fascinating to walk along this cliff and see all the makings of a real village built into the walls – safes (assumedly to keep the trading beads in?), slaughter, drying and curing areas, places for weapons, the kitchen, a church, the scaffolding that they built and a huge wheel powered by a man walking through it which helped raise rocks etc. in the rock quarry!    This village was part of a large communications set-up among villages all along the Vézère River – it took 6 minutes for the bugle sound to reach this village from the next nearest!  It was interesting just how much high tech knowledge these early people had!

g67 Our picnic lunch - in the sun!

Our picnic lunch – in the sun!

We floated and paddled, had our picnic on the banks of the river (different types of meats and cheeses, French breads, wonderful hot Dijon mustard, salad (with fresh radishes George bought for me!), Céléry salad, fruit and of course, dark chocolate!!

We passed by many more cliff dwellings and some houses used in present day that are built into the cliff walls.  We all rafted together down the river at one point and it was quite pleasant!

g69 That is more like it!!

Annie & Steve start sprinting. That is more like it!

b11 Interesting rock with holes

Interesting rock with holes

b12b Made it out!

Steve and Cheryl taking it easy

g60 Another building in the rocks

La Madeleine: a prehistoric rock shelter with a troglodyte 11th century Chapel & Castle

Tonight we dine in this cute little village of Les Eyzies – our hotel is right in the heart of the village and very cute – I have had the windows opened wide and watched the people in the square below me.

After we had a walk around the village which is only one block long, nestled in between the cliffs where more houses are built and the Vézère River. This town is in the middle of duck country – there are stores everywhere that sell Foie gras – would love to bring some home but was stopped at customs the last time I tried that!   Dinner was another gastronomic event with lots of wine, great food and conversation and certainly lots of laughs – fell into bed at 10:30pm!

Green River Canoes Back Book Cover

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

Guest Blog: Day 2: Vézère: Chateaux and Locks

On the Vézère with Chateaux and Locks

Another cool and overcast day with rain forecast at midday – but it will be our first day on the river – yea!  Some went for a walk with Steve at 6:30 but I opted out this morning – spent some time in the lounge checking e-mail as that is the only place I can get wi-fi.  I was not up for getting up at 6am! Breakfast was at 8am – typical European breakfast with cold cuts, cheese, cereal, yogurt, croissants, coffee and juice.  We were ready to leave the inn at 9:15am.

a1 Our inn

Our inn: the Relais de la Côte de Jor, St. Leon-sur-Vézère

After stowing dry bags and such in the van, Steve, Marlee, Ann and I took a path down to the village where we meet the canoes – about a 40 min walk.  Beautiful stone walls, summer houses awaiting their occupants, wildflowers, rows of walnut trees just starting to leaf out, white horses who came running to greet us – all part of the experience.  We gather paddles, life jackets and then follow the trailer with the canoes to the put-in spot.
From here we walked up to the town of Montignac where we grab coffee, or an éclair while the “Steves” do some errands.  Finally around 11:30 we are finally on the Vézère River!

c20 Finally - what we came here to do!!

Getting ready at Montignac on the Vézère river

I am paddling with Steve in the stern – I am lucky!  He is a wealth of information as we paddle the quiet river, sometimes with a few ripples, past verdant river banks, 10th century chateaux sitting high above us with ivy hanging down from the cliffs, waterfalls flowing rapidly, waddle tail birds, sandpipers, gray herons and 3 ancient 18th century locks that kept the river traffic running when there were dams on this river until the railways were built.

Steve (aka George – nicknamed by me as he called me Patty in the beginning of the trip!) prepared a delicious picnic lunch for us along the banks of the river – it was fun despite a light rain falling.  Here we also explored the sleepy little village of Sergeac, so quaint and lovely with blooming gardens and cozy looking French homes made of limestone.

c24 Cheryl paddles with Steve

Cheryl paddles with Steve

d30 Steve & I approach a small waterfall

Steve & I approach a small waterfall

Another 30 minute paddle in the rain brought us back to our village of St. Leon where we took out and climbed in the van for another adventure.

 

e41 One last look

One last look at the Chateau du Losse on the Vezere river

We stopped at the Rouffignac Caves – only 10 million years old!  These caves are all natural as they were found and contain so many interesting features.  We take a little train through the corridors of the cave with a guide speaking in French and occasionally in English for the 5 of us.  The further and further that we got into the caves, the more interesting it became.  20,000 years ago, bears inhabited these caves and made huge crater-like depressions in the floor rocks as they hibernated.  They also made many scratchings on the rock walls as when they awoke, they needed to trim their nails!

Deeper into the cave it became apparent that man had also inhabited this area – but 14,000 years ago.  There were many etchings on the walls of hippos, bison, woolly mammoth, big horn sheep, horses etc. In some places there was even some graffiti on the ceilings – these were done by “modern” visitors who were not aware of the prehistoric drawings further on in the caves. Some of the animal etchings were superimposed to make it seem like the animals were running and some were even pregnant.  It was hard to imagine in some of the areas where men had to actually lie on their backs due to the low ceiling to make these etchings. It was quite mind boggling to see these ancient etchings of another civilization!

g65 Toasting with pastis!

Toasting with pastis!

Back to our inn, time for a shower and then we are off to dinner at 7:20.  We ate in town again – a 5 minute drive by van.  My duck confit was absolutely delicious and we had laugh after laugh after laugh – a great group and great guides!  Per Steve 2 or “George”, we are going through the group dynamics of “Forming, Norming, Storming and Performing” – he was a psychiatric nurse at one time and has done much psychiatric counseling – guess we all need that!!  Ha! Ha! But whatever it is, the group is certainly working and we are having a great time and a lot of laughs!

Green River Canoes Back Book Cover

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