Tag Archives: Green River Canoes

Digital Detox Holidays

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

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

Internet Under Control

Do you have the internet under control? Do you continuously check your Emails, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the rest. Do you have several and multiple conversations going on at once in various messengers & chats? Do you have dozens of tabs open on your browser?

Could you check your email just three times a day, visit Twitter five times, check Facebook once instead of what it is now a constant binge?

Could you take a day off, a technological Sabbath? Could you go a week on a Digital detox?

Do you suspect your online life is richer more real and more intense than your actual life? Are you the online wit who has nothing to say in real life?

This constant disruption is surely the enemy of creating anything: anything of depth and substance.

This is what novelist Jonathan Franzen had to say:

“When I’m working, I need to isolate myself at the office, because I’m easily distracted and modern life has become extremely distracting. Distraction pours through every portal, especially through the internet. And most of what pours through is meaningless noise. To be able to hear what’s really happening in the world, you have to block out 99% of the noise.”

Perhaps it is time to take a break.

We are obviously not going to go back to a pre-internet world, but we should be able to determine a way of living with it and still be creative and pro-active.

It should be possible to re-learn what the world was like before it, even if it is just a small holiday from the all encompassing reality of connectedness. After all that’s is what our fathers did when they learnt what holidays were for and realised that their fathers hadn’t had holidays at all. It’s surely time to turn our backs on the maelstrom of being constantly ‘on’ and to try and find that space & time to switch ‘off’ and re-connect in those older more ancient ways.

“The place we need to get to is one where we can move between offline and digital worlds and we’re in control, rather than bobbing on the ocean of messages and updates that sweep us this way and that.” Dr Richard Graham, consultant psychiatrist specialising in technology addiction at the Nightingale hospital in London.

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

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

Canoe Touring Holidays

Firstly our holidays are not strictly digital detox. We don’t throw your devices in the river and we do go to [some] places that have wi-fi.

We do seriously endeavour though to persuade you to let go.

In the first place we encourage you to go online only in the privacy of your own room. In this way when you are in the social space of breakfast or lunch or dinner you are being sociable with those who you are actually with and not those half-way around the world. This also separates work from play. We really try to persuade you to leave work behind, but if you cannot then it’s probably best if you are doing it alone, so you can concentrate, and perhaps get it done and dusted.

Secondly we remind you that technology and water is not a great mix. We’ve seen many phones and cameras disappear into the river. If you must bring it with you then you make sure it is in a waterproof jacket: preferably two, one inside the other. If you do spill the canoe and your belongings end up afloat or sinking at least they have some chance of surviving.  Of course being inaccessible like this increases the chance they will not be used.

Which is a bit of a nuisance if you are a keen photographer. Which is a dilemma. Do you risk using a camera in a wobbly canoe. Would you exchange a cheap waterproof camera for your fancy DSLR? I can assure you that it is not easy to canoe and photograph at the same time – and I of course do it all the time.

The places where we paddle however have several advantages in the digital detox stakes. Very often we are paddling in deep gorges very far from wi-fi services and more often than not with terrible phone connections – even when you can see the mobile towers perched on the cliff far above you. In many of these places you couldn’t get a connection even if you wanted too. After a while it becomes tiresome to even attempt it and after several days of this kind of nonsense it becomes natural to disavow your telephone. Don’t throw it in the river though. Just file it away in your bag. It could be handy later.

So that’s meal-times and on-water times technology free. How about the other times? Well, the other social times are spent perhaps in cafes and bars where the same rules apply as at lunch and dinner. Anyway why would you want to spoil the atmosphere by rummaging about for your phone. You’re here, now, and in need of a long cold drink. You’re exhilarated by the achievement of getting your boat thus far and tremulous about the hours of watery activity ahead. Their is absolutely no need to complicate your day any further. All you have to think about is when you should be drawing and when you should be prying to keep your canoe relatively on the straight and narrow. You can practise your J-stroke and cross-draw in your mind or instead take a quick nap in the warm sun.

If like me you like to rise early and go for a walk before breakfast then you are welcome to join me. I can’t say I’m very voluble in the morning. I’m definitely not. All the same I wouldn’t want to be walking alongside you whilst you’re on the phone. At that time in the morning I just want to enjoy the birdsong and the sunrise and watch the mist rising in the valley below. Cameras don’t count as modern technology though do they? I am allowed to take photographs, yes?

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

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

Peace & Quiet

Just because your are digitally disconnected (and I don’t mean you’ve lost your fingers) you shouldn’t expect a spiritual awakening. But even a couple of days off can be an intense experience. You should feel  refreshed, and not just because of the lack of contact with the outside world after all you’ve been in contact with a closer world, a world of the here and now.

All you have done is swap the contact with the remote with those close by. The most likely time to be distracted by mobile devices is when you’re with the people closest to you.

Whether you are cut out for the monk’s life or not, a digital detox is an ideal opportunity to take some time out and recharge.

A few days digital-free and a few days off-grid and you’ll be ready to re-join the mainstream once again.

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A Gabarre boat as we approach Roque-Gageac on the Dordogne river, Perigord, France

Another List

Here are some reasons to do a digital detox. Some ideas to motivate you if and when you do decide to switch off.

If you are fed-up of pinging demands, an overflowing inbox, and are feeling overloaded, a digital detox can be the way to achieve balance in the digital world. It might just give you the boost you need.

These are some reasons why a digital detox makes sense.

  • to take a step back from technology now and again.
  • to make space to think, connect to yourself, and connect to the people around you.
  • to break the incessant checking of phones, social media and email.
  • to find time to do whatever it is that you want time for. Read. walk, sing.
  • to find  time for yourself.
  • to catch up on sleep.
  • to break the cycle of being ‘always available’ or ‘on call’.
  • to be able to put your phone down.
  • to stay productive.
  • to slow things down.
  • to change your perspective about using technology.
  • to question and notice the ways you’ve become dependent on, reliant on or addicted to certain digital platforms or media. (It’s easier to observe your behaviour when you take a step back.)
  • to have dinner without a phone at the table.
  • to have conversations that meander and make you think and bring up questions that aren’t answered by google.
  • to form memories. To have experiences for the sake of the experience, not for the sake of posting.
  • to give your brain a break from digital processing. Information overload is a serious issue. Recharging is healthy.
  • so you can return to the digital with energy and fresh ideas.
  • because good ideas tend to appear while you’re switched off.
  •  to reclaim your time.
  • to find a balance that works for you.
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Rock formations in the village of Montfort beside the Dordogne river, Perigord, France

How to Digitally Detoxify

A digital detox is simply switching off all your digital devices (phones, tablets, laptops, computers, game devices and all the rest) for a certain length of time.

At least for 24 hours.

Prepare for your digital detox by considering these things:

Find Your Motivation

Remind yourself why you want to do a digital detox. Is it to recharge your batteries? Do you want more thinking time? Or to spend extra time with family and friends?

Find Your Time

Choose a time for your digital detox that is realistic. Weekends and holidays are best. Tell anyone you need to that you’ll be away from your email and phone. Perhaps you should announce on social media that you will be offline for a while.

Make some plans

Plan enjoyable activities for your switched off time. Try cooking, walking, or spending time with friends and family. Pick up a neglected hobby or spend time reading. Choose to explore where you live in or somewhere new. Spending time in nature or try outdoor activities and sports.

Enjoy the Time

During a digital detox, there tends to be a feeling of having plenty of time (rather than rushing against time). You may well sleep better, think more clearly and more deeply, and feel re-energised. Enjoy the change and notice your reaction to not being on.

The Digital Return

The return to the digital world can be overwhelming: a huge pile of information and multiple demands. Use the perspective gained from the detox and redefine what is urgent, what is important, and what doesn’t even need to be done. Unsubscribe to any email lists you no longer need. Try new behaviours, such as checking email or social media less frequently.

Repeat & Reach for the Off Button

A digital detox needn’t be a one-off experience. Plan your next digital detox. Try a longer time off, or try making a digital detox a regular part of your week. Once you’ve done so you’ll probably be reaching for the off button again.

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Slow Travel, Slow Canoeing

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Approaching the Château de Belcayre on the Vezere river, Perigord, France with Nancy & Mitch

The Slow Movement

The Slow Movement began from Slow Food which is an international movement founded by Carlo Petrini in 1986. It was promoted as an alternative to fast food,  and it strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and encourages farming characteristic of the local area.

Its goals of sustainable foods and promotion of local small businesses are matched by a political intent directed against globalization and particularly that of agricultural products.

What started as a philosophical stance against the onward rushing of modern life and the general speeding up of busyness and business has become a paean of a new approach to living based on sustainability, localism and the environment.

The objectives can be summarised as:

  • celebrate local foods and the traditions that go with them
  • preserve heirloom varieties of foodstuffs by creating seed banks
  • organize regional cuisine festivals
  • promote “taste education” and educate about the dangers of agribusiness, monoculture and fast food.
  • develop various political strategies to preserve family farms and encourage organic farming
  • lobby against government funding of genetic engineering & pesticides
  • teach gardening skills and encourage ethical decision making

This cultural initiative has since grown into a way of life known as the Slow Movement, which emphasizes connection – connection to food, connection to families and, in the case of travel, connection to local peoples and cultures.

Beynac on the Dordogne river, France

Beynac on the Dordogne river, France

Slow Travel

Slow travel is not so much a particular mode of transportation as it is a mindset. Rather than attempting to squeeze as many sights or cities as possible into each trip, the slow traveller takes the time to explore each destination thoroughly and to experience the local culture.

The key is slowing down and making the most of each moment of your holiday.

Going slow is not about doing everything slow it is simply a  reminder  that we need to stop rushing through life so fast that we lose track of ourselves. We need to stop applying the same high speed to everything that we do.  Certain things are not meant to be rushed. Learn to slow down when life really matters. We need to stop doing everything at once. Less multitasking – more present and mindful. Focus on the now.

Skimming through life on the surface brings little meaning and leaves us feeling empty and without a purpose. Go slow and deep.

We need to slow down and find the energy to get involved with the world that we live in. In our high-speed society we barely have the time to get involved with our own lives let alone the neighbours or the communities. But there are real problems that need to be addressed and we should all find the time to contribute.

Perhaps the defining elements of slow travel is the opportunity to become part of local life and to connect to a place and its people. Slow travel is also about connection to culture and nature.

In addition it is about not letting the anticipation of arrival undermine the pleasure of the journey. By choosing to travel slowly, we reshape our relationship with place and with the communities through which we pass on our journeys.

Linda and the Chateau Milandes on the Dordogne river, France

Linda and the Château Milandes on the Dordogne river, France

Slow Canoeing

Canoeing, of course, isn’t necessarily slow, as anyone who has been white-water paddling can attest. And this is of course invigorating and exciting and thrilling and slightly dangerous too.

Green River Canoes however generally do things the slow way. The green in our name is the opposite of white. We paddle calm and tranquil rivers.

Everything we do is slow, and calm.

Especially the rivers. Our aim is to immerse ourselves in the countryside and watch the world go by like Ratty & Mole in Wind of the Willows. The river essentially does the work and all we have to do is keep the boat from spinning and knocking into the banks and otherwise getting into a muddle. Our tours are eminently suitable to those who have never paddled before, those who didn’t even know they wanted to paddle and children.

Even if we do take things slowly however I should point out that we do take things seriously & safely too. We give elementary paddling lessons if required and a reminder every morning about being careful on the water. It’s important to us not to neglect these things.

So even if we are drifting casually downstream our guides on the river have one eye open (at least) for possible surprises. Not that these are very likely as we have paddled our rivers many times over the years and we think we know every nook & cranny. We don’t however and rivers can always bring a surprise.

So we are drifting and casually paddling and letting our minds drift as we listen to the ripples and the birdsong. The heat bears down and we balance it with a hand in the cool river, letting some drops trickle down the paddle onto our bare arms.

The smells and sounds of spring, or summer or autumn, lull our senses and our enjoyment of life in the slow lane is suddenly jolted by the flap of a heron rising, or the flash of a kingfisher or the rush of a flight of ducks coming in to land.

Eventually the river meanders around a bend that brings our attention from nature to culture. A beautiful and ornate château perhaps or a splendid castle, grim on the cliffs. And then we’ll have some stories to tell of past tales of war & passion. We have plenty of time to casually paddle to the bank and pull our boats ashore.

A slow walk up the hill – these châteaux and castles are always on a hill – gives us time to admire all kinds of things. Firstly the houses and gardens of those that live in these tiny villages. Then the sequence of history that we pass. A Roman road, a Romance Church, a graveyard with 19c monuments and crosses, and then the place itself with evidence of its 11c beginnings, its medieval fortifications and its 17c ornamentation and refinement and finally the 20c accoutrements of modernness: telephone wires and satellite dishes. These places are always worth a slow visit. Especially if it is hot.

A short while later we will perhaps take a short break and sit in a cafe with a cold drink or an ice-cream and watch the world go by. It is summer in France. Somehow it seems natural to do things the slow way. Everyone here seems so natural at it.

And so it goes. A lazy picnic lunch. A long slow evening meal in the long evening light of a local restaurant. Our evenings are relaxed and informal. We stay in ‘not quite’ remote places in small villages and with hoteliers that we have known for many years and that have become friends.

Even the museums and caves (where the 25,000 year old paintings are) we visit are guided by familiar faces. The same can be said of our canoe outfitters. On the first trip to every river in the season it is like meeting friends again after a winter break. Everything is easy and routine. A hug here and a kiss there. Perhaps a stiff shake of hands. A few brief remarks about adventures taken during the winter months and then the inevitable chat about how the river has fared: the rain fallen, the floods, the trees down and all the slow rest of it.

It is the general case that nothing much seems to have happened at all. But of course it has. The seasons have rolled around and things are much as they ever were. The same and yet not quite the same. Just like us really.

Célé, Inn-to-Inn Guided Canoe Trips

On the ‘English Trail, in the Célé valley, Lot, France

Slow Principles

Notwithstanding the fact that nobody should prescribe how you  travel. Here are some thoughts which might appeal to those interested in exploring slow travel.

Start at home. The key to slow travel is a state of mind. That can be developed at home.

Get there slowly. Avoid flying if at all possible. Travel the longer slower way. Use ferries, buses and trains (and not always the high-speed trains). Slow travel restores the connection with landscape.

Don’t let the anticipation of arrival eclipse the pleasure of the journey.

Use the local markets and shops.

Use the local cafes. Sitting in a café, you become part of the community and not merely a passing observer.

Try the local languages and dialects and learn a few phrases. Try reading a local newspaper.

Choose accommodation and eating options that are appropriate to the area where you are travelling. Try the regional specialities.

Do what the locals do, not only what the guidebooks say, and look out for local events, fetes, fayres, concerts, films and shows.

Savour the unexpected. Delayed trains or missed connections create new opportunities.

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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Canoeing the Vezere & Dordogne in October 2014 (Pt 2)

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After breakfast we strolled down the lane into the village of St. Leon and back to the canoes we had left on the river bank. In no time at all we have got out life-jackets and paddles, have loaded up our canoes and are on our way.

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It’s a beautiful Autumn morning, a little cool, but with a promise of some warmth later in the day. We are surrounded by the subtle fall colours of the leaves and trees around us. Mostly pale yellows and golds and browns. A small flotilla of floating leaves accompany us downstream.

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After an hour or so we pull over at Roque St. Christophe to visit the museum cut into the cliff. The old grooves in the cliff cut by this river millions of years ago were once used as shelter by various peoples – even as late as the Middle Ages – even as late as World War II as it is reputed that contraband was hidden here even then.

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An hour later we are back on the water and making our way to Tursac where we shall stop for a picnic lunch. Steve has got there ahead of us and the table is beautifully set with all sorts of goodies when we arrive. It’s warm enough to have a glass of cold wine or two as well.

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With some reluctance we leave the comfort of the picnic stop to continue our paddle. Our next destination is La Madeleine – a famous Chapel which clings to the cliff above the river. King Richard the Lionheart of England is reputed to have prayed here on his way to the Crusades. It is also the site of a Roman Fortress and of some ancient Cro-Magnon dwellings too.

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Another couple of hours on the river brought us around to the small town of Les Eyzies where we are to stay the night.

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It didn’t take long to stow the boats and walk around to our hotel. We still had time in the afternoon for a lounge around or a snooze and later, in the evening, we wander to a local restaurant for dinner.

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The next day we took a short drive to rendezvous at Cazoules with our next outfitter. We are to start here on our three day paddle down the Dordogne. Today we are aiming for Montfort. The Dordogne is a larger river than the Vezere, both broader and faster, but it does have plenty of islands to explore and we spend some time on our meander downstream ducking and diving down some of the smaller channels.

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After an hour on the water we stop for our usual extravagant picnic on the bank. Steve had once again rustled up something special. It was hot too and me and one of the guests took a quick dip in the river. I must admit it was quite fresh!

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After lunch we continued our sedate paddle downstream, dodging in and out of several islands and slipping into a little cave at one point.

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We have the river entirely to ourselves, not another canoe to be seen and all the fishing punts are tied up on the bank. Some of them look in a right state but I’ve seen fishermen use these. They just bale them out and drift out to mid-stream baling and fishing as they go. No motors are allowed.

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Eventually we get to the big corner in the river where the Chateau Montfort looms over. It’s an impressive sight.

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We negotiate three more islands after the castle, taking the quiet side on two of them and then slipping over into a bouncy faster stream for the last gallop home before we arrive safely at the beach by our destination. Steve is there to meet us and before long we are trundling along the narrow lanes back to our hotel.

Canoeing the Vezere & Dordogne in October 2014 (Pt 1)

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Another season, another trip. This time it is late in the Autumn of 2014, the time of the Fall. We had expected it to be cool on the river with misty mornings and a chill in the air first thing. As it turned out we had days of 30°C, beautiful blue skies and at times it was warm enough for us to swim in the river as if it were June or July.


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Steve & I decided to make the long trip down to Bordeaux in one long fell swoop. So we were up at 5am to take an early ferry crossing and hit the road. To tell you the truth I can’t remember much about it. Many hours later though we finally ended up in Bordeaux where we were to pick up our guests the next morning. After some wandering around we found ourselves somewhere to stay in a rather grand if faded Chateau Fontbelleau trapped amongst a grim industrial estate. We can however thoroughly recommend it.


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First thing in the morning we drove into the city to pick up our guests from the Grand Hotel in Bordeaux. We got out of town as soon as possible and started the drive up the Dordogne valley to St. Leon-sur-Vezere.


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It only takes a couple of hours. We stopped for a panoramic view over the Vezere valley before arriving at the Relais de Cote Jor for our two night stay. We then dropped down to the village for a picnic lunch besides the river and a little walk around.


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Whilst our guest relaxed back at the hotel Steve and I took a short drive down to Les Eyzies to pick up our other guest who was arriving by train from Paris.


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In the evening we wandered back down to the village for dinner at the Old Post Office.


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Bright and early the next day we began the first of our two days paddling down the Vezere river. This first day was from Montignac back down to our village of St. Leon.


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It was a stunningly beautiful day, very warm but with that smell of autumn in the air. We glided past the pretty Chateaux of Losse and Belcayre before arriving at the village of Sergeac for a picnic lunch.


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After lunch we continued downstream past the ruined locks and the last of the days Chateaux at St. Leon itself.House_20141015_D_000079.jpg

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In the afternoon we decided to visit the Chateau Commarque which is a beautiful ruin set in the hidden woods between the Vezere and the Dordogne rivers. It took us some time to find it as the roads wind about the hills and the signposts are few and far between.

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We spent a very pleasant hour or two wandering over the ruins before returning to St. Leon. In the evening we drove to Montignac and found ourselves a very pleasant Spanish restaurant for dinner.



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.

A Trip to the Perigord in September 2014 (Part 2)

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Our third day. First a ‘before breakfast’ walk then breakfast. Then we pack our bags as we leave St. Leon today and Roland, our host, kindly gives us lift down the hill to the village. Nobody is about at the river bank but it doesn’t matter as we can collect our own life-jackets and paddles and slip one of the canoes into the water. It’s a cool morning. A rolling mist drifts along the water surface like ephemeral tumble-weed. We push the boat out and ferry across to the far side to reach the deeper, faster water. Bob spins the boat around and we begin our day.

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It’ll take us about an hour to get down to Roque St. Christophe so we gently push on and get ourselves immersed in the quiet autumn feel of the river. We glide beneath the cliffs where we can see the cut-out where we walked yesterday. We watch the birds around us. The loopy undulating flight of the wagtails with a yellow splash. The direct, foot above the water, flight of the kingfisher – a blue flash. Jays always cross the river at right angles at house height. Rooks and crows make a racket as we pass and the song birds play their hidden song. We come to an island and have some fun deciding which channel to take and then make it tricky for ourselves by changing our mind halfway through. A Heron rises and gives an annoyed squawk.

We pull over at Roque St. Christophe. It’s an awkward place to stop as it’s rocky and slippery as well, but we drag the canoe to safety and leave her there whilst we visit the site. This place is a huge cliff face with many grooves cut into it by the river over millions of years. People have lived here for tens of thousands of years. These days it houses a museum which shows how people lived here in the Middle Ages. Bob spends an hour here whilst I have a coffee and read. I also meet a fellow from Australia who is doing a cycling holiday.

Back on the boat we continue on our way. Another forty minutes or so and we come to Tursac and our lunch stop at the picnic site. Back on the river we glide past cliffs and generally just while away the time in silence. The autumns has it characteristic smell. Leaves drift downstream alongside us. A wood-fire somewhere drifts the smell of smoke around us. It’s silent apart from the gentle lap of the water and birdsong along the banks.

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Eventually we arrive underneath the cliff-face Chapel at La Madeleine. It is 11th Century and was once visited by Richard the Lionheart on his way to the Crusades. It also has stone age caves and the remains of a Roman fortress above it. Unfortunately it cannot be accessed from the river so we just drift lazily by and enjoy the view.

Another hours gentle paddling brings us underneath the cliffs just prior to Les Eyzies and then under the road bridge to our take out. A beautiful days paddling. A few minutes walk and we arrive at the Passeur hotel. We were only here a couple of days ago but of course the two Jeromes welcome us back as ever.

Bob spends the afternoon perusing the arrow head collection at the Pre-History Museum whilst I nip down to the Pôle International de la Préhistoire which is a Research/Educational Centre where I can access the internet – we take no computers on our canoes!

In the evening we go to dinner in the little restaurant opposite the main square and then retire to our books for the evening.

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The next morning we get up for our pre-breakfast walk as usual. It is misty again and our circular walk takes us along the river bank, then across the railway line and then up into the woods and farms above the valley.

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Unfortunately I am so busy chatting away that I miss a turning and we end up taking a lot longer on the walk that I had planned. It was a silly mistake and when we get back to the hotel we are short of time to have breakfast, get ourselves packed and checked out. We have a train to catch.

We make it. We stagger along to the station at Les Eyzies and catch the little two carriage train to Siorac-en-Perigord a mere 40 minutes or so. We leave one lonely station to arrive at another. These French rural stations are so evocative, and a century away from the brash TGV stations of the metropolis.

I’m a bit nervous. I’ve arranged a rendezvous here with the canoe outfitters of Siorac Canoe Raid. My friend Eric has assured me that i will be met. We are after a little wait. Our guide is a Brazilian chap and his girlfriend. They don’t have the canoe so we have to go the the canoe base and load up the trailer. Bob decides to leave a bag here to pick up later. He has more stuff than he needs as he’s doing a bicycle trip after the canoe trip!

We are then driven upstream to our first put-in at Cazoules. The drive takes 90 minutes or so. Before long we are alone on the beach with our canoe and all ready to start our three days paddling down the Dordogne.

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After an hour on the river we pull over for some lunch. It’s a beautifully sunny day and we laze about in the warmth, before we decide that we’d better get on. We have a long paddle today and in addition, we have no accommodation booked for tonight. Both places I usually use are fully booked. Oops. I’m confident I can find somewhere though. Hopefully I can find somewhere close to the river!

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The Dordogne barrels along and I make sure to visit all the little nooks and crannies I know about. You can choose several different ways around the various islands. I always tend to take the smallest most overgrown route. More fun that way.

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In time we come to the famous and beautiful castle at Montfort which grandly stands above the river.

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When we eventually come beneath the castle I notice a small path leads from the river bank, up the cliff and through the woods to the village above. We paddle over. I can’t believe I’ve never noticed this before. After tying up I ask Bob to remain with the canoe whilst I walk up to the village to find us somewhere to stay. I’ve stayed in a B&B here before and think that their are several in the small village.

After the short steep climb I arrive in the village. I can see why I’ve not noticed the path from this end either as it looks suspiciously like a private path leading to a garden. But now I know.

I follow a sign to a Chambre D’hote and eventually end up in a farm by a large house. I ring the bell. A charming man answers the door and listens to the tale of my predicament with interest. He may have a room. Someone has just this minute ‘phoned to tentatively book his last room. He goes back inside to call them back. I wait outside. When he returns he tells ne that sadly the other couple do want the room but that, not to worry, he has a friend in the village who also has rooms. In five minutes he tells me that a room is available. He insists I look around his rooms first, just in case I come back. I might. It’s a lovely place. Then I walk across the village to meet a couple from Belgium who run another B&B. It’s perfect. I take the room and then hurry back to the river to tell Bob. It feels like I’ve been away for hours but Bob is unfazed.

We pull the canoe up the bank and carry all our gear to the B&B where we throw everything into the room before settling down with a beer with our hosts and having a quick dip in the pool.

Later we wander around the village and take some photographs.

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Even later we go out for dinner at a tiny little roadside place in the centre of the village. The food is great and the place, frequented by locals, is very friendly. A full moon rises as we retire to bed.

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Even more to follow …