Held Up At Gun Point

Today in the sleepy enclave of Le Duc, a ninja voodoo doll robbed an orange mop head at fake gun point. We’ll have more on this later on the 6 o’clock news.

Just checking to see who’s paying attention….

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Cave Day!

Today we have a reservation to see the “Gouffre de Padirac“. We had tried to see this cave last week, but turned around when we saw the unending line up. It was pouring rain at the time and since we are line up challenged at the best of times, we turned around.

The country side in The Lot is beautiful. It is unbelievable to live amongst castles on every hilltop, but that is how it is here.

The rest of the landscape is none too shabby either.

En route to Padirac, we pass through La Cave and they happen to have a cave as well, La Grotte La Cave. We have a few hours before our reservation, so we decide to see this one as well, as it is a different type of cave. There is a little electric train that takes us down into the cave. I wonder as we ride, how many people discover at this point that they are claustrophobic. I’m not panicking or anything, just curious…

The cave is very cool. We travel through a series of ‘rooms’ and try and capture shots as best we can. Chris manages to capture some phosphorescent stalactites, which is incredible since the room is pitch black.

One cave down, one to go.

I have to say at this point that the French have a curious way of running things. The steam train in Martel that takes endless passengers, even though they are out of seats; the Lescaux Cave that will not sell you a ticket on site; and then we have Padirac, which allows you to purchase tickets online, but then offers you absolutely no information as to where to go to pick them up. Luckily we are here early, as we need this time to try and figure out how to collect our reserved tickets. The line up today is probably a three hour wait. Thank God we reserved.

Unfortunately I have no pictures to offer you as you are not allowed to take photos inside the cave. This is by far the coolest cave I have been in and it is still in the process of forming. In order to explore it, you descend a few hundred feet and then board a boat and are taken along an underground river for about a kilometre, where you debark and travel along a path to explore the various formations. It is raining outside today, and we see the direct effect of this, as the rain pours in through the various channels inside the caves, creating impromptu waterfalls that we have to skirt past. Many of these landscapes look like a Star Wars diorama, which Cooper thinks is pretty cool. Lucy tries to suggest that it is also a Polly Pocket landscape, but she is quickly shot down.

To see what I am talking about, so to: http://www.gouffre-de-padirac.com to check it out. It’s really incredible.

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Sarlat de Caneda

Feeling a little deflated, we head to Sarlat. Thankfully it is a quick drive, as we have driven for hours now and seen nothing!

Sarlat is a town revered for it’s preserved flavour of 14th century France and is currently awaiting nomination as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is a Junior theatre festival on at the moment so there are street performers everywhere as well as signs of open air stages within the close quarters of the city.

This town has a great vibe. It is chock a block FULL of people, even at 6:30PM. The shops all peddle fois gras, wine, walnuts and for some reason, witches. Or if you prefer, you can smuggle a 4 quart jar of cassoulet into your suitcase and be done with it.

The photo below is called a “lantern of the dead” and dates to the 12th century. These buildings are a curiosity to France, and if I read the plaque correctly, they are associated with Benedictine cemeteries, although I see no sign of one here.

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The British Lady plays a trick on us

Today we are heading to a cave outside The Lot. It seems like we’ve been covering the ground around here fairly thoroughly, so we decide to venture a little further afield.

This region of France has numerous caves. I guess the limestone and an ancient sea has created this landscape. The one we are going to today is called Lescaeux and has some cave paintings in it. I read about it before we left on our trip.

We key our destination into the British Lady and head out. Our ideal today is to go the cave, head to Sarlat de Caneda and then possibly Souillac to see if we can catch some jazz (their festival is on). Lately we have been opting for the “short route”, which has seen us travelling down some very narrow roads. Today is no different and we seem to be driving endlessly when we are finally within reach of the caves. I am getting a little suspicious as I have yet to see a single sign pointing us in the direction of this site, which is odd. No matter – the kms dwindle down, the kids are quiet for the moment, so we roll with it. Well, we get to Lesceaux and it is like any of the 1000’s of villages in rural France. A smattering of houses clustered together along a bend in the road. No sign of a cave. We double check our map. We are indeed in Lescaux, just not the right one. By this time we should know better. Duplicate names are practically a given. By the time we reach the real Lescaux we will have driven well over 100 kms out of our way. We can almost hear the British Lady sniggering as we right Stinky and head south.

But that isn’t the end. We FINALLY reach the blessed cave, only to find out that in order to get into it you have to have bought your tickets in the last town you drove through. It doesn’t matter that the there are numerous staff on site – they won’t sell you a ticket for some odd reason.

That still isn’t the end. The ‘paintings’ in the caves are FACSIMILES!!! So after all that we would be looking at fake cave paintings. What?

On to Sarlat…

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Chemin de vapeur de Martel

Ok – that’s French for steam train of Martel. We have been toying with the idea of going on this train – it is a 1.5 hour ride on an unused train track that looks down onto the Dordogne river basin.

The weather has turned. The thermometer is no longer flirting with the 100 degree mark. It has headed south considerably and is now hovering around the 65 mark. Wierd. But I’ll take it. I need a break from the oppressive heat.

It’s threatening rain and we find out that the train is an open air affair – there is a roof over top, but the sides are open. By the time we board the train we are thinking that there will be no seats left. In the last car we find two benches facing one another and happily sit down. We are at the front end of the last car. Then it starts to rain. We realize that these seats aren’t that great after all, especially for Chris and I who are at the front. The rain is coming into the car. It’s now past departure time and they are for some reason still letting people board the train.

We leave, the rain abates and all is well. The views are quite pretty – we travel through various tunnels, which the kids love. It’s like being on the Hallowe’en train in Stanley Park only bigger. We get to the end of the run, stop and have a photo op of the valley and then reverse to head back the way we came.

We have been a little suspicious of the “steam” and think it might be “diesel vapeur” instead. We soon find out when we head into the first tunnel. I can’t believe they actually allow this. The longest tunnel is 400m. The train engine is spewing disgusting thick greasy smoke. Hard to hold your breath for that long.

Lucy is laying on the bench with her head covered under layers of clothing. Cooper and I also bury our faces and challenge ourselves to make it through the tunnel as the train slowly lumbers along. Chris looks like he’s meditating and inhaling deeply.

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Martel Market

Martel is our closest largest town and is 8km to the south. They have a market twice a week in La Halle in the town centre and have a variety of local specialties on offer.

The cheese in the photo below is from Racamadour – they are famous for their goat’s cheese.

This is our local purveyor of paella, another common addition to the local market scene. I buy some – it’s excellent.

These are gauffres – another local ‘ancienne ricette‘. They are like a cross between a cookies and a waffle. Yum Yum Yum.

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We have decided to drive to Moissac – even though it is officially outside of The Lot because we saw a very cool photo.

There is a canal that cuts a diagonal swath through the bottom south west corner of France called the “Canal des Deux Mers” and it connects the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. In the city of Moissac, the canal travels in part over the Tarn River. In effect it is a river over a river and we wanted to see it in person.

We walked along the canal over the river and watched a boat travel up the lock and over the river. Very cool.

The Abbey and Cloister of St. Pierre which dates to the 12th century, is listed as a World Heritage Site. The tympanum on this church is incredible, but my photo of it is pretty bad. The photo below is a part of the cloister.

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I’m not kidding when I say the roads are narrow

I thought I should take a photo for posterity, so that you would see what I am talking about when I say that the roads are like driveways.

This is a photo of a typical road that we are driving on when we are heading out into The Lot for an explore. The British Lady really likes to keep us on our toes. Keep in mind that these are dual carriage roads 🙂

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Beaulieu sur Dordogne

This village is further along the Dordogne River and is just as beautiful as Argentat. We spend an afternoon here, wandering through the town, eating and then exploring the churches and the riverfront.

This is the tympanum of St. Pierre of B. sur D. and dates to the 12th century. Both Chris and I looked at it and immediately commented on Christ – he looks Asian. If you click on the picture, you should be able to enlarge it to see what I mean.

When we came back to the town centre there was a sort of carnival games area set up, so the kids each tried their hands at the games. No surprise that Cooper immediately went for the shoot out. In Lucy’s photo, you can just barley see the bean bag before it hits the cans. Again – if you click on the photo, you should be able to see it.

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Bastille Day in Argentat

It is Bastille Day today, the day that France celebrates the anniversary of storming the bastille in 1789 and the ultimate birth of a new nation. Since we cannot seem to get out of the house before noon, we have no chance of seeing a parade. So we head to a market instead. And in true fashion, we arrive at our destination just as the market and the town are shutting down for their afternoon siesta, but not before Chris buys some “truffade” a local potato dish.

I should mention that although not quite as bad as the three hour Italian lunch, the French ‘lunch break’ is about two hours and is just as inconvenient. Argentat is on the Dordogne River and is really beautiful. Down along the river bank you can almost feel how vital this river would have been to this town.

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