Wednesday, 6 July 2005
Distance 19 km
Duration 4 hours 5 minutes
Ascent 309 m, descent 294 m
Map 48 of the TOP 100 blue series (now superseded)
During the night it rained quite hard and the morning was very different from the holiday weather of yesterday. We started to pack, but another shower sent us scurrying back into the tent, where we ate our muesli while we waited for it to ease.
We have an Anglo-Saxon superstition that our digestive systems will clog up completely without a daily dose of fibre. At least today we had the fragrant peaches from the night market to ease it down.
We collected our bread from the office. Most French camping grounds take orders for fresh bread the evening before, but normally we leave too early to get the benefit. We had also ordered a pain aux raisins and a baguette, so we were well set up for our second breakfast at the bar. We sat indoors while more rain fell, as light as sifted icing sugar.
It was not till 10 o’clock that we took up our packs and stepped out on the empty road, which ascended slightly until, meeting the GR coming down from Martel, it sidled down the cliff face towards the river, mostly under a heavy overhang, which was convenient as it rained again a couple of times.
Below the road, a solid jungle of walnut trees filled the river flat.
Gluges, hanging on to the rocky hillside above the bridge, was supposed to have an interesting ruin but it was hard to find, as the whole place looked like a ruin. The only signs of life were right down on the river, a canoe-hire and a camping ground.
We hurried across the big, busy highway bridge and turned off immediately to the left, whereas the GR went to the right, heading up to the escarpment. Our little road kept to the flat farmland.
A large dog fell into step with us, ignoring its mistress’s commands to “Viens-ici!”. The three of us went along pleasantly in the middle of the road for a couple of kilometres until a car pulled up beside us and the dog’s owner managed, with some difficulty, to convince it to get in. That was the only car we saw all the way to Floirac.
Our previous visit to Floirac had been on the day when the village bar was closed, but this time we were luckier and had the pleasure of a coffee under a sun umbrella, so we improved our opinion of the place.
A short walk further on was Mezels, another pretty little dilapidated hamlet, and we stoppped for lunch in a park, which had a tree, a seat and a water fountain.
The road then went through a forest at the base of a plunging hillside, with the river in sight on the left, and emerged at the entrance to Carennac.
The houses of the village were crowded tightly around the church and the château, their red-brown rooves flared like elves’ hats in traditional Quercy style.
Having made a half-hearted concession to tourism by wandering into the church, we tried to do the same for the château, but we would have had to have an hour-and-a-half guided tour in French, so we lost interest.
Further along we came to the Hotel des Touristes of blessed memory, and went in for an afternoon coffee on the balcony at the back, overlooking an unruly mass of greenery stretching down to the river.
Although it was 3 o’clock, there were still people working their way through the lunch menu.
The camping ground was out of town on the road to Saint-Céré, past the bridge. It did not seem as far as it had in the past, and was refurbished elegantly. The showers however were scarcely above tepid, which seemed a bit rough in such an expensive place.
Back in the village in the evening, we did a circuit of the eateries. The Hotel des Touristes had a €12 menu, but the two other hotels were absurdly expensive. The little creperie at the other end of town had good, simple meals and the room was lovely, with big rough-cut beams and a fireplace fit for an ox. It was well occupied with locals and had a jolly atmosphere.
After our apéritifs we were tempted to stay there to eat, but the pull of the Hotel des Touristes was irresistible. There also, the dining room had a cavernous fireplace and ceiling beams, as well as a stupendous pair of bellows operated by a pulley and a slotted board where bread was sliced rather gruesomely with a guillotine. It was good to be indoors as it was by no means warm.
The menu began with a light chicken soup, then Keith had foie gras, for which he has developed a taste, and I piled my plate high from the buffet of hors-d’oeuvres – ham, salami, terrine, hard-boiled eggs, beetroot, grated carrot, ratatouille and lots more.
The good thing about our strenuous lifestyle is that we can tuck away any amount of food in the evenings.
For the main course, Keith had steak with pommes sarladaises, while I went local with duck and mushrooms. For dessert we both had cheese from a big platter, most of mine going into a plastic bag to provide lunch food. It was quite dark when we got back to our little home.