Monday, 27 June 2005
Distance with packs 12 km, time 3 hours
Ascent 247 m, descent 248 m
Map 48 of the TOP 100 blue series (now superseded)
Topo-guide (ref. 321) Traversée du Périgord
We were determined to finish our descent of the Vézère, and our plan was to continue down the Dordogne as far as Lalinde, from where we could catch a train back to les Eyzies.
I must have eaten something I should not have, because I had a violent attack of diarrhoea during the night. Keith woke with a headache and a stiff neck to add to his scrapes and bruises from falling over. We were quite a pair of crocks, so we took a long time to get moving.
We went to the bar and I had coffee only for breakfast, donating my croissant to Keith. A couple of Canadian cyclists near us were deploring the French idea of breakfast, while tucking into one. Not enough protein for energetic people, they thought.
It was close to 10 o’clock before we got under way, a stupid starting time for a hot day, but we did not have far to go and the river path was shady.
Instead of taking the official GR, we went round the loop of the Vézère (dotted in the Topoguide, p. 114) and climbed to rejoin the GR near les Plagnes.
We then plunged straight down again to Saint-Cirq, keen to see the troglodyte village and the prehistoric grotto.
As it turned out, we could have bought the grotto, but not visited it – a For Sale sign adorned the locked entrance. The village was appealing but seemed to be entirely unpopulated.
Climbing back to the top of the rise, we took a wheeltrack through farmlands and hamlets, open country, then a series of lanes, stairs and alleyways which deposited us in the main street of le Bugue.
It was too late for the little supermarket to be open, but I was not eating anyway and Keith had enough to sustain him.
We parked ourselves on the long balcony of the Hotel Vézère, where a draught of slightly cooler air rose from the river, and drank coffee and water while all around us multi-course lunches were consumed.
Even in the shade it was stifling hot and we had to walk the kilometre or so to the nearest camping ground in the worst of the afternoon heat.
We must have looked fairly frightful when we got there, as the woman on the desk pushed glasses of cold water towards us and suggested we try the pool, which we did as soon as we were installed.
We had no actual swimmers but we made do with undergarments. The water was as warm as treacle but an improvement on everywhere else, except the large bar where we later sat and ate icecreams under a stream of air-conditioning.
A heavy sleep ensued and we woke slippery with sweat. Our fellow campers, mostly English, had set up dining tables beside their vans, although the heat showed no sign of lessening.
At 8:30 we set off in an atmosphere like wet kapok, in search of dinner. There was a cobbled riverside walk that allowed us to avoid the road on our way back to the town, but once there we could only find closed restaurants – perhaps it was the Monday factor. Our only choice was the hotel that we had lingered at earlier.
The best deal here was two courses for €16. We sat at a balcony table set with fine linen, flowers and a lamp. The waiter approached with a deferential air but when we metioned the €16 menu we found ourselves unceremoniously evicted to a bare plastic table further along. This was the brasserie, the other part was the restaurant. You get the same food at both but it costs 40% more at the restaurant, said one of the locals.
Because of the delicacy of my innards, I ordered an omelette only, while Keith had the two-course formula. This began with a tureen of light, delicious garlic soup, which I shared, and the usual basket of bread. Then he had a piece of lamb surrounded by vegetables.
A light breeze lifted from the river below, to the relief of all the diners. Many of them were English and some owned houses in the village, which brought on a certain amount of swaggering pretension of Frenchness.
With the welcome evening breeze on our backs, we walked home along the lamp-lit quay. Before we reached the camping ground we saw a strange fuzzy orb of light, which turned out to be the dust raised by the local petanque club who were playing under a streetlight in the strengthening wind.