Tuesday, 21 June 2005
Distance 14 km
Duration 3 hours 0 minutes
Ascent 103 m, descent 106 m
Without bothering with muesli, we lugged all our possessions back to town in the hope of getting transport to Terrasson somehow during the day. The river looked fine and full to us, despite the moaning of the locals about the drought.
We came to a square where a vegetable market was in progress, and had our coffee and croissants in the sunshine, crammed in amongst swarthy men in overalls.
At the Office of Tourism they were able to tell us that there was no bus to Terrasson, but they knew nothing of the trains, so we trudged down to the station at the other end of town and found that we had just missed a train, but there was another one at 6 pm. This gave us time to have a look around.
The most striking thing about Périgueux, apart from the multi-domed cathedral, was the Roman village, called Vesunna, enclosed by a loop in the river on three sides and a perimeter wall on the fourth. A remarkable amount of it was still standing, including bits of the arena and a huge circular temple, gaping open on one side but still many stories high.
We had lunch and coffee, sent an email, then sailed off on the train. It was new and shiny, pointed at both ends.
We got out just as a purple thunder cloud swelled up in the east. A skittish wind raised dust from the road, which was being dug up for its whole length from the station to the highway.
Across the river on the high ground we could see the twelfth-century abbey, or rather its nineteenth-century replacement, hemmed in by the small rooves of the old town.
Because of the roadworks, many restaurants were closed, but we saw a lighted doorway with the sign “Hotel-Restaurant” on the highway, the only street not in disarray.
It was one of our favourite types of establishment, an old travellers’ inn, although recently done up to its detriment, and seemed to be the social centre of town. The two men running it were being kept busy.
As we sat over our apéritifs it began to rain lightly, and since we had already found out that the camping ground, two kilometres away down the river, did not open until the first of July, we booked ourselves in for the night. The room (€30) looked onto the highway and was suffocatingly hot, but we loved it.
With our minds at rest about the sleeping arrangements, we set to work on the four-course menu, which was the usual good value at €13. The provinces have a different currency from Paris, it seems.
First a tureen of soup was put on the table and promptly emptied. I continued with a beautiful array of crudités, while Keith had the local delicacy, paté de foie gras on toast.
For the main course we had buttered fish and a steak respectively and finished it all off with cheese and gâteau noir, which turned out to be not black but quite pale.
We decided the “noir” referred to “Périgord Noir”, the area we were now in (Périgord comes in four colours: white, green, black and purple).
With the rain drumming down and the cars swishing past the open door, we were very happy that we had only to mount the stairs to get to bed. We had splendid showers in what looked like a brand-new ensuite bathroom and fell asleep to a symphony of rain and traffic through the window, which we had to leave open because of the cloying heat.