Day 3: Saint-Léon-sur-Vézère to les Ezyies

Saturday, 25 June 2005
Distance 19 km
Duration 4 hours 15 minutes
Ascent 379 m, descent 371 m
Map 48 of the TOP 100 blue series (now superseded)
Topoguide (ref. 321) Traversée du Périgord

Walking in France: Breakfast beside the church, Saint-Léon
Breakfast beside the church, Saint-Léon

We ate our humble muesli at the foot of the church, a beautiful building with three round apses. The village was on one side, the river on the other.

Keith was worried about the fuzziness of the photographs he was taking, which turned out to be caused by my fingerprint on the lens.

The only place open for coffee at that hour was the little food shop at the bridge, so we fortified ourselves there before hitting the GR. It was the same way that we had faced with such reluctance yesterday, but today our steps were light.

It was shady, flat and peaceful, apart from the shrieking of a flock of small birds who were swooping and harrassing a hawk in some tall trees. I enjoyed the lack of pain in my feet. After weeks of agony I was cured of blisters, with only the scars and dead skin to show for it.

Walking in France: Looking back to Saint-Léon-sur-Vézère
Looking back to Saint-Léon-sur-Vézère

We came to la-Roche-Saint-Christophe, a four-storey troglodyte fortress built into a cliff, inhabited in medieval times and probably for thousands of years before.

It had been converted into a theme park, with mannequins dressed in period costume leaning down from a ledge and various wooden contraptions with ropes and pulleys for hauling up supplies.

We crossed the bridge and stopped for coffee in le Moustier, home of Mousterian man, then followed the GR on a circuitous but shady way to Lespinasse.

From here we could have deviated to the terraces of la Madeleine, after which the whole Magdalenian period was named, but the day was fast warming up, so we hastened on.

Walking in France: La-Roche-Saint-Christophe

Soon after re-crossing the Vézère, we arrived in Tursac. We had thought of staying here for the night, and the camping ground was very close to the centre, but the one restaurant was closed on Saturdays, of all days. It must be unique in France.

So we kept walking until we came to a nice grassy corner with a hedge of roses and a tree overhead, where we stopped for lunch. Then the track rose higher and higher and got rougher and rougher, until we came at last to a crest and a large camping ground.

We had to sidle past a herd of donkeys who were blocking our way, but they managed to resist kicking us. Going down again, we crossed the main road and took a loose, stony path over the wooded hillside to Tayac.

Keith slipped on the last descent and hurt his hip and elbow, but not badly enough to impede his progress.

Once in the sweltering town of les Eyzies, which was little more than a single street squeezed between the overhanging cliffs and the river, we had icecreams in the shade outside a hotel.

Walking in France: The beautiful entrance to the camping ground, les Eyzies
The beautiful entrance to the camping ground, les Eyzies

At the Office of Tourism we were told that there were six camping grounds, the nearest being 1 km away over the bridge. It was the hottest time of the day, but with what remained of our strength we made it.

The place was an old farmhouse, converted into a hotel, chambres and restaurant, with the grounds given over to camping. There was a swimming pool full of children and a terrace bar full of their parents.

Walking in France: Aperitifs before dinner at the camping ground, les Eyzies
Aperitifs before dinner at the camping ground, les Eyzies

We had no trouble finding a pleasant corner for our tent amongst the trees and hedges.

It was far too hot to go back to town for dinner, so we joined a lively throng of fellow campers on the terrace. For €12 we had a three-course meal of salad, followed by steak with attendant vegetables, then a plate of cheeses.

We decided to stay an extra night at les Eyzies in order to explore the prehistory of the area a bit more.

Previous day: Montignac to St-Léon-sur-Vézère

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