Toulouse in the other southern France

May 5.  I arrived in London on a layover to Toulouse.  I had less than a day to explore high Kensington Street, which was near the Barmy Backpackers Hostel where I was staying.  I explored nearby gardens and was surprised to find a Whole Foods, where I bought some banana chips and nuts. It was a lovely day, and I was lucky to get a dorm room to myself.   

May 6.  At 5am I took the tube to London Heathrow.  When I arrived in Toulouse, I spent an hour trying to find the Citroen Europass representative. Someone suggested that I walk there. As I began dragging my heavy luggage out the door, I saw the shuttle. What a relief! While filling out paperwork for the car lease, I had a nice conversation with Eric, who recently moved here from the Caribbean.  I reviewed how to drive the Citroen C3, then headed to the big Leclerc shopping center.  The place was jammed as it was a Saturday and everyone was shopping on day off. I had to wait 20 minutes or so to check out in the self check line but couldn’t figure out how to use the machine.  People were trying to explain to me in French but my French was very rusty at that point. It’s been about 35 years since I took any French.  Luckily a woman helped me. It wouldn’t accept my credit card so I had to use cash.  I often have had to pay someone for gas with cash and ask them to use their credit card, as mine rarely works in parts of France.  had to pay somebody else to use their card. Again more adventure. Then headed to what I thought was the center Id Toulouse to find Elizabeth Martha’s mothers house. Martha was a couch surfer who is currently in Argentina but said I could stay with her family if they said it was OK. I contacted her mother and she kindly accepted. I was using HERE, a GPS phone application that I can use off-line without Internet.  I went to the wrong village and had another nice conversation with a couple all in French of course. Good practice for the coming weeks. It turns out they knew San Francisco and have worked I leave there at one time. So it was very interesting for me.

Finally I made my way to the center Toulouse and found their apartment. I was lucky to find a parking place in front. I ended up leaving a car there for the next four days.  I brought my bags in and met Elizabeth. I took an hour to organize and then went into the center with Elizabeth who showed me the main square with the capital building and the opera which was open for a special day. She left me and I went back to the opera to look in a group of men singing traditional songs in Occitaine wearing red hats and traditional costumes. I wandered the streets and went down to the Daruc? which was an old port on the Garonne. I walked across the bridge to other side of town of the st cyprien church. It was much more run down and ragged. I noticed the dodgy characters and wondered about it. I walked along the river and then back over the next bridge. I headed to the palais du justice and the gardens till I got cleared out at 830pm. I walked into the town again and headed back around 930. I had a nice conversation with Randy about film, who is a director.

May 7.  Jet lag! Always happens when I fly east. I slept in until three and then went to the Augustine museum and was there till 6 PM. I enjoyed the medieval lapidary stones and various real religious sculptures from the monastery and other saved edifices. I noticed the Museum of old Toulouse and the occitaine cultural center and decided to go the next day. I had a nice conversation with Randy and Elizabeth about places to visit and the political situation in France.

May 8.  I slept in until 12, then headed to the Occitaine cultural center. I spoke with a very nice woman about the history of the culture. Then I went to the house owned by the Berburger foundation that Randy had recommended the night before. I loved the house with all of its finery and beautiful art and Furniture. I headed to the museum in Toulouse and enjoyed that very much including the costumes and the information about the woad industry and learned a lot about the region and what it was like for the people to live there. Then I headed to the cinema and looked at the second floor at the old chapel and learned about an actress French actress where there’s a photo exhibit. I wanted to go to musee Raymond an archaeology museum but I didn’t make it and I walked till about nine in the Gardens again. I had another nice conversation with Randy about film, who is a director.

May 10. I slept in until 11,  then organized my things and stayed at home did send email talked with the family and left around 2. Tried to find gas and headed to Albi then change my mind and went to Corde Sur Ciel. It was raining and by the time I got there it was about 5:30 PM and nobody was on the street so I got to know it myself and decided to go back the next day and get a walk in so I could understand the history of the area better. I resolved to return the next day and get the walking guide from the tourist information office and hope to go to the museum. I saw the mechanics when I arrived and said hello to them by the time I walk down the hill again it was dark and I looked for a place to sleep that night. I drove on the back roads and found a small trail that headed to the village as one of the walking trails in southern France on the grand randolees and I drove down it to a point where I was out of the way and could park on the side of the road. It’s near a take off point for parachuters.

May 11. It rained last night so I was glad my tent is waterproof. Turns out I would encounter rain every night of my trip for a week or so. I slept in as usual till 1030 or so and then made my way to record where I walked into like got to trust information center and picked up a walking guide. I’ve been traced the routes that described the history religion architecture and legends of the town. I went to the Museum of modern Art and enjoyed the mechanized embroidery look from the late 1800s which had been brought back to the area to renew the economy after the canal from Toulouse circumvented to the town and took away it’s economic prosperity. The reason that it’s so well preserved is that it fell on economic ruin and didn’t have money to reinvent itself in the mid 1900s. After spending many hours in the town I headed to castelnaut du montards and walked through the small town. Then I headed to Puycelsi and enjoyed the lovely view. I took photos of St Rochs chapel on The side of the mountain and sent it to some friends. Then I found a nice café which had Wi-Fi and attempted to charge my phone and answer email but the Wi-Fi wasn’t strong enough to actually access anything. The sky was getting very dark and threatening at 830 as I took off towards the La Roque. A lovely town set on the mountainside. I walked up steep streets accompanied by a friendly dog who I felt sorry for but later found was a pet of a local. Maybe I should’ve felt sorry for myself as I didn’t have a place to stay. Then I headed to Bruniquel where I saw a municipal parking area for camping vans. I continued past the quaint town looking for a place to camp but found none. I finally gave up and headed back to Bruniquel where I drove to the highest point at the camping area near the woods and decided to sleep in my car that night as it was already starting to rain.

May 12. I slept in until 10:30 or so and was fairly comfortable in the backseat of the car thanks to my EXPED mattress. I parked at the base of Bruniquel village and cleaned up my car a bit and then headed to the tourist information where I got a map of the village. I enjoyed walking my own way and finally at the top found my way to the Château which I decided to tour. There was a nice young man Remy who gave me information about the Château the local cave which held very important information about the Neanderthals namely that they went underground for spiritual practices and about the French film that had been filmed at the Château. Apparently his stepfather is from Canada and he grew up speaking English and his English was impeccable. I appreciated a bilingual person since it’s very difficult to find here. I spent the next several hours touring the old and new castles as they were called which of been divided because of a family rift. Turns out the new castle is in much worse shape than the old castle because it had been abandoned in the 1500s. I very much enjoyed the film and information on the cave findings which were amazing and really worth the cost of admission. I also enjoyed an exhibit on stonemasonry in the history of the area. They quarried limestone and other stone in the village so all building are built out of stone. Other villages were constructed out of Adobe brick or wood.

After a long visit, I continued to tour the small village and find the buildings of note from the walking guide map. When I had my fill I headed to Montricoux which was Remy’s village to find a Boulangerie. I’ve become dependent on sandwiches and quiche to tide me over during the day. It turns out that it was closed till 4. So I headed to Negrepelisse where I found two nice boulangeries and walked in the small historical center of the village. I then headed on to Mountalbun which was supposed to have several nice museums. Turns out the museum ingres was closed for repairs. So after doing some food shopping I headed to the chateau in Penne which Remi had recommended. I arrive there at 6 PM and explored a small museum where they’re supposed to be a poetry reading later that night. The woman was very kind and encourage me to return which I said I would. I then walked up to the Château but found it was closing in 20 minutes and knowing me I needed more time so I results come back the next day. I then headed to St Antonin de Noble Val. I had a nice tour of the city walking around but found out that there is a map of the tourist information center that would give me more information so I decided to come back the next day. Then I drove back to Penne for the poetry reading and afterwards met Claire and Jan 2 very nice woman. Claire lives in Vaor and Jan is from Australia but spent a year living in Penne. Her husband has since passed and she has a bench to him in Penne since he loved it there so much.

Around 10:45 pm I headed to same place I can’t the night before in Bruniquel. It’s nice that in France there are sometimes free places to camp on the edge of some small villages. Sometimes they charge six euros a night which is very affordable. Not like the US. It hadn’t started raining yet so I set up my tent which is more comfortable than the night before when I slept in the car.

May 13. The next day I headed to Penne to see the Château. As usual it was only open between 1030 and 1230 and then closed for lunch so I hurried over to make it in time to have the maximum time to see the place. It time me a long time because I had to read all the signs in French to give me a sense of daily life during the middle ages. I walked a bit around Penne and then left for St Antonin Noble Val around 1pm where I spent two hours walking. I specially enjoyed the narrow streets and the market square where a Romanesque building the oldest civil building in France, built in the 1100s, still stands. I went to a great boulangerie and bought this wonderful pattiserie of pistachio and cream and currents. It was out of this world. I ate it over the next few days. From there I headed to the small village of Caylus which was recommended to me. And then headed to the tourist information center where I spoke with a very nice young woman who told me a little bit about the time in English which is unusual. She showed me an exhibit of pigeon houses which were very popular after the French revolution. Before the French revolution only the nobles were allowed to own a pigeon house. Pigeons were very useful for fertilizing The land as well as later for sending messages and also for eating. They really helped people survive. The revolution did some good things in terms of taking away some of the power of the church and the government and giving it to the people. But the process was very bloody and violent. I am joyed the town which has a small pond at one and some nice Gardens on the edge of town. It was a walled city one of many in this area.

I then headed to the a small waterfall which had some interesting limestone deposits that are built up underneath it. A few more miles along the stream I came to the small village of Loze situated on the top of a hill along the stream la Bonnette. I explored the small town as it started to rain, enjoying the small buildings and renovated areas. It looked like it was quite a tourist area perhaps in the summer. But very quaint. From there, I drove towards Najac on some small back roads and passed a tiny hamlet of three farm houses. An old woman came out and I wondered about the story of her life. I imagine that she had had many children and done many things in her life probably knew how to harvest and work the land like anyone else.

I arrived in Najac around 7 PM and was amazed at the beauty of the medieval castle as I descended into the valley at its base. I passed another lovely Château on the way and found out later that it had been the site of a stone quarry. This part of France is very rocky and not very good for planting but excellent for stone quarrying. Turns out that the Château was never breached which is unusual for this area. It was so well fortified by Alfonse the brother of the king of France that nobody dared to breach the walls. A good example of real deterrence. Nuclear weapons are no comparison.

As I walked around the village I found another yet another great boulangerie and bought five or six tarts which I ate over the next week or so. I was just look thinking about where I would campus it was getting dark at night when I met a kind gentleman who asked me when I was doing and commented on my clothing that I seemed quite prepared for hiking. This was on French but I understood what he Aston responded in kind. He asked me where I was headed and I told him that I needed to find a camping place for the night. He’s been called a neighbor of his and asked whether I might be able to stay on her floor for €10 a night. She said she was busy and he hung up the phone. Even suggested that perhaps I could stay in the yard and camp for free in their yard. I said that would be great and he had to show me the place. It was a lovely walled courtyard attached to an old building that have been part of a monastery. He was very kind and then after that I could stay the night for Free in his place and promised me that he wouldn’t that he would be respectful. I believed him and decided given that it was about to rain but I preferred to stay inside rather than out.

May 14. I was Sunday morning and there was a small market in the center of town. I purchased a few vegetables the next morning. Eric helped his neighbor with planting a garden on the river Aveyron below the town so I met him around 2 PM. It was really nice of him and his neighbor Bridget and Magali and we had a lovely chat for a few hours about everything from politics to the state of the world. They were very kind and spoke slowly so I could understand them. When I didn’t understand I would tell them in French.

May 14 to 18. It was the beginning of five or six days of intensive French. Eric is a passionate gardener. He also loves hiking so we ended up going on a number of really nice hikes around the village in in the afternoons. In the morning I was usually on my own. I asked him to correct me so I could learn the latest phrases. It was important for me to learn as my last French lessons have been 40 years ago. We went hiking to variousareas around Najac including a loop trail that went by a hermits house and a lovely hike past an old mill along the Aveyron. I got a check from one of the hikes and ended up doing massive check checks in finding a number of them. I got scared and went to the pharmacy and got some skin spray some clothes spray I’m not sure that any of it will help. I remove the tick with my good tweezers and thus far I haven’t had any red rings or other symptoms. We found some fairy woods near an old Bridge and went for a drive one day to look at several villages which of been recommended to me by the tourist office. And one of the villages we met very funny father and son the grandmother had been Italian and they told us about the history of the village and how various villagers had owned parts of different apartments. The lady was very funny and animated and told Eric all about it. I caught about half of the story. They were telling us about the old pharmacy in the old market Square in the stalls and how there were so many businesses at that time.then we headed to another village oh it to the bridge and took a walk in the ferry woods along the river which was lovely. It was like a walk back in time.

May 18. We packed and left around noon. Eric been working in Najac for a month and a half so it was a big move. We caravaned to Vaour to visit Claire and Jan. On the way we visited a small village which had an amazing church and now and Abby like complex. It was very impressive. When we arrived in Vaour I had to find Claire. I stopped at the first large place I saw which turned out to be an apartment and asked them. They knew who Claire was and told me how to find her house. I called her with Eric’s phone and she said she would wait on the road. So I finally found her. She was rushing to go to Canada so we only had half an hour but I got to see her house. She was going to her yoga class and showed me Jan’s house on the way. I was bold and walked into the yoga class and waved hello to Jan who asked for mission to leave the class and we said hello goodbye for a few minutes.

Then Eric and I drove to Saint Antonin noble val and got a sandwich from my favorite boulangerie and a crepe. Eric got a wonderful crêpe with caramel beurre salle which it I resolve to get the next time I was there. Then we headed up over a beautiful view point and down into the valley where Eric lives near Montauban. We took the back roads so it’s quite circuitous and but we finally arrived at his barn near Lafrancaise. As there is still some daylight I decided to explore and took a side trip to Lauzerte. But because it was overcast was difficult to see. It’s a lovely a medieval village on a hillside. It was overcast so I couldn’t see much but I enjoyed the nearest treats and the beautiful renovated houses as well as the main square. As usual the church was closed. I haven’t found many open churches.

May 19. I was on my own as Eric had things to do so I decided to head to Moissac which I had planned to go the day before. I was glad that I arrived in the morning because it took me the entire two hours to explore the cloister. It’s the best preserved cloister in the world with 72 capitals or pillars that have carvings preserved from the Middle Ages. The carvings are out of this world. I ended up going back a few days later for the night of the museum and got to see it at night illuminated by candlelight listening to classical music and sing dragons walking around and hearing stories in French about knights princesses and beastiaries. It was a lot of fun.They had some expositions on the capitals and also on illuminated text which were written in the Abbey and nearby. Turns out there was a lot of influence between monastic orders about illuminated text. The influence came all the way from Ireland.

The stone carving in the church portal reflected the view that the rich would go to hell because of their indulgent ways, while the poor would go to heaven. Art was a very important way for the church to teach morality as most people didn’t read at the time. I explored the town, walking slowly down the main Boulevard which is cobblestoned to another church and then to the canal Du midi which runs from Touloise to the Garrone and helped the economy of all the towns it ran through including that of Moissac. I really enjoyed the town and had a nice walk in the shade along the canal line with poplar trees. I saw some Arabic men talking and walking with their school. It Was a Lovely Site. I Walked to the Oldmill Which Is Now Hotel Very Impressive Building on the River and Then I Decided to Head Continue to Valence dAgen which is noted for its old lavoires where people would come to wash clothes. I wandered about the town and enjoyed the tree covered Lane near the wash house as well as the main square the church and the market Square. Then I decided to head to Auvillar which was recommended to me for it’s covered Hall aux graines where they would sell wheat primarily. I liked the town and wished the museums were open. Then I headed out of the village. I came back late around 945 and slept. Had nightmares probably from the cats jumping on the roof of the trailer. Seemed like they were angry.

May 20. The next morning I woke with a start and decided to go to Lafrancaise. I met Eric’s friend Frank, who was visiting to feed the cats. I had fed them in any case before he arrived. Lafrancaise was not very interesting but I walk to the streets and got a pastry and then headed to Montauban. I have been told that there is a good market there on Saturday morning so I found a place to park at the bottom of the big bridge and then took the elevator up to the theater and walk to the all district. I walked over to the museum ingres which was closed but learned of another exhibit while it was closed. I walked down across the bridge to the other side of town which wasn’t very nice and then walked back another bridge and went found the market which was on the other side of the jardin des plants. It was a great market and I bought cheese and yogurt and some vegetables cherries strawberries bread. It was very interesting and I enjoyed seeing all the food. I had to have a bat bag but decided to continue walking around the city and went to the exhibit to the tourist information when I learned about other areas in s France and watched some videos about each area which was a lot of fun. I continue to walk through the streets and enjoyed looking in all the shops. I liked the market Square with all the arches is well and eventually headed back to my car via the Carmelite another monasteries on the Riverside. I went into one monastery which is having a rummage sale of some sort and had fun looking at the jewelry. I got in my car and headed to a small town which was recommended to me called Verdun sur Garonne. There I was walked through the clock tower and explored the old town. It was built on a hill. The church was open and had lovely paintings on the walls from the 1700s. There was a nice covered grain hall and then I saw a chateau. I approached the long drive and the gate was open. There was a woman at the house and I asked if I could take a photo of the house and tower. She said that her parents owned the house and had bought it many years ago. They came from Wales. She said it was OK for me to take a photo so I walked in the driveway and admired the house and took a photo. Then I walked back and talked with the young woman who is very kind and said that she sold antique French textiles Mosie to English people. She told me a little bit about life in the village. Her mother had renovated the house where she was now living in a lovely stone cottage at the front of the property. Her mother than came out and told me a little bit about the history of the house which was called chateau de la reine. Apparently it had a very colorful for history including something about the black prince of Wales. Jill was very friendly and invited me to come back and visit another time. She said that she’s quite lonely as her husband flies all over the world working on plane simulations. So she’s alone at the moment but she has two grandkids which is very active and involved with at the moment.

Then I drove to Beaumont de Lomagne where Fermat was born. There is a very impressive hall in the market Square that was covered and a sign that indicated the old buildings and their history and French of course so I tried to find as many of those buildings as I could walking around the town.I walked around the town and try to find the old buildings. The church was closed I asked a guy to tell me where the bathrooms were. He only spoke Slovak. I spoke a little bit in Polish to him. I then headed two for months house and admired its beauty and history. He was alive in the 1600s it’s amazing to think that that history is still here. I drove back to see the Moissac cloister during the night of the museums (an annual event throughout France on May 20 when all museums are open and free). They had activities from 9 to 11 PM. There was a guy explaining the role of dragons and other Beeson medieval history in the middle ages. They had a funny video of a unicorn pooping rainbow colored poop and then the kids eating rainbow colored Popsicles. Think the comedy was very French. There was a wonderful concert of classical music in one of the stone halls which I listen to ruptured. Two girls were an acting a play written about middle aged the middle ages which I also listen to. And the entire cloister was candle lit which shed a luminous light on the the capitals and columns. I headed back late to Erics barn and trailer and he arrived even later. We resolved to go to Cahors the next day as we’d originally planned.

May 21.  Eric grew up in Cahors on the other side of the monumental bridge when he was 4 to 6. He wanted to show me some sites that were important to him. We were caravaning as I planned to take my leave that evening towards St Cirq la Popie. On the way to Cahors we stopped in the village of Castelnau Montratier. Glad we stopped because it’s a walled city built on it hillside with a monumental church and I was impressed by the size of the church. As it was Sunday morning we were able to go in and admire the church before mass. Then we walked into the village which was having a flea market or emptying of the grainery in French. I was expecting Eric to take too much time so I suggested that we meet in 20 minutes under the village clock and I went for a short walk down the street but a pastry and then came back. As luck would have it I found a great vender and bought running shoes pants a skirt shorts and a couple of nice tops from her for only 9 euros. I was very happy with my purchases and Eric laughed and was appreciative of my good bargaining. They threw in the skirt. We headed off towards Cahors but not before stopping to admire a windmill just outside of the small village. Driving into Cahors we crossed under an impressive old train bridge which was very lovely. We cross the bridge into town which is located on a bend along the ?? And parked near the fancy bridge which is famous. Erica grown up on the other side of that bridge. We then hightailed it to the center of town and Aaron Eric was looking for a particular restaurants which were cheap that he had hoped would be open. But none of the places he knew were open. So we walked for 20 minutes searching for a good place to eat. We ended up settling on a place called boutique Lisa which was a wonderful restaurant. I and ordered a brunch which was very English and had a very wonderful tomato and arugula salad which I had some of. The fresh strawberry shake out of strawberries and milk was out of this world. After a leisurely lunch we made our way to various hallmarks of the town including the poor area with the doorway of the brothel that was virtually card. The prison, the Cathedral which Eric had known as a child a knew all the special secret passageways. We went into the cloister but all the passageways have been blocked off. The cathedral was impressive though and I enjoyed it stateliness. Then we walked to the clock which was mechanical which is built by the same guy who built the musical fountain which no longer exists which we look for which was near the prison and we walked by the Château and walked again through the nearest streets through both the wealthy neighborhoods in a poor neighborhood and then cross the bridge to and looked at the house that Eric has grown-up in and then hiked up the hill to the iron cross at the top admiring flowers on the way. The bridge was lovely. there is a stone devil on one of the towers which relates to a legend where the architect building the bridge made a deal with the devil in order to finish it and then one of his wishes he wished for the devil to turn into stone. It was a very hot day and Eric said he wanted to treat me to a drink before we parted ways so I said yes and we went down to the river and had a nice chat with a couple who work together at a hotel in the pays basque. We talked about various things and they said they love this area. It was nice to have a cool drink I had one of grapefruit and orange juice and lemon juice mixed together with tonic water. Next time I’ll order a mint drink which sounds very good and look like the one that Luccio ordered for me when I met he and his friends in Lago Di Garda.

With sadness I parted from Eric and drove out towards st cirq. It was 830 or 9 PM at night and was starting to get dark so I decided to find a camping spot. I drove by the town of Vers and liked it and checked out the camping area before heading on towards st cirq but decided to head back and set up camp near the river. As I was finishing setting up my tent and man with a strange beard and multi colored coat was walking along the levee. I spoke to him in French but he quickly change to English and it turned out he was an Englishman who have been living in France for 40 years. Mike was a character. I went for a walk with he and his dog and we talked about many things. He wondered why he was telling me these things.  I clarified that I had a boyfriend, since he seemed a bit confused. We resolved to meet the next day for a long walk. I was exhausted as I hadn’t slept the night well the night before and finally got to bed around midnight with the church bells chiming in my ear.

May 22. Mike woke me at 9:30am the next morning and I headed up to his place for some breakfast. We walked up a long road towards the mountains. It was very pretty full of streams and his dog began grazing then threw up. We got back around 2:30pm and he was horrified that I wanted to go see other things but I said I only have a certain amount of time. He was quite judgmental and was trying to influence me to stay. I had lunch with him and then went off to St Cirq. On the way I stopped in Cabrerets as I was following signs to a museum. I ended up next to a very important cave complex called the Grotte of Peche Merle. I was glad that I was driving blind because I wouldn’t of found this place otherwise. I’ve got a ticket and looked at the museum and then went on the tour which was very impressive. In the cave were paintings of aurach, cows, bison, females, and horses with fish inside and dots that was supposed to be symbolic and represented something that they weren’t sure what. It was nice to see the real paintings and not a facsimile as in Lascaux. I wish that I’ve been more moved but it was still something to remember. We weren’t allowed to take photos so I have nothing to look at it’s just what I remember in my mind. From there I drove at the River Canyon a ways towards them and say do colors which is an open air museum about how people lived in the old days but it was closed. So I headed back down towards St Cirq. I was looking at was a clear day and I arrive there around 7 PM parked as they were nobody there was nobody up there so is able to park on the road instead of walking down from the parking lot. Most things were closed there were some restaurants are open. The village had been a summer retreat for Anton Breton and his surrealist circle in the 1940s and had been inhabited by a female artist in the 1910s. There’s a museum there which was her home.

Unfortunately it was closed. I answered the Cathedral and walk down to the bottom of the village where the shelf down days a decent was. It was a nice village a little but a bit too perfect for my taste. I regretted not being able to spend time there. The ATM was unfortunately not working as I wanted to make a purchase. I decided to take the back roads on the hillside, very treacherous road to Bouzies a few miles away. I walked through the village and admired the riverfront and an old wooden boat which in days past had hauled merchandise up and down the river. I walked as long as I could admiring the architecture and then I headed back to Vers. I got back to Mike’s home and he had a note saying he be back in five minutes. An hour later he arrived. He had had a drink or two with the Stride’s a British couple in town who are artists. I regretted not being able to meet them but it was OK. We sat out on the terrace and watch the clouds get more more dark and threatening. I asked him about his time in India in a small village near Pondicherry 30 km from there where he made friends with some stone workers. Had a nice conversation. He became amorous and I felt uncomfortable. I had to give them too much information and told him that I had been made in the past and he questioned me being raped more than once and blamed me for not having said no. He had mentioned how much he loved the 60s because no one ever said no to sex. He said that it was because of a bad upbringing and that I was missing out on the best experience of my life. I finally got pushed to my limit and decided to go to bed. Offered me a place to stay in his house but I had a feeling it was a bad idea. Just as I was getting into the car it started to pour. I had a hard time sleeping at night because the rain was so strong and I woke up with 3 to 4 inches of rain all around my tent in my mattress swimming. I had visions of the car floating around I had to find my sandals which I found floating a few feet from the tent. Luckily the morning the water had subsided.

May 23. I woke after a pretty bad night sleep worried that I was going to float away and get really wet. The outside of the tent was very wet but it had miraculously kept me dry. I drove up to Mike’s place and bid him farewell. I wasn’t sure whether I would even say goodbye but I decided to be civil. I filled up my water bottles and gave him a hug and set off toward Saint Martins des Vers. The village had a lovely church and was very pretty. I walked around for a few minutes including towards the Oldmill and then headed on towards the Gouffre de Padirac. I wasn’t sure whether to go there or to the cave in cognac. It was an overcast day and as I drove along I spied a restaurant in Montfaucon called Compagnac du Causse. People were sitting outdoors in the middle of the countryside. I drove past and then decided to turn around and see inquire about a meal. I was so glad I did. It was a wonderful place and I ended up having a wonderful chicken curry with rice. It was just what the doctor ordered.

I finally arrived at Padirac and made a mental note to stop back at an artisanal chocolate maker. I got a ticket immediately which was unexpected and headed down into the giant maw or opening in the earth. I ended up in a group of Israelis. I turned out making friends with Josef who was very funny and nice to chat with. The ride on the boat through the lakes looking at the water was really beautiful. I decided to get a photo as I was in the front and there is a clear picture of me in the boat. The guide was very kind and was from Belgium and said that he and many other French were in solidarity with the American people in the fight against Trump. I enjoyed it very much and then headed back to the chocolate maker who was closed. I then headed to the next village who said that I could find a chocolate maker in the town of Gramat. I drove to Gramat and indeed found the chocolate maker and bought chocolate bars and truffles and nougat. I walked around the town which is lovely and went down admiring the Parisian style Abby complex on the other side of the river and the church and the steep road going down towards the river. It was a very lovely town and I enjoyed looking at its architecture.

Then I headed to Rocamadour where I arrived in the evening. I drove outside of town to try to find a camping place but decided that it would be best to camp where the camping vans were parked. I ended up parking near the Château on the plateau overlooking the valley. Below the Abbey and church and further below the village clung to the cliffside. I walked down to the chapel of the black virgin around 9 PM not realizing that that was the time for prayers. There was a non-who was there straightening out the candles and she gave me a prayerbook and asked me to pray in French. I didn’t realize I was supposed to read out loud but she’s with her prompting I did so and did well. It was very moving experience. I spoke with some people who are camping near the Château at the top of the on the plateau recommended the village of Laguiole where they’re bringing the cows to the mountains this Sunday. I don’t know if I’ll make it or not. But in any case they were very kind and said I could camp near their mobile home. I decided to drive down to the valley floor as it looked like a more peaceful place to camp for the night. It turned out not to be a very good place to camp and I didn’t sleep well.

May 24. I woke up feeling wetness all around me, as it had rained hard and the ground was soaking. I hadn’t slept well, and walked to the small village of Rocamadour. Everything was closed since it was only 9am, but it was nice to see it before the tourists arrived. I went back to the church and saw the nun I’d seen yesterday in one of the chapels. I spent time in the Notre Dame chapel and noticed a hat on the wall, whose feathers I had thought was a dying pigeon. I read about that town during the middle ages, with the people getting the rights from the king. It was interesting to learn how they got the rights to be a fortified city and gain some autonomy from the church and king.  I drove to Carennac and saw a really nice place enroute. I stopped at Le Petit Vignoble and had a lovely salad with Camembert and walnuts and a main course of salmon and for dessert strawberry with whip cream and marscapone. It was very delicious and quite reasonable. I had a nice conversation with Agnes and Bernard who live in Chambery.  I’ve visited the Abbey near their home and know the area well. We talked about Brittany where they lived for 4 years and the magical places there including druids and green man and energy. We found out that we are both writers and interested in nature and paganism. I got a map of the town and went on a walking tour. The church had some lovely columns, and I admired the sacred stone carvings and wood statues in the cloister. It was cold and I hadn’t adjusted. I found out on the way back that the restaurant at which I ate is also a hotel with a 9.5 rating.  Ooo la la.  I should have stopped for the night. 

But instead I pushed on to Loubressac, a small village overlooking the Dordogne river.  I parked in the shade in front of the restaurant and oak a walk around, admiring the ceiling of the church which was beautifully painted and decorated.  The town had been much bigger before being carved into several small villages. From there I drove to Autoire. I was told to go to the calcareous cliffs or cirque,  but first took a walk to the town which was quite pretty. The architecture reminded me of towns in Switzerland, Austria, and Bavaria. I drove on to a viewpoint and hiked to a lovely waterfall, then headed toward St Cere to look for lettuce and an ATM.  Many French towns don’t have ATMs, and I’ve often been stuck if my card doesn’t work. St Cere was bigger than many of the small villages I’d seen, and had a lived in feel. There were many young people in the streets, and a ruined Château on the hill. After walking around town, I drove up on a small road which I thought went to the Château but instead found some farmers fields.  I was afraid that I would never find my way out. Eventually I came to a road I recognized, and headed to Vayrac. I was in a beautiful forest with a stream running through it. I headed for Vayrac and arrived about 9pm.

I parked threw out some garbage and look for Wi-Fi. There was a creperie who was doing good business so I asked there. They didn’t have to Wifi but they said the square did. The owner was a bit glib and said I needed lots of things (I asked to charge my phone also). I told him it was difficult as I was camping. He said life is difficult. I ordered a crêpe with egg and then and then went to the Square where I used the wifi to download applications and answer emails. I hadn’t had a signal for many days. I headed out about 10 PM to find a place to sleep and after searching for a while found a place near an old narrow plank bridge next to the Dordogne river. Luckily there wasn’t much traffic as it was very loud when people drove over.

May 25 I woke up happy after a great rest and packed my things about 845 after someone drove up and luckily I was ready because some kayaks came up about 945 and I had to move from the spot. I found a nice shady place to write along the Dordogne river which is where I am now. I ended up moving to let some kayakers through but found another place and wrote until 11:45 AM then I walked up to the track along a lovely wooded stream. I headed back to Carennac to my now favorite restaurant La Petite Vigne. It’s owned by a couple from Yorkshire who happened upon this place 12 years ago. I really like them. Their B and B is booked 5 months ahead. I had lamb which was good but I preferred the salmon from the day before. And the strawberry meringue marscapone was out of this world with raspberry drizzle. Then I headed to St. Cere to try to find a place to copy my passport and found out that it was religious holiday the Ascension. I headed back to Vayrac where I looked for water. One of my chores was to fill my water bottles. This would happen every few days. I search the Townsquare but couldn’t find a water fountain. I asked the ladies in the patisserie and they told me that it was behind the Townhall. I looked but couldn’t find it and told them so. One lady in a formal black dress and heels walked over the square and pointed to a faucet next to the garbage cans. Happy, I thought chocolate pastry from them. They were specialists in pastry and chocolate. I couldn’t help trying a delicacy. I headed on to La Chapelle aux Saints but the chapel was closed and the town deserted. I walked around for a few minutes and then headed east into the mountains toward Nonards. I was listening to an interview with the French composer of memoirs of a geisha. They were playing the soundtrack from fiddler on the roof and I enjoyed hearing the song if I were rich man.

I was attracted to the other side of the mountain and thought about the expression the grass is always greener on the other side. He did look greener on the other side. So I headed down the mountain and drove around for 1015 minutes before sending to track my way back to Curemonte. I wished I had more of the history. I read the French placard and got the idea that it had been important town with a lot of mobility in the middle ages and then Renaissance. The church was lovely and the town spread out over from the top of the hill all the way down towards the valley. It was a very picturesque place with very Redstone. And I headed to Meyssac which was entirely built of Redstone. There was a reunion of a group of a group of German friends of the town in the covered market Hall. They had arrived by bus from Germany while I was walking around the town. I asked a woman and she told me that it was a group that did exchange programs between students from Germany to France. Probably particular village but I didn’t understand that part. I like the town very much. It had some lovely buildings and was very impressive. I walked the entire old part of town and then headed to Collanges la Rouge another town built in Redstone. This is more of the Disneyland kind of town with shopkeepers all along the main square and lots of commerce. I walked the back streets and was very impressed by both churches which had some very old beautiful statues and lovely stone carved altars. It was a very pretty place and but it was also a little bit overdone and I long-term more real and authentic kind of town. It turned out that the previous mayor of the town founded Les plus belles villes foundation in 1984. No wonder this town looked like Disneyland. I took some nice photos of the roof to roots and a few of some kids one of the lady watering her house. It’s another scorcher 93° today. I’m hoping the summer isn’t hotter. Then I headed on to Turenne and walked in the sunset up to the castle Château. This is much more of a real town which had been an important see the government and I enjoyed seeing the capuchin monastery and the grand church and castle walls. I walked the whole circuit and vowed to come back the next day when everything was open so I could get more information about the history of the place. Then I headed to my camp spot from the day before which was only 20 minutes away. It was in a perfect location next to the river and cool. I set up camp looked at the cliffs and did some writing.


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