Vacances en France – 2018 – Entraygues-sur-Truyère


 

Day 6, Wednesday, and we awoke to a dull day. Quite a transition from the bright sunny weather of the previous day. We had studied the maps after dinner, on the previous evening, and had decided to head to a small town, Entraygues-sur-Truyere, about an hours drive south from the gite.

So after a light breakfast we headed out. Every curve in the road, every hill crested, presented us with a grand vista, or another point of interest. In some cases we were presented with the plainly curious.

Like the ripples in this meadow below the road ….

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Ripples

…. or this distant tower ….

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A Distant Tower

Our route took us over the EDF hydro-electric dam at Cambeyrac.

The following was lifted directly from http://www.tourism-occitania.co.uk

This site, used by EDF, comprised a power plant and a dam built between 1954 and 1957. It was fitted out so that the visitors can freely access and enquire about the site. From the outside, it is thus possible to observe the engine room and to understand the functioning of this power plant which produces the equivalent of the consumption of 14 000 inhabitants, so 10 times that of the population living in Entraygues-sur-Truyère. Thanks to information desks, distributed around the power plant and on the belvedere located at the tip of the dam, the visitor also discovers how this site was built, its components and the local aquatic flora. Observation binoculars are available for visitors. Open and free access all year.

Just downstream from the dam is the 13th century bridge over La Truyère.

There has been a bridge here since permission was granted for its construction in 1269. It was built by the “Frères Pontifes” a lay brotherhood whose vocation was bridge building.

The bridge originally had four arches and two toll towers at each end and in the 13th century it had huts running the length of the bridge. These huts were occupied by small merchants who sold their goods to passers-by. In 1927 it was listed as an historical monument.

The bridge is currently undergoing essential works, hence the scaffolding.

Whilst exploring the dam, I spotted some movement in the water and was lucky enough to see an Otter. It was diving below the surface and, on a couple of occasions, actually surfaced with a  fish clamped between its jaws.

I was so excited at seeing an otter in the wild that I called out to a passing cyclist. I had assumed that he was French but he turned out to be  Brit. He joined me at the wall to watch the otter and we were soon joined by his wife. Turns out that they were from the north of England and were on a cycling tour, following the river route through valley. We had quite a chat during which we exchanged information about where we had been and our travel plans. I told them about our visit to Chartres and the light show at the cathedral. They told me that something similar was happening nightly, at the abbey in Conques, thru to the end of September. I added this to the mental list of possible destinations during our stay. We bid each other farewell and continued on our separate ways.

Gerry and I continued on our way to Entraygues-sur-Truyere in search of an eatery. Arriving in town we parked up alongside the Lot River.  We weren’t the only ones looking for a spot of lunch …

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Entraygues-sur-Truyere – Hungry Heron

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Entraygues-sur-Truyere – The Lot River

Just a short walk alongside the river we found our way to Le Quai West. All of the outdoor tables were occupied, so we were seated inside. This turned out to be a good thing because, when we were mid way through our meal, it started to rain. The good news is that it had stopped by the time we were ready to leave. The food here was good and filling. Gerry had the “L’Aubrac Burger” ( a burger with local meat, green salad and fries served with the house sauce)  whilst I had the “La Planchette Aveyronnaise” (a selection of regional meats and cheeses).  All washed down by the obligatory beer.

After an enjoyable repast it was time, to go walk off those calories, to explore Entraygues.

In the past, Entraygues was a strategic point at the crossroads of transportation routes, at the junction of Auvergne and the Lot Valley. Here also, the Lot and Truyere rivers meet.

The gabarre vessels (flat bottomed boats) were used to transport goods to such far away places as Bordeaux.

We decided to call it a day and head back to the gite. The road out-of-town ran alongside the Lot and we were soon presented with this bridge, Pont Notre-Dame.

Back on the road back to the gite we, once again, stopped to take some pictures as the weather was closing in and the valleys were beginning to fill with clouds.

Vacances en France – 2018 – La Calsade 2


 

Tuesday, the 5th day of our holiday, and we decided to have a slow day with absolutely no driving. Gerry laundered our four days worth of travel clothing and hung it out on the line. The fabulous, sunny weather and a gentle breeze made short work drying our stuff.

While the laundry was drying Gerry was making the most of the sun, soaking up the rays. Laying in the sun, sizzling, is not really my thing. I prefer to get my tan whilst on the move. So, I took myself off to wander the lanes around the gite and check out the views.

Immediately next door, is a building suitable for turning into another gite …

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A doer upper, perhaps a candidate for a second gite.

La Calsade, as well as being the home to a dairy herd, they are also producers of the very tasty Cantal and Salers cheeses.

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GAEC stands for Groupement Agricole d’Exploitation en Commun (Agricultural Farming Association). The fromagerie, next door to our gite, is on the regional cheese tour and there were several tour coaches during our stay. Given the steep and winding nature of the access roads to this place, I give the coach drivers top marks for negotiating the many hairpin bends.

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Another building ripe for development as a gite.

This building would have near 360 degree views and, in my opinion, was another contender for conversion to a gite.

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Another view of a building ripe for development as a gite.

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A typical Cantal view

La Calsade and the village of Badailhac are about 1000 metres above sea level, hence the spectacular views.

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Winter feed for the cattle

I came across stacks of these all around the farm. Being enclosed in black plastic one can only imagine the temperature inside. I can tell you that, based on the aroma emanating from them, they probably contain silage. Many of the fields close by were growing maize which I know is used to make silage.

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Nature vs Machine

I don’t know how long this machine had been standing but nature was making a good go at reclaiming the land on which it stood.

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Another Cantal View

My wanderings had taken me around behind the main part of the farm …

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The back-side of La Calsade

… the buildings look much larger from this angle. From our gite, seen end on, they appear smaller.

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The trail back to the gite and an ice cold beer

Eventually, my thirst got the better of me. I could hear the bottles of Leffe beer calling my name from the refrigerator.
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So I retraced my steps, rejoined Gerry, and we enjoyed a bottle or two of that ice-cold Nectar while we sat in the late afternoon sunshine and watched the evening parade of cattle heading in for milking.

Vacances en France – 2018 – La Calsade


On day four of our holiday in France, our stay at Maison Volière was completed by a very nice breakfast, supplemented with fresh fruit from Ian and Anthony’s own fruit trees. Packed and once again on the road, our journey south from La Souterraine was, trouble-free. Apparently, there were no other Brits on the road, leastways, none that we observed. And, after three hours or so, we arrived in Aurillac.

About Aurillac ….. from www.france-voyage.com

The former capital of Haute-Auvergne, Aurillac‘s origins date back to Gallo-Roman times and the town nestles at the foot of the Mounts of Cantal, on the banks of the Jordanne. This small Cantal river brings a very special charm to the town, especially in the Pont Rouge area, where you can enjoy a lovely view of the picturesque old houses by the water.

The thousand-year-old town of Aurillac boasts a rich architectural heritage. There is a historical circuit which you can follow to see the old town’s attractions: the Abbey Church of St. Gerald, the remains of an old Benedictine abbey, the Romanesque façade of the Abbey Hospital of St. Gerald with its arcades and small columns, the Renaissance-style Consuls’ Mansion, featuring mullioned windows and sculptures, Aurinques Chapel, built during the reign of Henry IV in the 16th century, or the famous Place du Square, an ideal place to take a stroll and unwind, can all be admired along the way.

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Aurillac – Looks like a student rag week attack on this statue.

Aurillac is the biggest town near to our gite and so it was here that we intended to have a spot of lunch, and also obtain some basic grocery supplies before heading on to the gite. After parking, in an underground car park, we strolled around the central area that is Place du Square. Eventually settling in at Le Milk, Bar / Brasserie, for a little liquid refreshment and a bite to eat.

It seems that it was the start of the college term and there seemed to be many students and their parents shuffling along the street, loaded down with books and bits of furniture. Presumably moving into their new lodgings for the duration. Hopefully a  stylish apartment and not some grotty garret.

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Aurillac – The French Capital of Umbrellas

From Wikipedia …..

Historic French capital of umbrellas with half of French production – 250,000 units in 1999 – and provides 100 jobs. After declining for several decades at the end of the 20th century, Aurillac umbrella producers decided to join their forces and created the Economic Interest Group, or GIE in 1997. They then launched their products under a single label, L’aurillac Parapluie (The Aurillac Umbrella).

We had a pleasant lunch at Le Milk and, suitably refueled, we headed out to forage for food. Locating a small eight till late style convenience store, we stocked up on the basics for the start of our three-week stay.

Supplies purchased we set of in search of Badailhac and our gite. The satnag did it’s stuff and we were soon climbing the steep serpentine roads up to Badailhac. Gerry came to consider this road, and several others, to be similar to a white knuckle ride at a theme park. Anyway the satnag directed us up, and ever upwards to and thru Badailhac, on to La Calsade.

Parking up on the driveway of our home for the next three weeks, our real adventure began.

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Gite – La Calsade, Badailhac, France

Firstly we had to locate our host. I rang her and determined that she was at the fromagerie, next door. I met her, introduced myself, and soon realised that communication was going to be a challenge. She had no English and my command of the French language is anything but conversational. I believe the correct term is “fractured and bastardised”.

Somehow we muddled along, as she showed us our new accommodations. Taking us to each room, showing us how the cooker worked, where the BBQ and sun loungers were kept and so forth. We went through the readings on the utility meter and then she was gone, and we were left to our own devices. The next hour or so was spent unpacking, finding homes for all of our gear and newly acquired groceries.

And then it was time to sit down with a nice cup of tea and relax in the sunshine and admire the near 180 degree view.

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La Calsade – The Long View

What really helped was the knowledge that we could truly relax, knowing that we didn’t have to get up in the morning and spend another day driving. Although our daily driving rate was quite light, we had covered around 900km (550 miles) over 4 days.

Gerry was a little down when we first arrived. She thought that the gite was a bit dark inside. This was in part due to the thickness of the walls and comparative small size of the windows. The interior lighting was also not brilliant. In addition we hadn’t spotted the washing machine. It did, however, put in an appearance. It was lurking in corner of  the bathroom (upstairs), not visible to us on our original tour. We should have guessed as this is not the first time we have encountered a washing machine in a bathroom.

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Still, sitting outside, relaxing, admiring the view we were treated to what was to become the daily ritual. The gite, being on a working dairy farm, was ideally placed to observe the grand parade of cattle. Walking pretty much single file, the herd of just under fifty, were followed by the farmer on his quad bike and escorted by his black dog.

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Sitting with our cup of tea, we came to the conclusion that life doesn’t get much better than this.

 

 

Vacances en France – 2018 – La Souterraine


We had a beautiful breakfast in a very elegant dining room. No mention was made of the cats shenanigans during the night. In fact it was  nowhere to be seen. Well not until we were ready to leave. Then it appeared to cry its farewells on the front step.

Having loaded our stuff into the car we set of again, heading south. Our destination this time was La Souterraine, which was to be our last stop, before completing our journey to Aurillac and our gite at La Calsade, Badailhac.

As we were cruising along we commented on how few foreign cars we were seeing. More to the point, how few british cars. For obvious reasons on Friday when we crossed the channel, nearly all the cars were British. On Saturday that had significantly reduced to just a few Brits interspersed with Belgian and Dutch but mainly French. Here we were on Sunday morning and we felt we were the only foreign vehicle heading south. Occasionally, we would see a Dutch motor home, but it was very apparent that we were going to be in the minority for most of our holiday and that’s just the way we like it.

A little bit about La Souterraine …..

Stopping point on the Way of St James (Santiago de Compostela pilgrim route), the medieval town of La Souterraine has a rich history and boasts a beautiful heritage, with its granite church, its fortifications and its old houses.

Built from the 11th to the 13th century by the monks of the abbey Saint-Martial de Limoges, the Notre-Dame church combines both Romanesque and Gothic styles. Its crypt, a former Gallo-Roman churchyard, can be visited in July and August.

Once again our journey was trouble-free, that is until we tried to find our lodgings. Entering La Souterraine and approaching a roundabout, the satnag clearly told us to take the 3rd exit and then, almost immediately, hang a right. We were looking for house number 23 but the house numbers on this road, a cul-de-sac, only went up to 10.

Rather than spend time trying to unravel the satnag foibles we headed into the town centre for lunch and parked up in the car park by the church in the centre of town. As with our previous visit to this town, it appeared to be shut. We had previously visited, whilst en-route to La Porcerie where we had rented a gite five or six years ago.

So we headed up to the restaurant where we had lunch on that previous occasion, La Gondole sur le Toit. Thankfully it was open and still serving. Soon we were seated, our meal ordered and a nice beverage delivered.

La Gondole sur le Toit - La Souterraine

La Gondole sur le Toit – La Souterraine

While waiting for our meal we checked out the B&B address on Google Maps, which confirmed that the house should be in the vicinity of where the satnag took us. We decided to enjoy our meal and then drive very slowly back to see if we could spot the navigational error.

And spot it we did. There appears to be a duplicate road, behind the one that our satnag directed us too. Once, spotted, we very quickly found the B&B, Maison Volière.

What a treasure it is. Built in 1877, the Maison Volière  is perfectly placed, being just a ten minute walk from the town centre. But, remaining quite an oasis, hidden in the trees as it is. Our hosts Anthony and Ian (Mancunians) made us very welcome. Nothing was too much trouble for these guys. Our room (suite) was very spacious and the en-suite was equally huge.

It was Anthony who later informed us that La Gondole is the only restaurant open on a Sunday in La Souterraine, at lunchtime, or in the evening.

Needless to say, after our drive down from Chartres, a delicious lunch and a tour round La Souterraine we were ready for our bed, which was very comfortable.

Vacances en France – 2018 – Chartres


After a good night’s sleep we were served breakfast in our delightful Wimereux Cottage. Breakfast comprised the usual continental selection of fresh breads, conserves, yoghurt, cheeses and ham. Especially tasty were the boiled eggs, soft, from the hens that had introduced themselves the previous evening.

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Suitably refreshed, refueled and the bill settled, we reloaded the car and were soon on our way.

This next stage of our journey was to take us to Chartres. The journey was pretty much trouble-free and as I had scheduled our stops at around the three to three and a half hour mark we were soon entering Chartres. As we neared the city the grand bulk of the cathedral was silhouetted against the skyline, acting as a beacon, confirming that we were on track.

As we drove around looking for somewhere to stop, we became aware that the city centre was very busy. All along the pavements there were white kiosks. But instead of selling goods they appeared to be promoting leisure activities. There was some kind of job/leisure activities festival underway and they were promoting everything from local choirs through rock climbing and kayaking. There was even a stage where local musicians and dance schools were demonstrating their skills. All of this activity meant that there were no casual parking spaces available. We did eventually get parked up, in a permit only bay as we later found out. Luckily we were not discovered.

 

Anyhow, walking back to the centre took us right past our next accommodations. For the moment though we carried on, in search of an eatery. We were soon seated, outside in the sunshine, at an Italian restaurant. I know, we should have been eating French, but we were pushing the lunchtime kitchen clock to its limits. I think we were the last customers to get a lunchtime meal.

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Chartres – A Refreshing Beer

The food was good and we enjoyed a little people watching while sipping our beer. After lunch we went for a wander around the streets, window shopping as well as admiring the, sometimes, quirky artworks along the way.

Then it was time to go check out the lodgings. From the outside the house was very grand, although, architecturally, it did resemble the “Munsters” house.

Having introduced ourselves to our new host, Anne, we were shown to our room on the second floor. Quirky would be one way to describe it. I don’t think that there was a square corner anywhere. Our en-suite was tucked away behind a wooden, tongue and groove, partition. In here was also some hanging space for clothes. The enclosed toilet was wedged between a wall and the end of the shower.

Still we were only staying the one night.

The good news was, with parking spaces being at a premium, Anne had a parking space for us, at an address just about fifty metres along the road. This was good, since we would be leaving most of our belongings locked inside the car, not hauing them up to our room. So we retrieved our car, parked up, unloaded our overnight bags and once installed in our room, took a short rest. I tried but couldn’t quite make it into naps-ville.

Another gem, that Anne had imparted, was the fact that we had arrived during the annual Chartres Festival of Light, a Son et Lumiere. Apparently, many buildings are lit and there is a light trail one can follow for a couple of kilometers. Most importantly, Chartres Cathedral takes a starring role. The performance was due to commence at around nine, as darkness descended.

We arrived at the Cathedral early and bagged ourselves a handy granite block to sit on. The show got underway and boy was it worth it. It only ran for about fifteen to twenty minutes, but was beautiful, with a musical soundtrack as well as a short history lesson given in both French and English. Had we felt inclined we could have sat through it again.

But we moved on and found that a different light show was being projected onto the side of the cathedral. Ideal for those eating in the nearby restaurants. Having watched that for a while we moved on, in search of supper.

Supper turned out to be a savoury crepè filled with ham, cheese and a fried egg. Apparently it should also have contained potato, but the proprieter had run out of pomme de terre. Regardless, it hit the spot, washed down with a cup of tea. As we walked back to our digs we encountered a couple more illuminations although we didn’t feel we had the energy to search out all of the city’s illuminations on offer and were soon “home” at the B&B.

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Chartres – Marche aux Legumes (Vegetable Market)

Entry to the B&B is via a code locked gate and then a code locked front door. As we entered the code for the front door we were intercepted by a very vocal cat. As soon as the door opened, the cat bolted inside and trotted up the stairs to the first floor. As we ascended we found the cat, crying at the door to Anne’s quarters. We carried on to our room on the next floor and were soon stretched out in bed.

Well we soon regretted letting that bloody cat in through the door, not that we had much choice. It cried and cried. Not getting any response from Anne, the bloody thing came upstairs and yowled outside our door. And then, not getting any response from us, it threw itself at the door. That gave us quite a start. The yowling continued for a while until it took itself downstairs again. Unfortunately, I had to get up and use the toilet. As soon as I hit the flush, that bloody cat started up again. Surprisingly, all the ruckous the cat was creating did not rouse the other residents on our floor. Nor did it rouse Anne or her family.

Needless to say our night was punctuated with cries throughout the wee small hours.