Leaving


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Last night there was a humongous storm. Possibly the wildest storm I have experienced. Very strong winds, continuous lightning and torrential rain.

This morning was calm but dull and damp. The picture shows the view from the gite towards the gorges. This was our last view of the Dordogne, at least for this vacation.

At the time of writing we have arrived in Millau, in the Aveyron department of the French Midi-Pyrenees region in southern France.

We are here, for just one night, to see le Viaduc de Millau, the tallest bridge in the world. Tomorrow, we head to Lyon as we meander our way back north and, ultimately, home.

Argentat


The plan was to travel to Argentat and, with detours en route, other towns and villages. Like I said, that was the plan and it remained the plan for about an hour.

The first detour was to a place called Belvedere de Gratte-Bruyere. Shown on our maps to be a view-point. The satnag refused to acknowledge that any such place existed. Luckily I had already spotted a sign in the centre of Serandon and so off we set.

The weather was beautiful and sunny so driving down the ultra quiet French lanes was a pleasure. The sun shining through the over hanging branches creating dappled shadows. Down one such lane we were suddenly presented with a view of a typical Chateau. I would have loved to get a shot of the front but it was not accessible. So you’ll have to make do with a back view…

Mystery Chateau - near Serandon, France
Mystery Chateau – near Serandon, France

A short drive further on and we arrived at the Belvedere de Gratte-Bruyere which gives spectacular views along the “Haute Vallee de la Dordogne”.

Standing up there was like being in an eagles eyrie, like you are on top of the world. Very, very quiet, but for the movement of the air through the trees and the ever-present twittering of the birds.

Beautiful !!!

Continuing on towards Argentat our route took us down alongside the Dordogne and, a short distance from the belvedere, we came across a large upright rock formation …

Rocher Louis XVI
Rocher Louis XVI

So far I have not been able to find anything about the significance of this rock.

Driving as slowly as we were, with the windows open, you become aware of the many streams noisily tumbling down the sides of the gorges. One was large enough to warrant its own pull in and picnic tables ….

Falls - Dordogne, France
Falls – Dordogne, France

Very pretty, with the dappled shadows from the trees. We met some ramblers here, their two dogs were very pleased to drink from these chilly waters.

Having descended to the bottom of the gorge it was time to cross the Dordogne. The French Government had kindly placed a bridge at the end of the road, to ease our crossing ….

Pont des Ajustant - Dordogne, France
Pont des Ajustant – Dordogne, France

Although we were in the Dordogne Valley, the piece of water that this bridge crosses is in fact “La Triouzoune”.

According to Wikipedia “The Triouzoune is a 50.5 km long river in the Corrèze département, south-central France. Its source is on the Plateau de Millevaches”

Having crossed the bridge we were soon climbing up the sides of the gorge which continually presented photo opportunities along with chances for Gerry to show me how brave she is …..

Photo Opportunity - Not sure who for though
Photo Opportunity – Not sure who for though
Gorge-side Road - Dordogne, France
Gorge-side Road – Dordogne, France

Soon we were crossing the water again, this time the Dordogne via  the “Pont Saint Projet”. A suspension bridge, which has a span of 195 meters and was built in 1945, following the creation of a dam some 5 km downstream from the bridge. More about the dam later. 

Pont Saint Projet - Dordgne, France
Pont Saint Projet – Dordgne, France

Apparently, below the bridge, swallowed by the newly formed lake is the village of Saint-Projet-le-Desert and also the fifteenth century convent Saint-Projet.

Climbing, once again, we burst out of the gorge into open fields and farmland and soon found ourselves in the village of Chalvignac. Very pretty but, as we arrived, under attack from a large contingent of school children. You’ll be pleased to know that French school children can make just as much noise as school children everywhere. Quite a contrast from the tranquility we had just been experiencing down in the gorge.

A few kilometers down the road and we found ourselves on top of Le Barrage De L’Aigle (Eagle Dam), the reason that the village of Saint-Projet-le-Desert found itself under water.

Built between 1940 and 1945, the dam created a lake, 16 miles in length. Three villages, La Nau, St Projet and Nauzenac, situated on the banks of the river, were all drowned. In Nauzenac, two inhabitants, who didn’t want to leave their house, were drowned by an exceptional flood during the night of the 7th of December 1944.

Apparently, the formal name of the dam, originates from a rock situated downhill from the dam. Needless to say we did not spot the rock.

Alternatively, the dam is called “the dam of the Resistance”, because it was used as a refuge for the maquis.

Maquis (World War II) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Maquis (French pronunciation: [maˈki]) were rural guerrilla bands of French Resistance fighters, called maquisards, during the Occupation of France in World War II.

Some workers were involved both in the maquis and in the construction of the dam. These “workers” employed delaying tactics to the works so that the dam couldn’t be of benefit to the Germans.

On the downstream side of the dam there is a park with information boards and picnic tables, nice of the authorities to provide such a beautiful vantage point from which to relax and enjoy the view.

On the road again we stopped for a quick photo looking back up the gorge, towards the dam, looking over the village of Aynes.

EagleDam_france5
Looking up the gorge, towards Le Barrage De L’Aigle, looking over the village of Aynes

Pretty as the village is, I don’t think I could live so close below such a structure.

At the beginning of this post I said that our original plan was to visit Argentat. We had set out around 10:00 and by now it was after 14:00 and we started to think about lunch. Of course many country eateries close their kitchens for the afternoon, only opening again for the evening trade. And so we found ourselves in Saint-Privat at “La Belle Epoque”.

La Belle Epoque - Saint-Privat
La Belle Epoque – Saint-Privat

Due to our time of arrival,l we were informed that the kitchen was closed. However, they could still provide us with the “plat du jour”, which on the face of it sounded OK. A starter of Eggs Mayonnaise, a main of Sausage with cheesy mashed potatoes (so we thought) and a pudding of pannacotta.

The eggs mayonnaise were fine, not much to mess up there. The sausage and cheesy mash turned out to be sausage laid on a bed of cauliflower cheese with a sprinkling of fried mushroom slices. The oily juice from the mushroom frying was running around the edge of the cauliflower pile. It would have been OK if the sausage had been freshly cooked, but I suspect that it had been reheated in a microwave. Not an impressive meal. Gerry didn’t eat all of her main course and, of course, none of the panacotta. As it happens the panacotta was also OK.

I guess, as I previously mentioned, due to our timing, beggars can’t be choosers. Personally, I think I would have rather gone to a supermarket and bought bread and cheese. Lesson learnt, eat earlier or take a picnic.

We did, eventually, reach Argentat and very pretty it looks too. However, due to our meandering we didn’t feel we could do it justice and have earmarked it for a dedicated visit during the next two weeks.

As we were leaving Argentat we spotted this Chateau, which must have one of the most idyllic settings one could wish for.

The Chateau du Gibanel
The Chateau du Gibanel

This place is now operating as a four star holiday site with provisions for camping, mobile homes or apartments.

Still travelling back towards the gite, our route took us through the village of Saint-Martin-la-Méanne whose church has an unusual tower.

Saint-Martin-la-Méanne
Saint-Martin-la-Méanne

The village takes its name from its geographical position between two rivers, the Dordogne to the east, the Doustre to the west and a plateau of lakes and ponds in the North.One last photo from our grand tour. Not sure where it was but it needed to be recorded for posterity, whatever that is.

Bridge - Dordogne, France
Bridge – Dordogne, France

So, our day did not go as planned but turned out to be very pleasant. Even though the food at La Belle Epoque could have been so much better, it did not spoil the day. It was nice to be able to tour around on such quiet country roads, taking our time and stopping as and when the fancy took us.

It is the peaceful environment that attracts us to rural France. Long may it stay that way.

 

Pemberton / Second Best Western


Our second day of travelling, south of Perth, found us bidding farewell to Margaret River and aiming for Pemberton. Travelling along Warner Glenn Road we crossed the Blackwood River where we stopped so that I could take a couple of photos. By coincidence a couple of kayakers were passing through…..

5J7A2533_edited.jpg
Kayaks – Blackwood River, WA

The figure in the bow of the yellow kayak is that of a dog, proudly acting as lookout. As I walked up the slope from the bridge, back to the car, I noticed a small yellow sign…… lower left corner of the photo below.

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Bridge – Blackwood River, WA. Little yellow sign in bottom left corner indicates flood water levels.

The sign has a line, indicating the flood levels in January 1982. Which means that the bridge would have been totally submerged. Given the height of the bridge, over the current water level, that’s a significant amount of water.

Back on the move again we continued towards Pemberton. The “satnag” had routed us through quite a remote region and once again, well for Gerry and I, we found ourselves watching the fuel gauge.  However, it wasn’t really an issue and we were soon in the centre of Pemberton.

Pemberton is a small town named after original settler Pemberton Walcott. The main industry of the town was timber and there were a number of sawmills processing timber to supply half a million railway sleepers for the Trans-Australian Railway. There are a number of associated artifacts dotted around the town.

Log Carriage c1914 - Pemberton, WA
Log Carriage c1914 – Pemberton, WA
Steam Locomotive c1914 - Pemberton, WA
Steam Locomotive c1914 – Pemberton, WA

Before touring the town we hunted down a cafe where we could have a bite to eat. There are a number of cafe’s and we soon settled ourselves on the veranda at the Crossings Bakery. This establishment self promotes themselves as the “Home Of The Great Aussie Pie” and advertises “Home Made Chunky Meat Pies” “All $5.00”.

Well I don’t know if they are “great” or if this the home of the pies but they hit the spot and when washed down by coffee’s and iced teas our little group were fighting fit to go and hit Pemberton’s tourist hotspots.

Suitably Refreshed - The Crossings Bakery, Pemberton, WA
Suitably Refreshed – The Crossings Bakery, Pemberton, WA

As per usual we headed for the visitor centre where we fought off the urge to purchase copious amounts of Koala Fart5J7A2559_edited5J7A2559_edited.jpg, but discovered that we had about ten minutes to get aboard the Pemberton Tramway which was about to set off on its last trip of the day. This journey is well worth the time spent and, if nothing else, means you get a cooling breeze as you trundle through the forests. In their own words ….

This unforgettable 1¾ hour service shuffles out of Pemberton, past the Saw Mill and descends deep into the Karri forest.  The tram meanders through the forest, crossing six bridges, stopping at the Cascades and ending at the Warren River Bridge where the Lefroy Brook Joins the Warren River.  Your tram then returns to Pemberton.

This is not the most comfortable ride you will ever take but it is fun and informative, the drivers dialogue will have you laughing, well smiling perhaps. We were lucky enough to see a Kookaburra take off from a tree branch and keep pace with the tram for quite some distance before zooming off into the trees.

I See No Ships - Waiting For The Off - Pemberton Tramway, Pemberton, WA
I See No Ships – Waiting For The Off – Pemberton Tramway, Pemberton, WA

The tram ride takes you from one side of Pemberton, across the main road, past the remaining sawmill before plunging into the forest. The following photo’s were all taken from the tram.

Timber Yard / Sawmill - Pemberton, WA
Timber Yard / Sawmill – Pemberton, WA
East Brook Bridge, Pemberton Tramway - Pemberton, WA
East Brook Bridge, Pemberton Tramway – Pemberton, WA
Lefroy Brook - Pemberton Tramway, Pemberton, WA
Lefroy Brook – Pemberton Tramway, Pemberton, WA

The tram ride paused at the Cascades where we were invited to disembark and explore the river below.

Tram - Cascades, Pemberton, WA
Tram – Cascades, Pemberton, WA

Apparently, at the Cascades, the Lefroy Brook transforms from a gentle flow in mid summer to a raging torrent in winter. I guess being December it was summer time and the flow was decidedly tranquil. Definitely a pretty spot, only spoilt by the hoards of tourists just dumped from their tram ride.

Hordes at the Cascades, Pemberton - Pemberton, WA
Hordes at the Cascades, Pemberton – Pemberton, WA

Oh yeah, I was one of those bloody tourists too.

I held back to take some shots when the tram horn blew, calling all the passengers back.

Cascades - Pemberton, WA
Cascades – Pemberton, WA
Cascades - Pemberton, WA
Cascades – Pemberton, WA
Cascades - Pemberton, WA
Cascades – Pemberton, WA

After a twenty-minute interlude at the Cascades the tram carried us further to Warren Bridge, the end of our outward journey. After a few minutes admiring the view …..

View From Warren Bridge - Pemberton Tramway, Pemberton, WA
View From Warren Bridge – Pemberton Tramway, Pemberton, WA

….. the tram headed back to Pemberton. The return journey was a lot faster, and with little or no commentary.

Once back at the Pemberton station I thought this grand only veteran railway engine was deserving of a mention.

W.A.G.R "V1213" - "V" Class
W.A.G.R “V1213” – “V” Class

This engine was built in England at  Robert Stephenson & Hawthorn’s Darlington works at a cost of some £55,019 . It was in service from 20th December, 1955 through to its retirement on 17th June, 1971.

This class of engine was designed to haul coal from the Collie mines to Perth and Fremantle and were also used for heavy freight on the Perth – Bunbury and York – Albany lines.

From the station we headed back into town to search out the hotel. All of us were feeling the need to freshen up. Our hotel was very easy to find, situated as it is, right on the main road as you drive into Pemberton.

First let me say that the photos on the  Best Western Pemberton Hotel website bear little similarity with our rooms. Dull, tired, dated, these are all descriptors that I would use for our accommodation. Certainly not bright and airy as the photos seem to imply. At least the room was clean.

Having freshened up we headed out to take a look at the Gloucester Tree. None of us had any plans to climb the tree which, at 58m, is way out of our league.

Gloucester Tree - Pemberton, WA
Gloucester Tree – Pemberton, WA

We stood and watched a number of people set off up the tree. Quite a few made it fairly quickly. A couple stopped part way and returned to the ground after only 10m or so. What really had us bemused were the number of apparently sane adults who were allowing their 8-10 year old children to climb, when they could barely span the step between the pegs. And, I know this is Australia, but climbing in thongs (English “flip-flops”). Come on folks.

After the Gloucester Tree we went exploring and came across Big Brook Dam. This is a man-made lake, built in 1986, to provide water for the Pemberton region.

Big Brook Dam - Pemberton, WA
Big Brook Dam – Pemberton, WA

This late in the evening the area was very quiet but looked to be a great place for  walking and picnics.

As time was moving on we thought we would find somewhere to eat and returned to Pemberton centre. Much to our dismay we found that all of the earlier eateries were now closed. The only choices seemed to be our hotel, a fish and chip bar, and a curry house. It seems that Pemberton goes to sleep between 16:30 and 18:00.

Second Best Western Pemberton Hotel
Second Best Western Pemberton Hotel

So, it seemed to us that the Pemberton Hotel is the “only show in town”, unless you want a curry or a fish supper carry out. Because of this the restaurant / bar was very busy and the food service was poor. There were four in our party and two of our starters didn’t turn up. Oddly it was the first two dishes we ordered. I had to go and enquire, seems they had lost / forgotten part of our order. Then we had to wait for nearly an hour before the mains were delivered. It felt like we were being punished for having the temerity to ask where our food was.

To be quite honest, the  quality of the food left a lot to be desired and wasn’t worth the wait. It was very poor, probably the worst we have had in WA. Over cooked, bland and the seafood batter was heavy, way too thick. I had Salt & Pepper Squid which seemed to have been cooked with out the Salt & Pepper !!!

When ordering our meals I had considered having the salad bar instead of a normal starter. The one and only healthy thought I had during this week away. When I looked at what was on offer I quickly changed my mind. There were just four dishes with some sort of coleslaw,  some tomato slices, some beetroot and some kind of pasta salad that had seen better days. It was like a time warp back to the seventies.

During our meal, my wife pointed out  to a waitress that someone was smoking, despite signs clearly stating that was not allowed. The waitress ignored my wife who was left to confront the offender who thankfully was compliant and moved away to the smoking area. In general the rest of the waiting staff were friendly but I think they were overwhelmed by the work load.

Somewhat depressed by our meal experience we headed off to our rooms. The room Gerry and I had been allocated had two single beds. It transpired that the wheels on my bed were not locked and the bed, like a supermarket trolley, had a mind of its own,moving around the room at will. Also, as I subsequently found out, the mattress hadn’t been set on the bed properly so the edge wasn’t supported. After having laid down for a while, when I first went to stand up, the mattress tilted down and I was spilled onto the floor. I sorted the mattress out but, overnight, it seemed to have moved again.

And a general note, the car park is limited for space not enough spaces for the number of rooms. Although we managed to park on site for check-in later in the evening when we returned we had to park out on the street.

So for the hotel I’d rate it as the Second Best Western. Pemberton gets a thumbs up although the early curfew is a pain. Many of the cafe’s could make a bomb if they opened a bit later in the evening.

Many of the properties in Pemberton are heritage listed. Some are in dire need of some TLC but all add to the charm of this country town.