Vacances en France – 2018 – Conques


During our earlier foray to Entraygues-sur-Truyere, whilst stood on the dam watching an otter fishing, I had bumped into a pair of cyclists. British as it happens. We had a chat and about each others holiday destinations etc. During this conversation I had mentioned the light show we had witnessed at Chartres. In response they mentioned visiting Conques and the Abbey, that the town was doing something similar every night until the end of September.

I had filed this piece of information away, as a possible target destination for when our friends joined us. Unfortunately, time and a brief spell of tummy upset conspired against us before it was time for them to head back to dear old Blighty.

So Gerry and I decided we would head off to Conques on our own. The plan was to leave late, spend the afternoon doing that touristy thing, then have an evening meal in Conques before enjoying the light show.

It was, yet another, glorious day and we were soon wending our way through the French countryside. Every turn in the road seems to open up another grand view. At times we would appear to be on top of the world with huge panoramas. At others we would be looking down at small towns or villages, dwarfed by the high tree lined sides of gorges.

Soon we were crossing the border, leaving the Cantal, entering the Aveyron. No passport control, just drive on through. Approximately five kilometers from Conques, we stopped for a beer at Chez Marie in the pretty village of Grand Varbres.

After exploring Grand-Varbres we continued on to Conques.


Conques, listed as one of the most beautiful villages of France, is about 30 kilometres east of Figeac and 35 kilometres north of Rodez, in the Aveyron department in the Massif Central. Conques sits on the edge of the gorge of the River Dourdou, in a beautiful setting surrounded by mountains and forests. The approach from the south is along an especially attractive stretch of river.

https://www.francethisway.com/places/conques.php

Joe Public are not allowed to drive or park inside the town of Conques. There is public parking, for a small fee, just outside the entrance to the town. A gently inclined pathway then takes you up to the centre of town.

That gentle entry is a bit of a con, as deviating to either side results in encounters with steep steps and pathways, all designed to give one a bit of a cardiac workout.

We spent a couple of hours exploring, taking in the quaint streets and houses, as well as the Abbey itself.

It wasn’t long before it was time for another beer. We found a bar and were soon sat, basking in the sunshine, with a glorious view of the Abbey’s twin towers.

At 19:00 we took ourselves off to the restaurant, where previously I had booked a table. We were soon seated at a table on the terrace with a prime view looking down over Conques.

Conques – Where we had our evening meal

The food was superb, a starter which comprised a mixed platter of charcuterie and fromages. Followed by a delicious tender steak with vegetables served in baskets (Yorkshire puds) and aligoo. Then it was time to head out to the Abbey.

Part of the evenings entertainment was a monk explaining the history behind the tympanum. We sat and listened but, as it was only in French, we had no understanding. So the evident humour was lost on us, but not on the rest of the crowd. Similarly, we were not able to make the appropriate responses when prompted by the monk. Still it was an interesting experience.

As for the light show, well we opted not to stay. Gerry was already wilting and I still had over an hours drive back to the gite.

Conques – Abbey Illuminations

It was ten o’clock gone when we left Conques, and with tens of hairpin bends to contend with in the darkness, it made for a fairly intense journey home.

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 ….

Entraygues

Ripples

…. or this distant tower ….

Entraygues1

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 …

Entraygues14

Entraygues-sur-Truyere – Hungry Heron

Entraygues15

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.