Steve Watson


      Information: Travels: France: The Dordogne and Languedoc







Drove from Amboise to PERIGUEUX.


Took off early in the morning (by my standards: I was on the road at 10:25) to get to Perigueux in the Dordogne with some light remaining. It was a pretty unpleasant trip to start with. It rained very heavily from Tours to some way past Poitiers . With everyone travelling at 120-130 and visibility less than that many metres it sometimes got a bit hairy. Also, I managed to make more than the usual number of false turns, and most of these weren't my fault, but the fault of deceptive signage. I'm particularly annoyed that a big sign said 'This way to Perigueux' and took me on to the N141 to Limoges . I would have gotten to Perigueux eventually, but it would have been via a very wide circle - almost double the necessary length. And I think I got caught on a speed camera, which is annoying. Oh, and! the toll booths don't take MasterCard at all, despite the lack of any difficulty on the northern roads, and despite there being MasterCard signs on the sides of the machine. So I had to back out (thank you madam, and sorry to do that) and go to the cash booth at the far right. Looks like that's going to be the procedure from now on.

By 15:30 I'd found my way into the city. (So, 5 1/2 hours driving.) It was easy enough to get to the Ibis/Etap hotel after I recognised some roads and sat with my maps and oriented myself. I've deleted the free France maps from the iPad, since they are all quite useless. The best thing to do is charge up the Maps app with the detailed maps for what you want before leaving. Not ideal, but without an Internet connection the only other option is dead trees.

Map of the Dordogne

 The area is conventionally vaguely divided into Green (around Nonton,) White (Perigueux,) Purple (Bergerac,) and Black (Sarlat.) The names allude to the characteristics of the different landscapes affected by, respectively, the green beech and spruce forests, the limestone plateuax, the vineyards, and the dark oak and pine forests.


The hotel is quite nice, but absolutely no character. Walked about town a bit and had a look at the cathedral. Interesting Greek cross design showing its age, but, as the guide says, very badly (as in, tastelessly) restored. Bought food on the way back from Carrefour. 11e will feed me well tonight.

Map of Perigueux

My hotel was the Etap, no. 4 on the map.

The original Gallic city, Vesunna, the capital of the Petrocorii, was on the other side of the river Isle. The Roman city was in the south where the railroad now passes through. 







Very dull day. Today is May Day and it's a bank holiday (which i think is called here a faerie des travail lemurs, I mean ferié des travailleurs, thank you auto correct) and everything is closed except for a few food shops. I determine to see the archaeological musum before I leave: I have heard a lot about it. I wandered about the town and looked at the Tower of Vesunna , a Roman period ruin of a temple dedicated to the Gaulish goddess, and along the river a bit where there were several people jogging or walking their dogs. I would like to have looked into the Musée Gallo-Romain but the best I could do was peer into the  surrounding glass windows to see the huge excavated domus in there. Other than that there was nothing to do but plan the next part s of my tripping. Oh yes, there was also a very lackadaisical protest by the CGT in town (plus de colere, mes braves!) - but there wasn't anyone to see them, so what could be the point of it?

Why do the homeless beggars of France all have dogs?

Tower of Vesunna

Previously part of a temple to the Gallic god Vesunna at the very heart of the Roman city. 


May day, may day







Didn't have a lot of luck with the prehistoric sites around Les Eyzies! I got to have a tour of the Grand Roc, which was just a passage with a lot of stalactites and stalagmites (c'est 't' pour 'tomber' et 'm' pour 'monter' - or so he was telling the kids, who were very interested and asked a lot of questions. On the other hand the rest of the caves were closed for today (Combarelles) or sold out (Font de Gaume) and the museum was closed until 2, so I resigned myself to a meal in a pleasant little bar beside the road and museum. So I waited, but the museum was worth the wait.

Map of the cave art sites around Les Eyzies

Scanned from Hawkes, J. (1974) 'Atlas of Ancient Archaeology' London:Heineman


Grand Roc

The overhang makes for a fine shelter that attracted ancient inhabitants.


Grand Roc

The path down is not the same as the path up.


Les Eyzies

Horses from the museum


Les Eyzies

A cave bear from the museum. A very lifelike reconstruction, but I thought that the bears were larger than that. This is only about the size of a brown bear. They made a great impression on me as a youngster reading the Time/Life book on Early Man with the picture of the caveman confronting a bear as part of the bear cult. And that impression of awesomeness was reinforced when I read Jean Auel's 'Clan of the Cave Bear.'


Finally, I went out to Lascaux . When I eventually found the place I was turned back at the entrance because you have to buy your tickets at the Tourist Info office in Montignac. That's 2km back the way you came. Except that there's no obvious way to find your way through the one way streets into Montignac, and there are no signs for the office that I could see. I gave it up as a bad job nod drove home. Also not much fun. I was sent circling through Perigueux for half an hour, including an episode of being directed into the Francheville underground car park, where I had to ask for help to get out. (The machine wouldn't give a ticket and you can't get out without one.)

Not a great day.

A Horse in Lascaux

I didn't get to see this!







Drove from Perigueux to PREIXAN.


Started well today with the battery flat. Waited for an hour for someone to come help, but I don't think they were ever actually called. The car started by itself anyway, so that's ok. This and other delays meant that I couldn't really spend the morning at the museums that I wanted to check out. I'm just going to have to write off this section as being an unsatisfactory effort.

Drove for 4 hours to this little village south of Carcassonne . Very pleasant. There's only myself and Harry, an older gentleman (but not too much so,) as guests, so its quite cosy. Got off to a great start by dinging the hostess' car trying to back it out of the narrow drive. Tracey was nice about it but I'm pissed off with this stupid car. It's impossible to get the gears to change smoothly and it has almost no visibility reversing or going round corners. (The rear view mirror is directly in the centre of the main window - how dumb is that.)

Harry and I went to get a pizza in the town. Good food, a beer, and a nice chat.

Carcassonne in the Aude

Preixan is about 10 km south of it.


Map of Preixan

From the whereis app on the iPad. The purple pin marks the site of Sidsmums Travellers' Rest..







Went in to Carcassonne town with Harry. It was useful to have someone to guide me into the parking areas, but as it happened there was not the free parking on the periphery that I'd been promised by Tracey. Still, it turned out pretty cheap so no harm done.

The town was having a market day and the centre was full of vegetable and meat sellers. All a bit same-ish, I thought. Around the outside there were other markets that were selling all sorts of stuff - a bit like an extended car boot sale. And it was mostly being done by dark-skinned people: I've got no real idea about their ethnicity, but they didn't look classic French.

The mediaeval city of Carcassone , just across the river to the south-east was quite impressive. It has been very well and thoroughly renovated; and the walls and the fortifications and rooftops and so on are very imposing. The internals of the place weren't as impressive, since there's not much to be seen. The little church at the bottom off the hill was better and the screen of windows was different from most of the other churches I'd seen. I identified a Jesse window, which was quite fun. Outside the church was supposed to be an amphitheatre, but neither I nor another chap with his family were able to find it. We assume its behind the construction fencing and not accessible.

Lunched at a nice little courtyard place. Just a sandwich and a coffee. Couldn't face the crowds in the main places, but they looked quite attractive and fun too.

Cité de Carcassonne

As reconstructed by Viollet-le-Duc.


Scenes of la Cité 

Looking mighty mediaeval



From the inner museum



In the main square. That was too busy for me: I found a nice secluded garden courtyard place, and was much happier.


Church front 

An alarmed gargoyle. Didn't I see this fellow sitting by Jabba the Hutt in 'The Empire Strikes Back'?


Jesse Window 


It took me bloody hours to find my way out of the city. I didn't realise that the relevant signposts were for Limoux, which is a small town further down the road from Preixan. I thought they'd point me to more significant places, or to more local places. That was hard. However, got back unfazed, and did some shopping. Chatted with Harry a lot of the night and we turned in a bit early. We've got a young couple of German guys have joined us, but they chose to go into one of the cabins. I think they vaant to be aloone.







This morning and most of the afternoon Harry and I went for a walk through the countryside southwards of our little village. We eventually wound up in Montclar. This was really not a very nice village. It was almost empty of life: not even a dairy or a shop to buy a drink at, which I was really counting on. Some of the houses around that village, on the other hand, are rather nice. We looked pretty closely at one that was being built, and were unable to interpret the purpose of a lot of what had been done. Not that it matters.

I also went for a little walk about the village, noting that it was much nicer than the one we'd seen earlier that day, I thought it appropriate to record some of its charms. These are a bit hard to capture on film: it's not just that its picturesque; it is that the lady in the shop keeps odd hours, that they are doing some renovations in the Main Street, that the dog that belongs to the previous owner of the hostel likes to hang out out front of it still, and so on. Very Clochemerle, Harry calls it, who has been here for while now.

I asked Tracey for the DVD of 'Independence Day' to watch, but it was really too late by that time. I gave up at 1.

View of a typical street in Preixan


Preixan Church