Friday, September 16, 2011
Doing Dordogne - Day Five
Saturday, September 10th
A leisurely start this morning. We ambled across the street from our hotel in Lescar to a large shopping center for cinnamon-raisin rolls and coffee, then back to finish packing. It was close to 10:00 am before we joined Miriam and Bill in the car and headed out.
I had programed the French-speaking GPS to avoid the main highway, opting for country roads that would take us to the town of Roquefort where we hoped to sample some of the famous cheese of the same name.
I quickly got used to the patient French female voice giving instructions about the frequent traffic circles and specifying the first or second or third exit from each. After much driving according to the GPS directions, it appeared that we were trending more and more toward the east instead of north, and getting farther away from our destination in Roquefort.
I kept insisting that the GPS was correct and that we should trust it, but was at last out-voted three to one, and turned off the GPS. Bill and Jane consulted their maps, and giving directions in clear English navigated us back onto a more northerly course, eventually allowing us to arrive around 2:00 pm at the small town of Roquefort (with accompanying jokes about beginning to smell the stinky cheese).
The whole town seemed asleep or deserted, but near the town center we found a Tabac, a combination tobacco shop/bar that was open, and went in to ask about where to find some good Roquefort cheese to buy.
To their dismay and my amusement, the owners informed them that we were not in THAT Roquefort, but one of the other three towns in France that are ALL named Roquefort. Consulting the maps, they showed us that the GPS had been taking us to another one of the spurious Roqueforts, and that "le village de fromage" was at least four or five hours drive away from our present location!
Back in the car again, Bill did a great job of navigating and giving directions from his maps, and we all gave a cheer as we entered the valley of the Dordogne River. An hour later we were pulling into a small public parking lot stretched out along the eastern bank of the Dordogne in the town of Beynac, which lies crowded along the shoreline of the river and clings to precipitous rocky slopes slanted up to the Chateau de Beynac at the highest point above the town.
One cobblestone street climbs up through the village toward the castle. Narrower, steeper streets suitable only for pedestrians branch off in different directions, leading to large stone houses and small cottages built on seemingly impossible slopes.
We have a lovely room with a floor to ceiling window that opens onto a french balcony, which is really not a balcony at all, but merely a railing across the lower part of the window to keep the incautious from falling to the street below. This will be our home for the coming week. Tomorrow we'll visit a country market day about 10 km down the river.