Posts Tagged ‘Dordogne River Valley’
IT WAS 69 YEARS AGO TODAY… 10 June 1944, just 4 days after the allied forces landed on the beaches in Normandy; an atrocity was perpetrated by Hitler’s S.S. on the 1,000 year old village of Oradour-sur-Glane. In all, 642 persons that included; 193 schoolchildren perished in the massacre that Saturday afternoon. Actual specifics and firsthand accounts detailing the horrific brutality can be easily found on the internet… The 190 men were herded into 9 different barns and buildings where they were then shot in the legs and burnt alive, all the women and schoolchildren were lead into the church to meet a similarly unspeakable end.
I knew little about the magnitude or scope of this war crime but felt compelled last week to travel just north of Limoges to see and learn more about what was only occasionally whispered about by our neighbors many of whom were themselves members, or children, of the Maquis (French Résistance) during WWII. You see, this convoy of Hitler’s SS had just passed through our villages of both Bretenoux and Saint Céré only 24 hours before the massacre.
We were not prepared for what we saw and what we learned… I was not prepared for the actual size of this village which has been left EXACTLY as it was on that infamous day. In total; 325 homes, shops, hotels, cafés, schools, and the church, were plundered, burnt and left frozen in time, so all who visit will remember horror that occurred in Oradour-sur-Glane, not really so long ago.
Souviens-Toi et à bientôt, Jack
We've been told that nearly 70% of the world’s prehistoric cave art is to be found here in southwestern France. Viewing the 25,000 year old paintings at Pech-Merle and a few other important sites provides the opportunity to see some of its finest examples.
Medieval villages are everywhere and within about a 1.5 hour drive radius of the Dordogne River Valley's heart you can visit 18 of the most beautiful villages in France. That’s better than 10% of the villages that have made the governments, Plus Beau Villages list. This region was where Julius Caesar defeated the Gaul’s in 54BC, home to Richard the Lionhearted, and birthplace to the Knights Templar’s. (We think this makes the area one of France’s best kept secrets!)
Rustic French cuisine just does not get better! This is ground zero for the black truffles, fois gras, and other regional Quercynoise delights. If you come here don’t forget to bring your appetite.
For paddle-sport enthusiasts the rivers in our region of most interest include; the Dordogne (considered the cleanest & most beautiful in all of France), Vézère (which passes though the heart of the regions pre-history) and the Ardèche.
This patch of southwestern France was once known as the Haut-Quercy. Located at the northern tip of the French department called the LOT (46) and also includes parts of the Corrèze (19) and Cantal (15).
TRAVEL time to/ from Paris is about 4.5 hours by train, Bordeaux 3 hours West, and Toulouse 2.5 hours South by car.
France’s rustic soul can be found in the heart southwest!
à bientôt! Jack
Even if your primary reason for coming here is to canoe or kayak the magnificent Dordogne River, there are a few places that should not be overlooked when visiting the Dordogne River Valley:
Pech Merle, Grotte du Gaume, and Lascaux: The Pre-History of Man
Check out magnificent cave art of early man at Pech Merle, Grotte du Gaume, and Lascaux. (Also, a visit to the National Prehistoric Museum in Les Eyzies is a must)
Rocamadour is a nearly vertical village which has been visited by pilgrims since the 9th century. In 1166 when the perfectly preserved remains of St. Amadour were discovered under the floor in front of its little Chapelle Notre-Dame, Rocamadour became one of the most important centers for religious pilgrimage in all of Europe. It is said, ‘St. Amadour’ was actually Zacchaeus – a tax collector in Jericho at the time of Christ – who was advised by the Virgin Mary to come to this location in France to live out his remaining years as a hermit. Toward the end of the 12 century, Henri Courtmantel, aka: “Young King Henry”, son of King Henry II of England & Eleanor of Aquitaine (and the old brother of Richard the Lionheart), plundered Rocamadour and stole its most prized relics including; a small statue known as the ‘Black Virgin’ and Rowland’s famous sword, Durandal. Ultimately, under pressure from King Henry II, he returned these relics to Rocamadour and they can be seen there today.
Gouffre de Padirac:
Imagine a voyage down a river deep underground it is probably one of the most unique boating experiences you will ever encounter. The Gouffre de Padirac provides a spectacular entrance to a network of rivers about 300 feet underground and the opportunity to take a little cruise of about 1.5 nautical miles through a beautiful grotto and cave network. The view up from the base of the Gouffre’s main chasm gives you the sense that you are beginning a journey to the center of the earth. Then, you continue to descend another 100 feet underground to the boats below!
Link: Gouffre de Padirac
Explore the most beautiful villages in France:
THE French government has generated a list of 148 villages within the 65 French Departments (Counties) they protect & consider these villages’ true national treasures. All of these villages date back to the Middle Ages. Within a 20 to 30 minute drive radius of Carennac, there are seven! These include: Carennac, Loubressac, Autoire, Curemonte, Rocamadour, Turenne and Collonges-la-Rouge.
In total, eighteen of these plus beaux villages (including; Collonges-la-Rouge, Turenne, Curemonte & Domme not on detailed on the map above) are within an hour drive or less of Carennac. That’s better than 10% of the entire List …Right here in the Haut Quercy, how cool is that???
Link: Les Plus Beaux Villages
à bientôt! Jack