So, at last, I hear you say….something approaching a proper, physical challenge. And you would be right, when my friend Megan did this last year she thought to herself this would be the perfect challenge for Claire, a physically demanding three hour kayak, balanced out by the stunning scenery along the Dordogne (and the assistance of some of her rather gorgeous family if things got too much) and a tasty Fench picnic. I jumped at the chance but sometimes things are just not meant to be….
Our trip suffered numerous setbacks which were totally out of our control (personal sorrow, freak meteorological flooding and,the French being the French, various strike actions) so our new challenge became….just to make it to France!!
I have known Megan for about 20 years now as we met when our children were at St Philips playgroup and we are both ‘cup half full’ people so hit it off instantly. Therefore even though we had to shorten our trip and ditch the kayaking ( the Dordogne was flooded so not allowing kayaks on the water) we both still knew we would have a great time…which we absolutely did.
We were staying at a beautifully converted house, near the town of Gourdon and a five minute walk away from Megan’s brother-in-law and his family who were extremely hospitable, beautiful people. Megan also had family and some other friends staying with us so there was a ‘party’ atmosphere which was wonderful. We ate at a fabulous restaurant which only opens when pre- booked and all the courses included fresh herbs or flowers from the small but brilliantly packed restaurant garden. We had a pizza chef come in his van to the house and cook what are undoubtedly the best pizzas I have ever eaten, to celebrate Megan’s brother in laws birthday ( duck pizza being a speciality of the region..inspired) and a bar-b-que, like no other…where the mushroom starter had been foraged, the meat cooked were huge steaks which I don’t even know how to describe and the fish was fresh and fabulous, all washed down with wine and merriment.
However, there were two particular highlights to the trip. Firstly, we had an amazing day trip where Richard (Megan’s son) kindly drove us to visit beautiful towns like Domme, La Roque Gageac ( where we looked at the doomed kayaks and I dipped my toe in a swollen and very fast flowing river) and the stunning Rocamadour. I had no idea how breathtaking the scenery would be. And the icing on the cake was a boat trip as promised…however this was rescheduled to Gouffre de Padriac, a subterranean river ( 103 m below ground ) which opened into the most awe inspiring cavern imaginable….you can undertand why they call them underground cathedrals. As the last visitors we had the pleasure of enjoying it’s majesty in silence for a while which I will not forget for a long time.
The thing I enjoyed most though…France itself. Where we stayed was rural, tranquil and idyllic. I sat in the garden watching more butterflies than I have ever seen in one place, buzzards were flying low overhead; there was birdsong including cuckoos, hummingbird hawk moths in the sweetest smelling honeysuckle and….wait for it….I saw Hoopoe!! Poor Megan had so many conversations interrupted by me jumping out of my chair to look at something or other…..she had great patience with me. In addition the surrounding area and towns are beautiful, the food so tasty and it is packed with things to do. So Megan we may not have kayaked on the Dordogne but you gave me something much greater….a whole area of France to re-visit, and explore (Carcasonne especially), new friends and wonderful memories 🇫🇷