My sister and I flew straight from Seville to Toulouse to continue the family adventure in June. We had and had arranged to meet Alex and my brother at the airport as our flights were due to land within 20 minutes of each other. Unfortunately, our flight was delayed three hours, so left the guys with not much to do while they waited around for us. I was disappointed that we would be late as we were supposed to get to our cute little French town, Gourdon, in time for dinner and to see my Dad and Stepmum who I had not seen since we left them in Tuscany nearly two years ago. We finally made it to Gourdon around 9pm and had a great evening catching up with my parents, brother and Alex hearing all about the adventures everyone had been on since we last caught up (a lot).
Gourdon is a town in the French province of Lot. It was a lot larger than I expected as I assumed Dad would have picked something similar to the little village we stayed at in Tuscany. We didn’t spend too much time in the town of Gourdon while we were there as we spent a lot of time travelling to other little villages around Lot and the Dordogne. For this blog and the next, I have split it up by region, this will look at everything we did in the Lot Region, and the next will touch on the day trips we took to the Dordogne Region and our last day in Toulouse. Along with all of the little day trips that we took while staying in Gourdon, we also did a lot of relaxing at the beautiful farmhouse we were staying at. This generally consisted of lounging around in the sun, snacking on the amazing array of local cheeses available, chatting with the family, and cooking dinner together. As I mentioned before, this was the first time in two years that I had seen my Dad and Stepmum so it was great to just relax and catch up.
While we were in Gourdon, we got to see the Fête de la Musique. This was an amazing experience to be a part of as it seemed as though the whole town was out, drinking wine, having picnics, and enjoying some varied, but fantastic, live music. All around the town, there were different performances going on, some more modern, and some very traditional with performers and supporters alike dressed in black (I think this had something to do with the summer solstice).
Another event that was on while we were in Gourdon was the summer carnival (sounds much nicer than it actually was). Hundreds of giant trucks full of tacky carnival fare ascended on the town and set up around most of the ring road around the old town for three days. It was full of flashing lights, gambling, loud music, and games. It was not really the experience you would expect when holidaying in a cute, French village.
The whole area that we were staying in was famous for prehistoric cave paintings, so we were keen to check one out while we were there. From the research we did, it seemed as though most of the ones open to the public these days are just replicas of the real thing as they want to preserve the real cave paintings. I was not going to pay to go and see some imitation of the cave paintings, so we were lucky that the Grottes de Cougnac were just down the road from Gourdon as these are among the oldest cave paintings available to the public where you can view the real thing. This tour was really great, there were about 20 people on the tour, half of which spoke French, the rest were able to speak English. Because of this, the tour guide said everything in both French and English. The caves were in two parts – the limestone caves with stalactites and stalagmites, then the caves with smoother walls with the cave paintings. You are not allowed to take pictures in the caves with the paintings, so you will just have to go and see it for yourself. Best bit of advice – take a jacket as it is very cold and you are underground for over an hour. It was cool to see such an old part of history. The only question that I had coming out of this is why did they go on such a treacherous journey underground to paint the outline of a sheep on the wall – seems a bit crazy to me.
It would have been wrong to visit France without going on a tour of one of the wineries while we were there. Alex researched an interesting sounding winery near where we were staying called Château de Chambert. We were interested in visiting this winery because it was the largest organic winery in the Cahors region. As we were there in June, there was no wine production going on as harvest was still a couple of months away. Our tour was a really nice Australian lady who taught us a lot about how the vineyard turned organic (it was abandoned until the 1970’s so had no chemicals used on it for half a century). I managed to pick up an empty wine box for the flat which I am very pleased with.
Before we went on the winery tour, Alex, my sister and I went on a bit of a tikitour around the countryside. The villages in the area are so cute that it is easy to spend hours just driving around all of the little villages. The only thing we didn’t count on was absolutely everything being shut that day (things seem to be shut more in France than they are open). We eventually managed to find a little countryside bistro in the small, nondescript village of Castelfranc, that was open. This was exactly the type of place Alex and I were hoping to find as we wanted to take my sister to get a traditional French lunch. The menu was handwritten, entirely in French. The lady who served us spoke no English (and us very, very minimal French – “Bonjour”), so we were not 100% sure what we were ordering as google translate only roughly translated what was written down. I ended up going for the ‘butchers choice”. I have no idea what type of meat that ended up being but I chose it because it came with a wine reduction sauce. The others teased me no end, saying that I was eating cheval or horse. Well, whatever it was, it was delicious so I don’t really care.
While driving our rental car in the countryside one day, we were pulled over by two police officers who spoke minimal English. They demanded our papers, and I had no idea what that meant so I just grabbed everything out of the glovebox and gave it to them. They looked at me like I was a complete idiot and handed me back the car manual from the pile of papers – might have been a deserved look. They took close to half an hour reviewing the papers and when they finally came back to the car they said “this car has been stolen” – WHAT?!? What the officer meant was that the rental car had previously been stolen and the numberplate was still flagged up in the system. He had a good laugh at our misunderstanding as we tried to work out what was actually wrong. He was very friendly and nice about the whole thing.
On our second to last day staying in Gourdon, we decided to visit the famous pilgrim town of Rocamadour. We had this town recommended from many people so didn’t bother looking into it too much before visiting and because of this, did not really know what to expect with this. What we found was a clifftop village that looked out over the Dordogne river and was one of the cutest places we ended up going on our trip.
After struggling for a while to find a park, we jumped out and descended down the winding ramp from the top of the cliff to the small town perched precariously on the side. Rocamadour is a UNESCO World Heritage site, particularly in relation to the chapel containing the Black Madonna – the main reason for this town being a stop on one of the pilgrim trails to Santiago de Compostella. We were not that interested in the pilgrim-related sights, so instead, enjoyed exploring the small village as it was particularly cute. That afternoon we stopped for crepes (although I was unfortunately not able to have any since they used walnuts in most of the recipes being the local food and all…) and enjoyed a nice glass of rosé, reminiscing about what a great holiday we had been having and how nice it was for all of the family to be back together again.
In the next blog, we explore a bit further from Gourdon into the Dordogne region – visit some more cute villages, chateaus, gardens, and end up in Toulouse.
Until next time,