Saturday, October 9, 2010
Languedoc to Dordogne
We had the car packed and house closed up by 9:15 this morning, so got an early start. We drove straight up the A-75 Autoroute through Millau, and over the Millau Viaduct. Going over that bridge is really exciting. It’s 2.5 km long and higher than the Eiffel Tower. It is the only toll portion of the A-75 and costs 6.20 euros. Not long after crossing bridge, we left the autoroute and travelled west toward Rodez on D routes, which are maintained by the local department (county). Most of them are excellent roads and pass through many villages and small towns, giving a much more scenic experience than the autoroutes.
The scenery was so different here than what we had been seeing since we had come to the south of France. In Provence and Languedoc: grapes, grapes, and more grapes, and some olive trees. The landscape is very rocky and the hills/mountains are rugged. Where the land hasn’t been cultivated, there are scrubby oaks and pines. The buildings are grey stone with red tile roofs, and very square, and even squat. Some with towers and turrets. Nearly every village looks closed up – there are stone walls around most houses, and shutters usually cover street-facing windows. The primary signs of occupations are flowers in window boxes or in pots on the front stoop.
As we drove west through the departments of Aveyron and Lot, the vineyards gave way to pasture land with grazing cattle and sheep. The fields are separated by rows of shrubs and trees, rather than by stone fences. The forests are oak and other hardwoods. The architecture is dramatically different. The houses are more stand-alone made of honey-colored stone, with steeper roofs – many of them slate. The houses are not hidden behind walls, and appear to be more open and occupied. The towns and villages are charming, and we didn’t go very far without some sign of habitation. A couple of the towns were built of red stone, apparently quarried from the local area. The road took us through the Lot River Valley, which isn’t as well-known as the Dordogne River Valley, and doesn’t get as many tourists, but is very pretty, just the same.
The scenery on the entire drive was so pretty, and we’re so glad we decided to come the way we did, rather than what might have been a quicker, but less scenic way. We stopped in Rodez for lunch in a cafeteria, which was really good and inexpensive.
The directions we had for finding the house were very good and we drove right to it. It isn’t far off the main road into Sarlat, which is about 10 km away. The house is in a little hamlet of several other houses and farms. Our neighbors have a productive garden and chickens (I hope they don’t have a rooster that crows early in the morning). The owner’s caretakers, Pat and Derek, were here to greet us and are a nice British couple who have lived here for 9 years, but don’t speak any French. He said he lets his credit card speak for him. The kitchen in this house isn’t as well equipped as our prior houses – the stove is electric, and not many pots & pans, and no dishwasher. But, there is a clothes dryer, so we’re happy about that! The owners provided quite a lot in the way of supplies: eggs, milk, juice, ham, bacon, cheese, and a big bowl of fresh fruit – so we didn’t need to shop today, and were able to put together an egg, ham & cheese sandwich for dinner. Once we got here this afternoon, we stayed put. It was a good 7-hour drive, and I didn’t feel like going out again. Tomorrow we’ll go exploring.