A Travellerspoint blog

May 2018

Chateau de Sully-sur-Loire

another biking adventure

sunny 15 °C

It was a nice leisurely start to the day. We had woken up to sunshine and already our spirits were lifted.

The Loire has numerous chateaux along its banks, and this one is the closest to where we have been staying. Was to be approx 16km there, and also an Abbey in a village along the way. So lots for us to see and discover as we biked. For me biking over the bridge spanning the Loire is a major exercise. I simply do not like heights and it is a real challenge. So this is a wide river and a wide bridge. With determination made a shaky crossing. Unfortunately before actually reaching the Chateau we had to cross it again. Today I have been 4 times over the river. Cant say my confidence has got any better yet.

Our first stop was Saint-Benoit sur Loire Abbey. While it was beautiful another were 2 buses already there with people going through, what really amazed me was the crypt underneath with the relics of Saint Benoit in there. We were whispering and it was a very strange feeling being there. There was to be a procession in the village commemorating Joan of Arc on the 3rd May. Such ancient history and yet still so present.

Biking through the countryside was lovely. It is Labour Day in France today, and it is taken seriously. i.e. nothing open. Also lots of people out enjoying either fishing, biking, walking etc. When we reached the chateau/castle/fortress it was already busy . It was fascinating and easier to relate too than Versailles. It seems Joan of Arc had been held captive here. There was a movie depicting this but in either french or german-not much use to us. This castle had been in private family (Bethune) hands until 1962, but is now being restored and managed by the local authority.

Biking back was enjoyable, and tonight we were able to sit outside the vans and savour a drink after the bike ride. In all we biked 44 km. We are promised warmer weather as the week progresses. Travel day again tomorrow. Maybe Limoges -see how the trip pans out.

Posted by Sallyj66 09:21 Archived in France Comments (0)


"tho I walk in the valley of death"


Last night our power went off at about 2am, and wasnt reconnected by the time we departed at 8.45. A lot of unhappy campers. So my blog has not been able to be published unfortunately. Tonight we are in the back of beyond and without internet again.

It was a big day of travel, mostly on toll roads, no drama today thank goodness. We had decided that enroute to Carcasson, we would stop to visit Oradour sur Glane, a memorial village 20km from Limoges. We had been recommended it by friends from Blenheim who had been there and were moved by it.

This village was surrounded by SS Waffen on 10-6-44, everyone was herded into the town square, men separated from women and children, then taken to different locations. At precisely the same time they were massacred in each location. The women and children then taken to the church where it was set alight, hand grenades thrown in and the survivors shot regardless of age. The “motivation” appears to be retribution for the Germans defeat. The ice cold systematic and methodical vindictive slaughter is incomprehensible. Ironically this region was in an area not even occupied by the germans during the war.

Subsequent to this there were trials in which collaborators were given amnesty. The unresolved feelings following the annihilation of an entire village, and no sense of accountability led to the village setting up their destroyed village as a living and continuing memorial. The new village has been built alongside the destroyed one. Walking through the cemetery there are family plots for entire families, sometimes 3 generations in each vault dying on the same day.

It is an intensely disturbing experience. My most poignant memory is of a pram riddled with bullet holes.Quite what dissociative process is at work that enables grown men to shoot 2 day, 3 month and even 2 year old children is very hard to comprehend..There is an educative display to explain the political climate in which this emerged. Unfortunately most of it is not in english so we are left guessing a large part of it.

So we have been confronted with man’s inhumanity to man. History cannot be avoided so easily here.

We have found a campsite for the night beside a lake, very restful and restorative. Tomorrow is Roccamadour. Not such a long drive and we will be able to appreciate and enjoy the beautiful setting. The countryside is very different now with rolling hills, forests and endless quaint villages.

Posted by Sallyj66 09:36 Archived in France Comments (2)


spectacular views

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Setting off from Nexon (our last camp site) we drove through awesome country. Huge rolling hills and valleys into the Occitaine region and the Dordognes.

it was a relatively short drive to Rocamadour (2 hours) but we did stop and get a recharge of our grocery supplies beforehand. Even grocery shopping is an adventure because we have to guess whatever we buy and inevitably make some mistakes each time.

We arrived during 'lunch hour' i.e. 1pm but it is accepted practice to go onto a site and then deal with the administration when the lady returns - this time 2pm. Today was washing day, so once those household chores dealt too we got on our bikes and embarked on our next adventure. Rocamadour is an extremely beautiful village perched on a precarious hillside. It was one of the things I had marked down orginally that I really wanted to do, and I was not disappointed.

Challenges for me invariably involve heights, so once again the bike ride down the hill to the village itself was challenging. However the bike ride back up again was sheer terror!! But done nonetheless. It is so fantastic to see how the buildings meld into the rock side. Of course there is a church, which dates form 850AD. This area is on a pilgrimage route, and while we were there some young back packers arrived singing in celebration as they followed the path of their pilgrimage. We climbed right to the top of the parapets, which also meant we had to climb down again! Great for the legs this sightseeing.

We had a successful shopping expedition in the village and then needed to make decisions about how to get back up the hill. I was all for walking, but the intrepid adventurers amongst us thought biking up the hill was a good idea. I was outnumbered and thus joined them. A man and woman at the bottom of the hill just laughed at us with the mere thought of us biking up there. The last laugh was on us because when we were at the top of the hill we saw them struggling and sweating as they reached the top walking.

It has been an awesome day and lovely to enjoy the beauty of France. Tomorrow we visit caves and then see friends of Ans and Rob. The south of France is every bit as beautiful as we have been told.

Posted by Sallyj66 12:38 Archived in France Comments (0)


Lot et Garonne, visiting old friends...


Yesterday we have travelled from Rocamadour to visit friends of Ans and Rob. We are now in the south of France at an impossibly beautiful place on top of hills overlooking a valley. The day had started with a Skype session with Rosie, her Friday night, so good to hear from home.

On the way we first visited caves at La Cave, by the Dordogne River. This is limestone country and their are several cave networks which have become tourist attractions. We travelled via a small train into the hillside and were then taken by a french speaking guide around that network of caves. It was lovely with very effective lighting showing up the stalacmites and stalactites, and terraces of water. It looked like a wonderland.

Cassignas is a small commune of 126 houses and we are parked next to the Mairie (town hall). A very grand name for village centre. This is a new building and an addition to the existing original ‘town hall’. The administration, politics and bureaucracy in France are known for being cumbersome, and the building of this town facility seems to encompass all of that. However now they have a flash new town centre that may only be used once or twice a year, but then they have it now and that may change.

Our electricity is via connected cables (3) to the shed of Matthew. Matthew is a tree surgeon and his shed is full of beautiful timbers just waiting to be turned into gorgeous furniture or used in their house. He was telling us last night that a barn owl flew out of there yesterday morning and he may make a house to encourage it back. It feels like step back in time, the buildings are centuries old. Bringing them back to life in a sensitive way that respects their history is a skill and talent. Heather and Matthew have made their house just tasteful and warm and beautiful.

It was a great night reminiscing. great food, good wine, plans for the future etc etc.I thought France was awesome before, but now we are in this area it is spectacular. We have passed quite a few vineyards and want to sample some of their wines. Very predominantly reds here. But today we move onto Carcassonne and all the treats it holds in store for us.

Posted by Sallyj66 08:32 Archived in France Comments (1)

Arrive at Carcassonne


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We have driven to a campground near Carcassonne. We will bike there tomorrow, approx 7km, to the old city. Driving past it this afternoon was dramatic, what an imposing setting!

Our drive was tedious as we got caught up in very long boring traffic jam. Seems there were accidents that caused this mayhem. I had the nerve wracking experience of taking the wheel while Sal took a comfort break. It really only meant I sat behind the wheel, but was enough for me.

We hope to spend a couple of days here at least. Sal has gone to test the swimming pool. We have had a nice leisurely drink and we have warm sunny weather. The atmosphere has definitely changed, feels much more mediterranean.

Posted by Sallyj66 10:47 Archived in France Comments (0)

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