To Villeneuve

by Administrator 8. July 2008 05:36
07.07.08 Monday.

Monflanquin to Villeneuve sur Lot

The lady of the house in the B&B was very good to us and took us back into town (no forward progress by vehicle) in order for us to have a meal, really beyond any expected hospitality. They have been there 7years, her partner is a builder, and we think has done great work in the restoration of the old farmhouse.
A slightly later start then after a good night’s rest and a full Dutch breakfast. But a relatively short day of 12 miles into Villeneuve, however once again the previous wet weather was still producing the horrible mud of the area and hordes of mosquitoes were on the prowl for fresh meat. Unfortunately for Geoff he was flavour of the day and his legs were devoured.
We arrived in Villeneuve about 13:00 and had an omelette and frites and a look round the centre. This is another Bastide town but much altered and very different from Monflancon being a river crossing not a hill fortification. The central church with an enormous red brick spire visible for miles is from the early 1900s as the original had a disaster in the crypts and collapsed. Only a very limited amount of the medieval centre remains.
The tourist office were very helpful and, after saying no camping in Agen, then found one just south and also suggested a farm/wild camp area suitable for tomorrow. Campsites look thin on the ground further south however.

GF adds; just gone back into town to get military strength DEET. Decided the problem is lack of quinine in my blood – haven’t had any G&T for a week now. Garlic from last night’s excellent meal (most comprehensive crudite salad for three I’ve ever seen) doesn’t only seem to encourage them!!
This blog is typed out on Tim’s laptop (we prefer camping equipment that is at least dual-use but he won’t permit us to use it to chop vegetables on) and then uploaded to Tony’s home server via his smartphone. So long as he can get a decent 3G signal, the whole process is entirely portable. Electricity usually seems available by unplugging the campsite washing machine for 30 minutes or until someone notices.
Link to where we are on Google Maps


To Monflanquin

by Administrator 6. July 2008 16:35
06.07.2008 Sunday.

Castillonnes to Monflanquin.

A very wet night continuous rain and thunder from 1230 onward. We got up in the rain and packed under the leaky awning of the permanent caravan next door (unoccupied) and went into Castillonnes for breakfast. We rapidly left the roads and found ourselves on what would have been great walking the day before along an escarpment of chalk marle and light grass. Unfortunately the rain had made all rock slippy and all soil a glutinous mess that clung like glue to our boots. Three steps and about 1.5 inches of mud was stuck to the bottom increasing its weight by half a kilo, it would then drop off and some would end inside the boot. There were large puddles of unknown depths straddled the path at intervals No vines now, but fields of cereals and sunflowers are the main crops. The only blessing was that the rain soon stopped but it remained cool. It was a very tiring 6-8 miles before we took to the roads to make better time.
We arrived in Monflanquin at around 1400, a great little town on top of a hill. The campsite was not obvious so we went to the now dreaded Office de Tourisme. A list of the areas campsites (about a dozen) was produced rapidly, however the closest was a naturist site 7 km away in the wrong direction, all others were equally useless to us on foot. After consideration of our problem over a beer we have ended up in a Bed and Breakfast run by a Dutch couple 3 km out of town and in the right direction. Tomorrow’s campsite is on the list supplied by Tourist Office but another 20+ km we felt that was a bit too far!
However, a point of interest for us was that we had been hearing the word “Bastides” with respect to the area, this is a term for many of the towns in south west France that were probably the first experiment in urban planning of new towns during the Plantagenet era when both the English and French crowns were trying to increase their presence and support in the area and were starting new towns often in fortifiable positions in a sort of early Hearts and Minds Program. Also in this area the bell tower becomes a feature of most churches instead of the more usual northern steeple.
Link to where we are on Google Maps


To Castillonnes

by Administrator 6. July 2008 15:35
5.07.08 Saturday.

Le Bost into Castllionnes.

On the way in to the site at Le Bost we passed a vineyard selling its own wines so returned later for tastings. A very fair Rose AOC Bergerac (did not know there was one) although a bit sweet went well with the curry that evening.
Dry night but cloudy and starting to rain as we packed at 0700 but a short walk (4 miles) through showers brought us to the small municipal campsite at the foot of the slope below Castillonnes. Tourist office lady quite helpful and definite about a camp site in Monflanquin about 15 miles and several in Vileneuve sur Lot about another 15miles. Shopping for 3 days done and ready although Villeneuve is probably big enough to have something open on Monday evening.
Breakfast in Castillonnes and then pitched tents for a day of rest.
Later in the afternoon a Dutch couple in their late50s walked into the pitch next to us, also on their way to Compostella on foot from Groinigen in north Holland. They started in mid April and were heading for St Jean Pied de Porte and the Classic French Route from Roncesvalles. Pilgrim stories of rain and distances were swapped, it seems they will finish before us as they looked fit and have a shorter way to go.


To Le Bost

by Administrator 4. July 2008 15:25
04.07.08 Friday.

Bergerac to Le Bost (near Castillonnes).

Early wakening to the mist blowing up the Dordogne, but dry tents. There was also a lone Canada goose looking hopefully at us, but since we ate out in town last night close to the old church of St James, there was no stale bread for it. We got going and got breakfast at the nearest boulangerie by the side of an open market just opening up with a magnificent fish stall and a stall with pizzas, one of which was carried on the outside of a rucksack for lunch. It was quite cool so we had a rapid march up the hill through the vineyards on the south bank of the Dordogne valley to Monbazillac, the home of possibly France’s second most famous sweet white wine, where we had coffee.
For the rest of the day vineyards alternated with woodland until after about 15 miles we arrived at the campsite that we had found only by internet search when the Tourist Office in Bergerac failed us (we are once again changing departments so they have little info over their own borders). It was not at first obvious where the site was, but a short walk up and down the N21 revealed only one house with two caravans and a lady cutting grass. In the event she turned out to be English and she and her husband starting up a campsite here in Dordogne. It was a case of the Virtual Reality being larger than the Real Reality!
However she rapidly mowed a patch of grass under the trees and we settled in comfortably.
Link to where we are on Google Maps


To Bergerac

by Administrator 3. July 2008 20:11
03.07.08 Thursday.

Villamblard to Bergerac.

A night of thunder and rain so cooler today, good walking weather. Unfortunately in the village at 0700 , half an hour before the boulangerie opened, so not wanting to wait started walking, no shops at the first village and so a handful of dried apricots was our first breakfast at about 08:00. Next village was quite a way so finally got coffee and croissants at about 10:15 after too many miles. The interest on the way was a salamander out for a stroll in the damp conditions after the rain, or maybe he just wanted his breakfast too.
The woodland and mixed farmland of the valleys north of Bergerac gradually gave way to vineyards as we started the descent in to the Valley of the Dordogne. The Chateau Monbazillac making the sweet white dessert wine is on the south side of the river so we suppose these were the vineyards making the red Bergerac wine.
We entered the city via a long section of parkland alongside the stream the Caudeau, in spite of this it gave a somewhat grubby appearance. After finding the small church dedicated to St James we crossed the river to the campsite, a small unprepossessing municipal of dubious security. The church of St James was built on the pilgrimage route in the days when you either crossed the river by boat or waded across. The river today is far too deep to wade but luckily the owners of the castle foresaw this and provided a bridge in about 1200. We had planned a day in Bergerac but if we can get the necessary information for onward travel I think we shall not stay, although further rain mid afternoon will make completing drying and further washing difficult.
GF adds; interesting how in this region the properties are looking very well kept – almost Swiss standard rather than the slightly neglected look of more northern France. The cars look almost new too and recently washed. Not like the vehicles I saw on my first trip to Paris; dents in each corner and matching ones in all four doors!

Link to where we are on Google Maps


To Villamblard

by Administrator 3. July 2008 09:48
02.07.08 Wednesday.

Saint Astier to Villamblard.

A thunderstorm in the night between 12 and 0230 woke all three of us, not much rain but an impressive Son et Lumiere. It also brought out the mosquitoes who were more active than us at 0630 so achieved a few bites. One even hitched with us to Villamblard inside a tent he seemed a bit shell shocked and was quickly dispatched after the tent was re-erected. A good day 12 miles and much less heat after the storm last night, we arrived at 1200 hours in time for lunch in the local restaurant with all the local workers. Once again no menu- no choice- but excellent value at 4 courses for 12 euros each, wine included. These places do still exist but one has to be lucky to strike one at the right time.
Geoff did not bring his walking pole with him and so another of the tools on the penknife (saw) was in use to cut him a pilgrim staff from the woods. (Thanks again, Penny).
The campsite we are at today is used to St Jacques walkers (according to the lady who runs the site), but these are mainly French walkers who stop at the French border (ie only do the French part of the route). Sounds a little strange, but maybe they are only happy with stopping at cdamp sites and not at pilgrim hostels.
GF adds; I was quite impressed with both the need for running repairs to our equipment and the useful kit Tim & Tony had brought. Thus today saw repairs to the uppers of Tony’s boots with suture and glue, repairs to Rohan shorts with needle and thread (colour coordinated – cotton bought today), and adjustments to my rucksack to attempt to reduce wear on the shoulder straps. The weak design had resulted in erosion most of the way through the padded area. I will have to ask Father Xmas for a replacement!
Link to where we are on Google Maps


To St Astier

by Administrator 1. July 2008 17:47

Lisle to Saint Astier.

A good day about 14 miles between 0700 and 1200 (including a welcome coffee in Mensignac) then it was too hot again. Even Geoff the lizard is perspiring somewhat. Good municipal campsite on the banks of the Isle river a tributary of De do Dronne Dronne, despite the campsite swimming pool being out of order. Usual buzzards around and several flat snakes on the road.
Arrived in St Astier at the height of a blazing noon and were surprised to see a significant proportion of the population pregnant! We mostly believe this to be statistical freak as later population studies did not bear out initial impressions, but theories as to reasons for this phenomenon were rife initially. GF adds; chances of seeing six consecutive pregnant women are very low (p<0.0002) so I assumed this town was twinned with Midwich (Village of the Damned for you film-buffs). Didn’t see any pregnancy test kits for sale in the supermarche. Certainly has warmed up somewhat so we have been rising at dawn to walk as far as possible in the morning before it is simply too hot to continue. Lunch by the river was good, the air thick with insects but we were treated to croaking display from the frogs and a display resembling a quiditch match from the swallows.
Link to where we are on Google Maps


To Lisle

by Administrator 30. June 2008 16:45
30.06.08 Monday.

Brantome to Lisle.

Got up and packed up as our two families of mallard ducklings came to see us off. They still looked stuffed with bread from yesterday evening so got no more. Early start into Brantome for 0070 and breakfast. Then off up a steepish slope on to limestone uplands and then down past a well restored mill properly using the water to turn unlike one in Brantome that we strongly suspect of being electrically driven!
A text from Rhona (Tim’s daughter) saying she had stopped with friends on the way to a wedding yesterday to try to help a dead motor cyclist and was coming to terms with the experience, lead to a necessary phone call from the top of a hill and an email later. I marvel again at the telecommunications we are using and the complete isolation that our medieval pilgrims would have had from friends and family.
The day rapidly warmed up and we entered Lisle at 1200 after 5 hours and 12 miles with a sense of great relief for lunch at the local pizza place. The village may only have 900 inhabitants, but they manage to have 4 bars along with various other shops. How do they all keep going?
A hot afternoon was spent showering* and washing socks etc in the usual way. After we had all showered and were lounging around on the great little Municipal site once again the only occupants, Geoff started hunting for a sock he had washed, Tony who showered last reported that the showers were not draining water down their plugholes and it did not take genius to realise where Geoff’s sock had ended up. A piece of stiff wire from a broken trellis allowed probing of the system and the release of a quite disgusting sock from its incarceration. This was accompanied by loud gurgling noises and the disappearance of the water, to our great relief as we did not fancy explaining the situation to the campsite guardian when they arrived.
GF adds; only following Tim’s advice* to put the clothing in the shower, add soap and tread on it while cleaning oneself. Stupid to have such a large plughole!
Link to where we are on Google Maps


Rest day in Brantome

by Administrator 29. June 2008 19:22
29.06.08 Sunday

Brantome. Rest day.

Contact with Geoff who has arrived in Bordeaux, he will try to catch a train to Perigueux and meet us in town this afternoon/evening. A walk to the supermarche Shopi, just out of town, for food for today and tomorrow: we were asked if we had a loyalty card, very nearly tried to get one as we have used these little small town supermarkets all the way down France, they seem about the same size and frequency as Spar back home. We also have bought a paper map with the next bit of GR network on it and together with the map of several useful campsites (that the man in the tourist office swears were current only last year) we are plotting the route for the next 2 weeks. At the end of this we don’t yet know were we will be but Geoff, your challenge, should you care to accept it, will be to get back to Bordeaux in time for your flight home.
Met Geoff on the bridge in front of the Abbey at Brantome so he really is here, had a couple of beers to celebrate and went back to the campsite, full 4 course meal with wine, still don’t think he knows what he’s let himself in for. About 12 miles tomorrow, breaking our new recruit in gently, though it will probably be hot.
Plenty of wildlife on the campsite with return visits from our friendly duck families and the occasional sighting of a very lively young rat..
GF adds it’s all correct. Taxi fare here cost me more than the flight from B’ham though so needed to go straight to the hole in the (wailing) wall and pray the electrons would work for me – they did. Setting up camp now few yards from the others- someone will snore tonight and disown it. To be fair, the four course meal included a litre of wine per man.
Link to where we are on Google Maps


To Brantome

by Administrator 28. June 2008 20:19
28.06.08 Saturday.

Chateau le Verdoyer near St Saud Lacoussiere to Brantome.

For those waiting avidly for the next instalment in the chateau; sorry. We looked at the map and felt that the 28ish miles to follow the GR436 to Champangac de Belair was a bit too far for the day. So we left the campsite at the chateau run by Kawan, one of the big Eurocamp type companies, with a distinct Dutch bias on this site, at about 0700. After a short walk to Champs-Romain started to drop off the limestone intothe valley of the Dronne river, thus giving rise to the song of the day (de do dronne drone drone de do drone drone), sorry!
After losing height (nearly 250m) sorry it's all we had to lose into St Pardoux le Riviere to pick up lunch, and we then walked mainly roads direct along the Dronne valley to Brantome passing through Champagnac del Belair (where we ate our lunch and bought some beer) and our intended destination and over a wooded hill early afternoon to drop down to the Municipal site on the out skirts of Brantome, where hopefully we will meet Geoff tomorrow afternoon.
This is a great little town (built on an island in the middle of the river, served by 4 main bridges as well as some other which I am sure we haven't found) if very touristy there is a huge old abbey where a wedding was taking place and lots of useless (to us) shops. On arrival we settled into a corner of the site near the river to be greeted by a horde of hungry baby mallards watched over by their mother they attempted to persuade us to feed them. They returned for there feed after we returned with our meal from shopping in town and ate at least half of the baguette we had bought along with the most expensive but very good cheese we have had.

Link to where we are on Google Maps