Going west 2: Aquitaine and Dordogne

Well Cannes seems to be recovering from the flooding of two weeks ago, although unsurprisingly for a town whose economy depends on a glossy image it is obvious that the focus of the cleanup operation was on the tourist and conference centre. You don’t have to go far behind it to find shops and even whole neighbourhoods that have been badly damaged by floods. A week later a lot of shops were advertising that they were open for business: they just couldn’t take credit cards. (The floods had damaged a centre for computerised bank transactions.)

To return to our holiday – which now seems a long time ago – we drove north westwards from Languedoc up into Aquitaine and into that region that is broadly and somewhat inaccurately called the Dordogne. It’s generally accepted that around 10 percent of the population here is British, and in some cases it’s much higher.

The astonishing brick cathedral at Albi

The astonishing brick cathedral at Albi

Herringbone brickwork in Bergerac

Herringbone brickwork in Bergerac

This is a lovely spot and we could write a dozen more blogs on the picturesque villages and antique towns that appear to have exited the Middle Ages the day before yesterday, and the rolling countryside that looks like the England Alison and I remember from our youth, which has long since been bricked or concreted over.

From the road up to Cordes-sur-Ciel, an almost perfectly preserved medieval town

From the road up to Cordes-sur-Ciel, an almost perfectly preserved medieval village

The church in Bertric Burée

The church in Bertric Burée

Other than the standard tourist sites, the most interesting thing was the visit to the Anglican fellowship at the wonderfully named Bertric Burée. There the English-speaking community has leased a disused Catholic Church (of which there are very many in France) and holds Sunday worship there in a quietly low church/evangelical Church of England fashion. Interestingly enough, although we had been told that the church had quite a number of people who were away that day, it was actually packed. Rumour has it that they may soon be looking to either find a larger church or split into two congregations. Chris spoke briefly on A Rocha and there were some good conversations. It’s a fascinating church situation, although how it relates to the French community in which it is set is a very interesting question.

Sunday service (before everyone arrived)

Sunday service (before everyone arrived)

On our way back, we drove through the high dissected limestone plateau of the Dordogne proper and there were two particular sites that were striking. The first was the astonishing Millau Viaduct, the triumph of technology that we have seen before (and driven over) but which never fails to awe. One of the piers that holds it up is the tallest structure in France – higher than the Eiffel Tower.

The Millau Viaduct

The Millau Viaduct

The final wonder involved depths rather than heights. This is the rather bizarre deep valley of the River Vis, which had left a deep dried-out meander with a little village (Cirque de Navacelles) at the bottom.

Cirque de Navacelles

Cirque de Navacelles

There was lots to see but it was good to get back. On balance despite the charms of Languedoc and the Dordogne we still like where we are. As we say in French, nous sommes content.

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