Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Rocamadour part two

Our friends Kari and John and their children had been to Rocamadour the weekend before and also recommended the town of St Cirq Lapopie so we headed there. Ken and I argued the whole way as he wanted to take us down the road less travelled whereas I wanted to follow the signposts! James just felt conflicted as he wasn't sure who to listen to! We eventually agreed with each other and drove along a gorgeous road through century old tunnels carved out of rock - some had pillars along the side so you still had a nice view. The lot valley is lovely with each little village having their own claim to fame.

Walking down into the village.

The town square.

St Cirq is known for its great valley views and for artisan jewellers, artists, and woodworkers.

What a view!

A canal boat in the Lot river plus some adventurers on a rock!

The view over the Lot valley

Gorgeous medieval houses and gorgeous Hannah!

We decided to have a bit more of a look around the town and loved all the quirky little shops. Hannah was struggling a bit with the crowds and was being quite stroppy but seemed much more relaxed after spending ten minutes in silence in the cathedral!

We loved st Cirq, with its cobbled streets, medieval houses, jaw-dropping views and artisan shops and will hopefully make it back - although I do hope that Ken finds a more straightforward way back to the motorway next time!

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Rocamadour is worth the wait

The weather forecast was good, we had no other commitments plus it was day lights savings so we even got to sleep in - all was set for us finally to go to Rocamadour! Ken said it would take us two hours to get there but an hour and a half later we drove around a corner and were treated to this majestic sight.

Rocamadour truly is an architectural feat. There are several towns like this in France that are built on top of cliffs with the houses clinging to the side of the hill and the question I often think is why would the pilgrims choose to build on such difficult sites? It must have been so challenging to build this town. It has always been a tourist destination firstly with the pilgrims coming to see the black madonna and now with people coming for lunch and to have a look. We went on a Sunday and there were a lot of people visiting the sanctuaries to worship and also hoping for healing.
After last weekend we decided to take a packed lunch and have a picnic. We have discovered some excellent gluten free buns which make life a whole lot easier and packed lunches a whole lot nicer. We found a park up by the chateau but discovered that the staircase down to the town was closed. So after lunch at the top we walked down the road to the village - with a great view all the way!

As the main access was closed it was a bit unclear as to where to go when we arrived at the end of the road so we thought we would go through the tunnel - plus there was a sword wielding busker right there so we thought that might be the way in!

We walked through the centuries old tunnel and popped out into the square by the Sanctuaries which are a series of 12th to 14th century chapels.
Sunday worshippers.

From the santctuaries you went down some stairs and through a gate.

Then more stairs before the old city.

It was quite busy as there had just been a church service so we decided to have a look in the chapels on our way back to the car and headed down the grand staircase. There are 216 stairs and legend has it that the deeply religious would climb these on their knees as the last stage of their journey before bowing to the black madonna. Jasper gave it a go on our way back up but only lasted about three steps!

We wandered happily around the township and got a couple of souviners including a gorgeous plate of Rocamadour.

As we had had a picnic lunch we decided to have coffee and an icecream at one of the nice cafes in the old town. We then walked back up the staircase to have a look in the chapels.

These chapels were quite different to anything else we had been into in France, mainly as rather then one big Church there are several small chapels some of which interconnect. The main chapel was made of stone and was quite stunning and then Because of its location the back wall was actually just the cliff face!

The black Madonna

The sanctuaries from the outside.

Walking back to the car.

Have had trouble posting my blog this time as too many photos! The second half of our day will be my next blog.
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Monday, 28 October 2013

It is school holidays in France at the moment but unfortunately we have not been able to go away due to James work commitments. So instead we decided that we would make the most of our weekends and go on day trips to destinations not too far away. One place we have wanted to go to for a long time is Rocamadour. Last weekend the weather forecast was not great for that area (about and hour and a half north of Toulouse) so we decided to head west to the Gers.

This area is lush with crops and is a big sunflower growing area although we just got to see a lot of ploughed fields due to the fact the harvest is in. Still very pretty though and the little villages around every corner were lovely. We firstly headed to the village of Laverden which is a tiny village with a massive chateau.

The kids loved exploring the vast staircase and rooms and it was just how you would expect a medieval castle to look! Penelope and Hannah found what they thought would have been the ball room and had great fun rein-acting dance scenes.

The beautiful mosaic floors.

Hannah doing a runner - a bit of a theme for the day!!!

In the castle was a display of figurines which was very vast and lovely to look at (and very tempting to touch for some little fingers).

We had decided to go out for lunch today and realised this was a bit of a risk being a Sunday and not sure of what the towns we were going to were like in terms of restaurants but decided to risk it. Unfortunately today it didn't work in our favour! We tried a restaurant at Laverden but it was too expensive and Hannah decided to wander off adding to the stress. Luckily as the town was tiny it wasn't too difficult to find her! We then headed to our next destination the unfortunately named town of Condom. We found a great statue but cafes were very busy and not keen to serve us.

We went into a creperie which looked perfect (the savoury crepes - galletes- are made with buckwheat flour so are gluten free). Despite the fact that there seemed to be spare tables they said they were full - not the first time this has happened when we have tried to have lunch somewhere when the children have been with us!

We decided that there must be a great cafe just around the corner and in this case it was just over the bridge! It was quite full but they managed to find us a table and the service was friendly and efficient! They even did kids meals (menu enfant). And I had a yummy stew with bacon, steak, sausage and veges in it - delicious!

We then made our way back to the car stopping at the cathedral on the way.

The last stop on our tour around the Gers was the tiny town of Fources, whose claim to fame is that there town square is round.

A gorgeous little town and the best thing was there was a playground for the kids plus a wine shop that sold Armagnac - the local brew and what this area is famous for.

Another great day out.

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Location:Sightseeing weekends!