Bergerac to Beach

In the Bergerac site, we spend our entire day under the shade of the trees, waiting for the heat to subside enough to be able to walk along the footpath, over the bridge and into town. At seven in the evening we decide to make our attempt. We’d already strolled around the area on ‘our’ side of the river, although the few bars and cafes had been closed on the Monday evening, a commonplace event in France.

It’s still airless and stifling as we make our way out of the site and along the path, but we are finally able to spot some of the hundreds of frogs that have been serenading us as they cling to the exposed weed and make an earnest bid for love. The sound they produce is comical.

In the centre of the river the tall plume of a fountain shoots high into the air and a pleasure boat carrying a few passengers is making a leisurely turn in this wide stretch of water. Across the other side we make for the old town and immediately we are in streets of half-timbered buildings and quaint, historic squares.

But it’s hard work sightseeing in what is still a punishing heat despite it being evening. We’ve decided to get something to eat in one of the plethora of restaurants and cafes, although I’ve not felt hungry for days. We get a beer first, in a busy, lively bar by a square then opt for an outside table in a narrow lane. We order salads, unable to manage all of even these, then call it a day and head back via the bridge and the noisy, lovelorn frogs. We need to get through another hot night then we’ll be off to the coast.

Next morning we’re up and out quite early [for us]. We take a look at an en route town, decked out in bunting for a festival, and stop to stock up for our next stay on the outskirts. Coming out of Super-U with our shopping, we make a worrying discovery. Something has hit the windscreen of our van and made a hole- a hole from which radiate hairline cracks. While the hole is in the lower corner of the screen on the driver’s side and not in the eye-line, nevertheless there is a danger the cracks could spread or that the entire screen could become shattered. Eeeek!

We unearth some tape and cover the damage as best we can then pray that the screen survives today’s journey. Once we’ve arrived at our destination we’ll be able to phone the insurance company and get it fixed.

The rest of the journey is uneventful and by mid-afternoon we’re motoring through familiar territory [to us] then it’s Moliets and towards Moliets Plage, where one of our very favourite sites is located.

We pull up to go to reception and it’s Heaven as a cool breeze wafts around us. The site is busy but is also vast and there’s room for us. We park up under yet more trees and finally we get to relax…or do we?

A Shady Retreat and Breathless in Bergerac

A treat is in store as we leave Beynac with the aim of visiting Bergerac before we drive out of the Dordogne. Nearby are the beautiful Gardens of Marqueyssac, up high on a hillside, just a short drive away and perfect for a morning visit. There are only a couple of motorhomes parked up in the allocated van parking as we arrive mid-morning.

As is usual in the Dordogne, a climb is involved in seeing the chateau and gardens, but we’ve started in the relative cool of the morning and the gardens promise to be shady. We enter via an elegant pergola and the views of the countryside below are already startling. The first thing you see as you enter the garden is a green sea of curvaceous, organic hedge baubles in assorted sizes, interwoven with meandering pathways. The topiary is immaculate with not a twig out of place, a theme continued throughout the gardens, which also display ferns, trees and shrubs but little in the way of colourful floral borders. While this may not be to everyone’s taste it makes for a resful, shady landscape- ideal on this, another fiendishly hot day.

We wander the paths, seemingly endless and without plan or pattern. There is a path along a cliff face ending with a flow of water plunging into a pool, pumped up of course, from below. There are spiral paths winding up to more stunning viewpoints. There are tiny clearings with benches. There is, bizarrely, an occasional coffee machine encased in rustic planking in an effort to make it blend in.

When we’ve had our fill of walking the paths- and it is still ferociously hot- we stroll down to the tiny chateau which boasts just five renovated rooms, elegant but not the star of the show. Outside on a terrace overlooking the valley below are wrought iron tables so, tempted by the idea of coffee and pastries we sit down and wait…and wait. The cafe is clearly too much for the one waiter. We give up and go and get lunch in the van, which is parked in a shady spot and well stocked with lunch items.

We head towards Bergerac and a site we’ve found by the river, although once inside the town’s maze of streets the Satnav [Mrs G] becomes hopelessly confused. We find the site by aiming for the river. By now it’s mid-afternoon and hot as ever. In the decrepit, dingy office I check us in and we’re directed to a spot overlooking the Dordogne, under some substantial trees which we’ll be glad of for their thick shade. The site is in need of some renovation and tidying up but is an easy walk along a footpath and across a bridge into Bergerac. The heat, though is a deterrent to activity and once we’re set up all we can do is read or doze. Then the reading option is off when my Kindle informs me it is beyond temperature range and will need to shut down. I know how it feels.

By evening I’m in serious need of a shower. The shower block is housed in an antiquated, two-storey building fabricated, bizarrely, from perspex- maybe the least practical material in these 40+ temperatures, producing a sauna-like effect; so that a shower is not the refreshing experience I’d hoped for.

We stay outside until we must sleep then keep everything open, including the door, using our Husband made insect screen and our ceiling fan. But it’s hot. And I lie beneath the fan listening to the frog symphony as hundreds of them croak their wobbly love songs…

Grace is also known as the novelist, Jane Deans. Her new novel, The Conways at Earthsend is now out and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Goodreads, W H Smith, Pegasus Publishing and many more sites. Visit my website: janedeans.com or my author page on Facebook: (1) Jane Deans, Novellist, Short Fiction and Blog | Facebook.

At Last- the Chateau de Beynac

Chateau de Beynac. Perched on the edge of a sheer cliff high above our site and flanked by its church, the two imposing buildings glowing honey-coloured in the bright sunshine. The chateau calls us to climb, just a short walk across the road from our site to the first incline, a sloping lane between rows of sandstone cottages. It’s not that we don’t want to climb up to view this wondrous site. It’s that the temperature has leapt up the scale, rendering every task impossible, like a labour of Hercules.

We’re under the trees in this very shaded site, as is everyone else. The shade is vital. All domestic tasks need to be undertaken in the early morning, before the sun climbs too high. The rest of the time we’re polaxed, draped over our chairs in a stupor, reading or dozing. Eventually, even the reading comes to a standstill when my Kindle declares it has reached the limits of its temperature range and will have to shut down. I can’t say I blame it- I’m feeling like shutting down myself.

Nights have begun to be restless, sweaty, disturbed intervals. We’ve deployed all the technology we can muster- a skylight fan, an additional fan, all available windows and skylights. This night begins hot and ends with rain, cooling the air a little but adding to the humidity. In the morning it’s cloudy but dry- except for the ground, which has renewed muddy patches in this newish area of the site.

However, with clouds protecting us, we decide to attempt the ascent to the chateau and set off after lunch, striding up the first lane between the yellow houses. Then the sun appears. As we turn the corner to make the next zig-zag upwards the pathway becomes uber-steep and I’m glad of my walking shoes with a good tread on the stones- still slippery from last night’s rain.

We turn the next corner and there are some rudimentary steps, although several visitors are coming down and it’s best to keep out of their way, since they are wearing dressy footwear and one is carrying a dog. What is it about dogs in France, that they are unable to use their legs? They’re either riding in a bike basket or trailer or being carried- often in a bag!

Once up the steps we’ve pretty much reached the top. The chateau is more spectacular from below than close up but the views over the countryside repay the effort of climbing. At the top there is the inevitable smattering of gift shops and cafes plus a very welcome ice cream kiosk. Further up still there is a car park and it’s clear that most sightseers have got to the top by this route.

There’s nothing more to do than to descend- and by the way we came, which I always find far more tricky than climbing. Once back on ground level we sit under a shade at a small bistro offering local produce plus wines and beers, although I’m unable to get a ‘diabolo’- my go-to summer French soft drink and have to make do with apple juice.

Is time we were off and we’ve one more Dordogne stop planned before we scamper of to our favourite SW seaside place, but the weather is getting no cooler…