Since my last blog, we have covered quite a lot of France. We have been blessed with great weather - blue skies and sunny everyday. We are both travelling well and have to stop and remind ourselves that we are actually on this journey. We left Saintes Saturday morning headed for Bergerac.
We arrived in Cognac late morning and spent a few hours there. First stop - the information centre then to park the car and get walking!! We discovered that the tours of the Cognac houses were free entry today and the first tour in English was 2pm. After walking around the town and purchasing supplies for lunch from our favourite boulangerie - La Mie Caline we enjoyed a lovely lunch on the banks of the Charente River. We visited a museum that offered a brilliant multimedia presentation of the early days and the importance of the Charente River in relation to trade. In this city- there is a distinct smell - Cognac and we learned on our tour that 2% evaporates every year into the atmosphere. A very interesting tour and one worth waiting for. We left Cognac around 3.30 and continued our journey on the minor roads to arrive in Bergerac just after 6pm. Obviously just out of Cognac there were vineyards everywhere, all neatly in rows and heavy with grapes as they are about to be harvested in the next few weeks. As mentioned before the route is more scenic along the minor roads but this takes considerably longer because of all the small villages. We arrived in Bergarac around 6pm after a fairly comfortable journey. Our little Peugeot 207 is great but struggles a bit on the hills as we expected.
We were surprised to find Bergerac almost deserted on Sunday morning with most shops closed even the tourist information. Too bad we hadn't read the Lonely Planet guide properly or we'd have known. We have discovered that the best way to see the towns /villages is to park the car and walk and this we did again this morning. Along the banks of the Dordogne and into the Vieille Ville. Amazing buildings all shapes and sizes built in brick and timber. The renovated old town has been restored to its former beauty and we strolled along its many winding streets until we reached the newer area of Bergerac. We enjoyed a very leisurely Sunday lunch "Alfresco" before heading back to the car.
I decided that we should take a little drive along some of the narrow roads out of town and we were well rewarded for the effort. Along beautiful narrow roads and totally surrounded by vineyards and just 7kms out of Bergerac we found the Monbazillac Chateau. Built in the mid-sixteenth century, the chateau is situated in the heart of the prestigious Monbazillac vineyards. It was certainly worth the short drive as the views were spectacular – vineyards as far as the eye could see.
We travelled today to Vichy in Auvergne in central France. We decided to travel on the paege as it was significantly quicker - 3 1/2 hours instead of 5 1/2 hours to travel the distance. The roads are magnificent and well worth paying the 22 euros. Most of the way the speed limit was 130. Vichy is best known as a spa and resort town. It was the de facto capital of Vichy France during the World War II Nazi German occupation from 1940 to 1944. We walked along the river banks for a while, through the parks up into the old village before taking a 30 minute train ride around the city. We did sample the lovely spa water but did not avail ourselves or the other spas. Evidently people come from all over to drink the different spa waters for the healing properties.
We're off to Beaune / Dijon tomorrow and will stay there a couple of nights and as has been the case so far, every area has offered something completely different. We are certainly enjoying every experience.
We have been surprised that we have been able to get accommodation for very reasonable rates that include free car parking and free Wi Fi internet and Booking.com has become our favourite site. We book ahead usually only a day or two.