France – In the Center of Things, The Dordogne and Central Coast

Back in France, it’s like a sleepy ennui descends upon us and we struggle to bring ourselves to the surface. The Dordogne is beautiful, yet somehow we are left feeling as if we have stumbled into rural Canada, removed from a novel experience. The campsite is quiet, like all the others we have been to. This is the time of year to travel in Europe. The children are in school until July and often we find ourselves the only ones in a huge pool complex or sea of tents. I’m am enjoying the lack of crowds. We struggle to become motivated, to find something to see. I think we are burnt out, hitting the 6-7 week point, exhausted. It is a comedown, coming from the hot sunny Spain into a colder and wetter climate.

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Somehow we push through our ennui and manage to see some stuff in the Dordogne. One day we visit the Museum of Prehistory and are amazed at the variety of prehistoric tools on display. We realize, after examining them, that we likely have tools at home found during our rockhounding forays. The cliff dwellings of this region remind us instantly of Bandolier in New Mexico and we long to return. 

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We leave the museum and take a wander through the ancient town of Sarlat, where we find witches for sale beside a cathedral. We opt for the witch shop and purchase a small good luck witch for our doorway at home. Some of the witches cackled and Z spends the rest of the day pretending she is a witch cackling away. Our wanderings take us through many narrow streets, but they have lost their excitement for me, or maybe they don’t hold the same magic as some of our other places. The French here are friendly and we don’t encounter the same experience we had in Eastern France.

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In our travels, while visiting the info centers, the kids always beg to do all the fun things they see on the brochure rack. We usually say no, as most of the things they request are of the amusement park variety. This time they had picked out a bunch of cave brochures, and one caught our eye. The Gouffre de Padirac is an underground river which you visit by descending into the caves and then take a boat along the river and into some underground caverns. It was a pretty amazing experience! While in the boat we noticed that the people in front of us were speaking with an American accent. We struck up a conversation and found out that they were from Santa Fe (one of our favourite places) and had homeschooled their two kids while travelling the world! Talk about synchronicity! We chatted through the caves and wished each other safe travels as we parted ways at the end.

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We left the Dordogne and headed to the coast. The next 4 days were spent immersed in a rainstorm. We sunk low into depression and lethargy. In the area we were in, we again encountered difficulty with the language, cumulating with Derek and an older French man having a standoff over a dryer at a laundry mat. Why the laundry mats here only have one dryer and up to 5 washing machines is beyond me. The only positive at this site, was the large swimming pool with 5 slides. We managed to swim a couple days when the rain broke, but most of the time it was too cold to venture into the unheated pool.

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The day before we left to head north, I shook off the lethargy and suggested we visit a nearby town. We had noticed gothic towers on the skyline of Saintes on our way to the coast and decided to drive back to have a look. We found out that there was also a ruin of an old Roman Amphitheatre, and of course we needed to see it. The amphitheatre was more impressive than the one we saw in Trier and we wandered through the old ruins and the town surrounding. Our favourite bit of Saintes though, was the crypt underneath the church. I felt shivers down my spine as we entered and T begged to go back in after we finished looking at the cathedral upstairs.

I think we needed a break from travels, an unwinding, processing of what had come before. We spent hours in the tent reading and playing board games. The kids coloured, painted and listened to books on tape. It was hard to shake off the depression and lethargy. It was the first time that all four of us wanted to go home at the same time and we groaned as we realized that we had 4 more weeks ahead. How were we going to do it we wondered. I think everyone who travels hits this point somewhere along the line. I think the rain, the fatigue of the language barrier and the lack of energy floored us and we just rolled with it and hoped that it would pass. The other thing that happened here, was I found a tick embedded in Derek’s leg. I removed it with tick pliers and we bagged the tick and are watching Derek for signs of infection or lyme.

Our spirits lifted with our next move. We arrived at our first five star campsite which floored us as we drove up. Things are lovely here, and I will write more about all that in a week. As for now, the blog is caught up to where we are. 4 more weeks. One here, the next on the Belgian border and then off on the train to Poland for two weeks!

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2 Comments

  1. Jo-Ann Zyla
    June 24

    I would die to go into that underground waterway! Never seen anything like it. What an interesting and contrasting experience. The sky picture was nice, too. I like Zak and the skulls!

  2. Aunty Nancy
    July 8

    Wow… I totally understand that depression and desire for home. I also think it is the constant moving around as well.
    Your photos and commentary are very moving. I’m enjoying following your journey.

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