Exploring the Dordogne [French Roadtrip 2019]

Our third camping destination of our French road trip was in the Dordogne region in south west France.

We chose another Huttopia campsite, this time in Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne. On its own little island in the Dordogne, it was a wonderful location. I was slightly disappointed I’d not booked early enough to secure a riverside pitch with direct access to the pebbly beach – but I needn’t have worried.  Our pitch was next to a narrow channel between the island and the village so we found ourselves overlooking the pretty roofs of the village houses and churches.  The sound of water and church bells was so peaceful.

As we were pitching our tent and getting our kitchen set up, we had the unexpected pleasure of seeing a good friend of ours from Herne Hill walk past! It turned out that she and her family were also staying in the campsite for the week – what a small world!  That meant that the children had instant playmates to enjoy the campsite with, and we had friends to catch up with over wine in the evenings – perfect all round!

Alex and Sophie were immediately off with their bikes exploring the site and trying to catch fish in the river.  It was such a great site for them. There was a little playground, games room, paths to explore and a lovely swimming pool. Here’s Alex and Sophie with Joe and Max (plus another couple of friends they made at the pool).

One of the things I loved about the campsite was the fact it was a stone’s throw from a village.  And it was such a pretty one – the stuff of French school books!

We enjoyed regularly popping over the bridge and into the walled centre for fresh bread, cold drinks and the most delicious macarons and tarts!

We particularly loved being able to stroll up the banks of the Dordogne in the evening – it was so beautiful I couldn’t get enough of it!

Here we are on an evening stroll.  Matt needs to work on his selfie face!!

A little way up the river from the campsite was a little beach and platform where locals and tourists alike could jump into the river. It as clearly a very popular spot with the kids!

I lost count of the number of times Alex jumped in!

Sophie desperately wanted to have a go, but was a bit hesitant until our friend Ben agreed to do it with her!

Despite having so much fun in and around the campsite, we did want to see some of the region, so we dragged ourselves away a few times!

Hiking from Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne

The hills surrounding the village were just too tempting, so we picked up a little hiking guide and found a walking route from the campsite. It was so hot, we weren’t too ambitious and just did a few kilometres enjoying the shade in the woodland.

Once we emerged above the treeline into the heat, we enjoyed the views across the lush valleys – and were very grateful that most of the route was downhill from this point so it wasn’t too much effort.

Alex insisted we photograph him with some of his foraging discoveries!

La Saule Waterpark

With the weather getting hotter and hotter, we had to visit one of the many waterparks in the area.  Our friends had recommended La Saule which was close to the campsite and ideal for our duo. It was safe enough for them to mostly play by themselves on the waterslides and inflatable course – which allowed Matt and I to relax in the sun!  They loved it and easily whiled away a couple of hours climbing, splashing and falling in.

Canoeing along the Dordogne

I have absolutely no photographic evidence to prove it (it was way too risky getting our cameras out on the water and we were a bit rushed to get to our pick up point) but we did spend half a day canoeing down the Dordogne! We picked what we thought was a reasonable distance of 10km and paired up – me with Alex and Matt with Sophie.

Unfortunately, I got the bad deal as Alex decided canoeing was just too tiring, so I ended up having to paddle him most of the way while he complained! Despite it being a slightly trying experience, I still managed to enjoy the different perspective from the river – and we all enjoyed the little rapids along the way.  Sophie loved it!

Rocamadour

We ventured away from the river on day to visit Rocamadour – a world heritage site and a pilgrimage destination for the past 1000 years. The village clings to the side of a cliff and we enjoyed the long walk down to it past medieval houses and stone gateways.

We enjoyed an ice cream before starting the long climb up past the churches and chapels which are incredibly built into the rock.

It was spectacular.  As we climbed up above the main churches, we followed the path passing sculptures representing the stations of the cross. I don’t know how the children had the energy to run all the way!

Gouffre de Padirac

We couldn’t visit the Dordogne without exploring underground! The region is dotted with caves – many of which are famous for rock paintings and unusual geology.  We visited the Gouffre de Padirac – a huge underground system of caverns and rivers over 75m below the surface.

It was fantastic – the rock formations were unlike anything I’ve ever seen and it was so special to explore some of the network of tunnels by boat.

The lighting was particularly dramatic and we took so many photos it was a bit ridiculous! Here are just a couple so you get the idea:

We absolutely loved the Dordogne and I’m already longing to go back (not least so I can have more of those delicious pastries!!).

But we still had further to go on our road trip adventure – next stop the Pyrenees!

 

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