Easter 2013 Dordogne Trip - some travel tips and aires..

Discussion in 'Continental Touring' started by magicsurfbus, Apr 13, 2013.

  1. magicsurfbus

    magicsurfbus Funster

    Oct 11, 2010
    NW England
    Just back in from touring the Charentes coast and the Dordogne, filling in a few gaps we left last summer.

    Huge benefits are to be had from visiting the Dordogne Chateaus and Prehistoric caves in the low season, not least absence of queues and crowds. Highlights for us were the Font de Gaume and Rouffignac caves, both of which have original cave art that can still be viewed first hand, unlike Lascaux, where the 'cave' is a mock up (albeit a very convincing one) of the original. Font de Gaume has a visitor quota for each day to prevent environmental damage to the cave art, so early arrival is a must.

    We used the Les Eyzies aire as a base for those trips, which I've described before. Nice spacious grassy spot but 48 hour limit.

    We also visited the Chateaus at Beynac-et-Cazenac and Castellnaud-la-Chapelle, both commanding stunning vistas of the Dordogne valley, and both mightily impressive in their own right, especially the siege engines and crossbow collections at Castellnaud.

    Aires we used or saw that we haven't used before?

    Beynac-et-Cazenac: A street going through the village centre up a hill eventually leads to a recently resurfaced parking area in a wide gulley. The top parking spot is designated for MHs and coaches and is free. No services, but overnight parking is tolerated and is quiet. To enjoy the old medieval bit don't walk all the way down to the river from the parking, bear left and start going up the hill by the prehistoric fort reconstruction - saves both time and energy.

    Castellnaud-la-Chapelle: If you're approaching the hillside parking area from the Dordogne bridge don't whatever you do follow your SatNav and turn right from the signposted route to the parking area, or you'll end up in the steep narrow winding streets of the old village. Loop round the back of the village up the hill instead. Overnight parking is tolerated at the car park but most of it is sloping in one direction or the other. Far better if you time it right to use the aire at La Roque-Gageac, only a short distance away. Yes you pay but it's level, pleasanter, and in the low season it's a reduced rate at the meter.

    Sarlat-le-Canada: This place will take you by surprise if you don't know about it already. What looks like a dull long modern high street cuts right through the centre of an old medieval town. Step off the high street to left or right and you go back around 500 years in terms of architecture and street layout. Fascinating place that grows on you the more you explore it. The aire is about 10-15 mins walk from the old town, between a cemetery and a main road. Pretty much a bog standard sloping tarmac parking area with tired service point and a nearby patisserie, but worth stopping in to see the old town.

    La Roche Saint-Christophe: Pretty much unique - the site of a medieval village that literally hung off a long limestone cliff face. Well worth the entrance fee. The MH section of the car park allows free overnight parking without services. It's up a tree-lined limestone gulley not far off the main road. We didn't use it because we arrived early in the day and moved on elsewhere but it looked a pretty quiet spot. Probably very dark at night too, and could easily be haunted by the spirits of early cave dwellers....

    St Cyprien: We didn't stop in the aire but visited it to see what it was like. It's very small, has services including electricity but is situated in a very bland and nondescript bit of the town, like an extension of a municipal parking area, so we gave it a miss and moved a few miles down the road to the more picturesque aire at La Roque-Gageac.

    On the Charentes coast we pulled in at the aire at Port des Barques to use the service point. Quite handy for a visit to the nearby Ile Madame which is a small island that is accessible via a tidal causeway which is covered over by the sea at certain times. The causeway is not surfaced, so any attempt to cycle across it is murder on the pebbles if you get my drift (God knows I tried). If you take your MH across make sure your best china is well cushioned. I reckon you could probably stop overnight on Ile Madame for free in a MH if you pulled in somewhere off the lane - there's a gravel lay-by near the causeway for starters. There's a campsite on the island, but I didn't see any 'Camping-Cars Interdite' signs anywhere else on there.

    Nothing more to report that I haven't mentioned elsewhere, apart from in Calais - the bridge across the west dock is closed at present, so if you're approaching (or leaving) the seafront aire, you'll need to take a detour in the general direction of Bleriot-Plage.
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2013
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  2. scousebird

    scousebird Funster

    Apr 18, 2012
    South East Kent
    Was in the dordogne last June. Visited those chateaux and fell in love with Sarlat
  3. Carol

    Carol Funster Life Member

    Oct 2, 2007
    North Wales.
    Thank you, lots of information there, will print it off and save it.
  4. Taran_Las

    Taran_Las Funster

    Mar 26, 2009
    Yr Wyddgrug

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