Words to regret: “Let’s take the long route”
First of all, whose idea was it to take a train leaving at 8:13am on the second day of vacation? Oh yeah, mine… We had prepped as much as possible the night before and rolled out of bed and jumped into action. I ran to the train station and picked up the tickets which I’d ordered over the Internet while Werner went to the breakfast room and ate and made me a “to go” baguette and cheese sandwich and grabbed a yogurt for me. When I got back I slurped down a cup of coffee and stuffed in a croissant and we beat a quick path to our bikes, quickly loading up and pushing them across to the station.
We made it to the train in the nick of time and were settled into our places when Werner realized he’d left his good metal water bottle sitting in the hotel lobby. Rats! Good thing he had a second bottle with him and that we’d be back at the Hotel du Faisan on the night before our return to home.
The hour-long train ride took us slightly northeast of Bordeaux to Bergerac, through winemaking towns like St. Émilion and the beautiful rolling ( a clue of what was to come…) vineyard landscape.
During the train ride we took another look at the maps of the day’s itinerary and discussed the pros and cons of the short version (38km) vs. the long version (62km). Werner finally looked at me and said “why don’t you decide this time”, so I thought a bit and said “oh, what the heck, let’s take the long way”, thinking “gee, it’s along a river, it can’t be too bad – and 60km is really not that far”. I can’t tell you how many times during the day I regretted those words!
On arrival in Bergerac at 9:30, the first stop was for a much needed second cup of coffee. We meandered through the old town, pushing our bikes through the Saturday morning shopping crowd and picked up water and fruit for the journey. My quick impressions were of a lovely old town center dotted with half-timbered houses.
As we left town we crossed the Dordogne for the first time of what was to become many crossings in the coming week.
There was no real bike route, so we followed road signs and made our way along the smallest possible roads.
A very pretty stretch was the short 9km bike route along a canal ending in the town of Lalinde. There we made our lunch stop, first checking out the view over the Dordogne and then sharing an omelette at a restaurant adjacent to the town public market.
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After lunch we studied the map and made the decision to pursue the route that looked shorter. Sometimes shorter is not quicker… Turns out that this shorter way involved riding up long hills with a 10% grade, with the thermometer hovering around 90 degrees. Ugh. However, there are sometimes rewards for those who work hard – this time it was in the form of a magnificent view of the Dordogne Valley and the confluence of the Dordogne with the Vézere.
Shortly after admiring the view we reached the town of Limieul and the confluence of the rivers. We promptly parked our bikes and rid ourselves of footwear so that we could wade. Boy, was that ever refreshing and oh, so crystal clear. We dallied for nearly 45 minutes and called the hotel to warn them that we would be arriving later than expected.
The last 15km to Les Eyzies were roughly along the Vezere, over hill and dale on (mostly) small country roads that passed through verdant farmlands bathed in early evening light. I was surprised to pass by a tobacco field where they had drying racks set up. Since we were a little pressed for time I didn't stop for a picture, which I dearly regret.
We reached Les Eyzies shortly after 7 and by the time we got settled into our room and washed off the road dirt it was nearly 9 and we were starving.
Lucky for us, the local pizza parlor was just around the corner and we each had a very tasty dinner. My pizza was topped with merguez (spicy lamb sausage) and onions – indigestion guaranteed, but worth it!