We were sad to leave our beautiful hotel, but the next part of our adventure was calling and so by 9am we were on the road headed for Sarlat.
The first 19 of the 21 kilometers toward Sarlat were a steady upwards grade on a main road (indeed the ONLY road) between the two towns. Although the scenery was lovely – rolling farmland, forests and the occasional chateau – the going was tough. We had to stop quite a few times and it took a princely 1 ¾ hours to travel 21km.
Upon arriving in Sarlat we could see that we wouldn’t be hanging out for long. It being August 15, one of France’s busiest national holidays, the place was absolutely teeming with tourists. Even riding into town on our bikes we had to stand in traffic and dodge our way through the lines of cars.
Riding through town was not an option and even pushing our two fully-loaded bikes through the main tourist street was a challenge. We stopped along the way for coffee and ice cream and picked up sandwiches and fruit for later and escaped the throngs as quickly as we could.
By noon we were on the other side of town and in search of the bike route. This was one of the few stretches in the Dordogne region where there was an official bike trail and we were anxious to find it. Unfortunately we missed the very beginning of the trail and rode a few kilometers along the main road until we saw a sign pointing toward the bike route. Yippee!!
What a fantastic trail! Over 20 kilometers of paved bike trail running the course of an old train route. And the best part… not only was it flat, it ran at a slight downhill grade along its entire length! The scenery was lovely - we rode along oak-shaded allees, passed by charming villages, rode through fragrant river-basin farmlands and even traversed a tunnel.
The trail came to an end about 6km short of our goal and then it was back to the streets for us. Unfortunately, the only route between the end of the trail in Cazoules to Souillac was the main national road. Eeeew, all sorts of fast-moving cars and trucks on a two-lane road situated on the ledge of a limestone rock wall. Actually it ended up being up almost fun because it was all downhill so we could ride really fast.
Our B&B was situated outside of Souillac in a teeny village on the opposite side of the Dordogne. The innkeeper had been kind enough to send detailed directions and warned up that the only way to the inn was uphill. We crossed over a one-car-width bridge and rode around the bottom of the hill to the other end of the village and approached the inn via a long gradual climb that was nearly the death of me. Ugh. And that was the easiest of the three routes. Hmmm… I did some thinking about my choice of remotely located accommodations. And we did use Google Maps to study the routes and check out the terrain at home, but really underestimated what we saw. Oh well, live and learn.
La Prieure was well worth the hill – it is a former monastery which has been converted to a 5-room bed & breakfast and in addition there are four 2-4 person apartments. We were received by Saskia, the proprietress and she showed us around and made us feel at home. Our room was on the top floor and we had two windows, one with a view to the west roughly in the direction of the river valley, and the other overlooking the expansive garden and petite swimming pool.
We settled in quickly and went to one of the picnic tables in the garden to eat our sandwiches – it was nearly 4pm and I was dying of hunger and on the verge of an extreme crabiness-attack (watch out world – Sara needs to be fed regularly!).
After a sandwich and a glass of wine the world was looking much better. We relaxed a while in the garden and then took a short swim.
The next burning question of the day was “how do we get to dinner?” Normally it wouldn’t have been a problem to ride the 3km into the town and back but a) we were both pretty pooped from the day’s ride and didn’t fancy riding back up any of the three hills after dinner (which would most likely be accompanied by wine) and b) it was raining and our desire to ride in the rain was even less than our desire to ride uphill. So… we called a taxi and got a ride into town.
We landed at a family restaurant-cum-sports bar filled with locals. Frankly, I can’t remember much about the meal, so I guess it wasn’t horrible… We were so tired that after we were finished we called the taxi again and went straight back to the inn without even a walk around town.