FROM THE WONDERFUL COAST TO THE CHARM OF THE DORDOGNE VALLEY
We left Spain behind and the first stop on French soil was Biarritz. A big, vivacious city, with living from its proximity to the sea. The beach promenade is filled with lots of cafes, restaurants, surf schools... We parked our Pingu at a Park4night spot and went to see the sunset. Amazing! The beach was filled with surfers and the parking lot with many vans and a young crowd drinking beer and enjoying the view. A good place to sleep, super quiet and with free public toilet. There we could go skateboarding, cycling, hiking... This way, summer finally seemed to be closer.
We kept our way to an area a little unknown in France, Dordogne, but it is said to be one of the most enchanting ones: "Les plus beaux villages de France". The most beautiful villages in France are located here and the Dordogne River is what gives the region its name. It's located in southwestern France and is called the "Land of 1001 castles". It's a place with fantastic scenery where you can find caves with prehistoric drawings, rock paintings, castles, boat rides, hot air balloon rides, etc.
On the way from the coast to the interior, we could clearly see the entrance to the Dordogne Valley, with landscapes full of vineyards, sunflower fields and mountain hidden caves. And the castles? Everywhere we looked we saw a castle. Each one more imposing than the other. We had the feeling that we were in a fairy tale. Also, around this time of the year, April, all the fields were covered in colours, making everything more beautiful.
The first village, Belvés, small, friendly, with beautiful houses, is a medieval town surrounded by walls (you can still see vestiges). It is known as the "City of the Seven Bell Towers". One of the main buildings is "La Tour du Guet", the clock tower that is outside the city. The town also has a medieval bell tower and a castle. The covered market is a very beautiful structure. It was closed, so we sat down for a coffee on a nearby terrace. However, we know that it works on Saturday mornings and during July and August on Wednesday evenings.
We continue to Milandes, where the main attraction is "Le Château et jardins des Milandes", which is a manor house (entrance 12 euros). The surrounding place is very beautiful, the gardens are very well maintained, but it is inside the house that we really became aware of the beauty of the place because of what it represents.
The house has passed through many hands, withstood wars and revolutions, but it was its famous inhabitant Josephine Baker who made it famous. It is very interesting to learn about the life story of this woman, who had to flee the United States in order to, as a black woman, get her freedom and become an actress.
Beynac-et-Cazenac, is a medieval village located on a hillside on the banks of the River Dordogne, with a charming castle on top. As we approached the village, the view of this hill became breath-taking. Fun fact, the film "Chocolate", was filmed here.
The way up to Beynac Castle is really challenging but it's worth it. Narrow streets, very beautiful houses, belvederes with views of the Dordogne Valley, and in the background the castles of the neighbouring villages. On the way down, we had a surprise, because while we were enjoying the view, we started to see hot air balloons. That evening, with a yellowish sky, the sun going down, and those balloons, we were delighted. It was undoubtedly one of our favourite towns in Dordogne. The only inconvenience of this small village is that there are no free car parking lots and the minimum is 3eur for 2h30. The entrance to the Castle is 8€. Sleep - Park4night
La Roque Gageac is a beautiful village on the banks of the Dordogne River. Those who pass it by have the perception that the houses are excavated inside the cliff. It has a very beautiful street by the water, with restaurants and shops with local products. Boat rides are a big attraction here.
Roque Saint-Christophe is a large rock formation with shelters, on the Vézère river, near Peyzac-le-Moustier, in Dordogne. The path we took with our Pingu near this huge rock is wonderful, with waterfalls, grazing animals and by looking upwards we saw immense caves dug into the rock. They are ruins of a settlement inside the rock, which was established during prehistoric times, and inhabited until the end of the Middle Ages. Value of the entrance - 8 eur.
It was a wonderful trip through this enchanted valley and these charming villages. Dordogne surprised us. At each turn we saw breathtaking landscapes and each of its villages had a particular charm. We recommend this trip to all who like to rest, walk, escape from stress and just look for tranquillity.
We then returned to the French coast, this time the destination was Saint Malo. This is a port city in Bretagne, north-west of France. The old town is surrounded by a high wall, which you can climb and walk on top of it, while having a magnificent view. The sea water is turquoise blue, which makes the walk around the historic centre wall an absolutely mesmerizing experience. The other attraction is Saint Malo Cathedral, in the centre of the old town, with stained-glass windows depicting the city's history.
We continued along the coast and we could not avoid going back to Mont-Saint-Michel, where we already had become very happy! We are completely in love with this "castle" in the middle of the water, which is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. This hill is a rocky island at the mouth of the Couesnon River, with the Abbey of Mount Saint Michel at the top. This is the most popular tourist spot in Normandy and one of the most popular in all of France, less than 4 hours by car from Paris.
The first time we went there (last year), we did what everyone else does: we went by motorhome to the car park (paid parking!) and took a train (free) that takes us to the Mont. We climbed all the way up to the Abbey (entrance 9eur), through very steep paths, beautiful streets with houses, restaurants and souvenir shops. We recommend comfortable shoes because there are hundreds of steps. On the way back, we were super tired and hungry and decided to try the famous omelette "Omelette de la mère Poulard". We didn't become fans, it's an absolutely normal omelette, except for the giant size and we paid 20eur. This time we wanted to have another perspective of the place and we decided to open google maps and look for a road that passed nearby but out of the euphoric tourists. And isn't that what we found? We followed a trail through fields and arrived at a place where we dared to say that it has the best view of the incredible Mont-Saint-Michel.
There is a peculiarity, which you should consider when visiting the mount: sometimes it is inaccessible and completely surrounded by water. Unfortunately, we were never lucky enough to see it surrounded by water, we always caught low tide, but we would love to see this place surrounded by water because the double reflection would give an incredible picture. That's why it's very important to check (online) the tide times, because if it's over 12 meters no one can get in or out of the island for a few hours. These high tides happen between 36 and 48 hours after the full moon.
In Normandy, this is an obligatory stop, and you can also enjoy all the way to the mount, between fields of bright yellow, beautiful landscapes, where the cherry on top of the cake is the Mont in the background, imposing and lonely.