Curemote, Dordogne, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Les Plus Beaux Villages de France: The upper Dordogne, Day 2 – Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne

December 18, 2016 · 15 comments

Those who regularly read this blog may notice a new logo for the UK Blog Awards to the right of this post. I have been nominated in the travel category. I would be very pleased if you would vote for me – before December 19th – by clicking on the logo to link to the voting page. 

 

Date walked: 11th October 2016

Distance: about 14 miles

Route for walk between Meyssac and Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne

Todays route is between the two black lines on the thick red line

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This was our 2nd day of  our self-guided walk booked through Keith Starr of Dordogne Experience. We had been supplied with  extracts of the 1:25000 maps for each day’s walk, together with a detailed turn by turn description of the route; our bags were being transferred between hotels.

To set the scene:we had stayed last night in Le Relais Du Quercy at Meyssac.

Le Relais de Quercy in Meyssac, France, photographed by Charles hawes

Meyssac itself was an attractive village and, after 7pm at least, as quiet as the grave! We had found a very nice (Bob reckoned predominantly gay) bar for a couple of pre-dinner beers and where our playing crib (no great wins or losses on either side) attracted some interest from the locals. Dinner at the hotel had been pretty good in a rather elegant but  somewhat “designed” dining room.

Dining room in Le Relais de Quercy in Meyssac, France, photographed by Charles hawes

Oh, look, there’s me in the mirror

The nicely dressed starter of two pieces of melon….

Meal in Le Relais de Quercy in Meyssac, France, photographed by Charles hawes

Not sure about the boiled egg

….was followed by a confit of Duck with roasted potatoes (nice, no veg) , but it was the cheese board that excited us most. They actually left it on the table, which meant we helped ourselves to several huge (by French standards) portions each….

Meal in Le Relais de Quercy in Meyssac, France, photographed by Charles hawes

Looking at this I think we were quite modest

; to do this justice Bob ordered a second bottle of local wine. Well, we were on holiday.

Meal in Le Relais de Quercy in Meyssac, France, photographed by Charles hawes

There’s a definite glint in his eyes

Now for today.

I had had a very comfortable night. The breakfast pastries were fresh and the only thing missing was some fruit. I don’t think the French have cottoned on to 5 a day. We were on the road by 9.30am.

For the first couple of miles we were following a quiet road towards the hamlet of Cruges. On either side were walnut groves, their nuts bursting out of their thick green pods….

Walnut pod on walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, photographed by Charles Hawes

…..and littering the road and verges.

Walnuts on verge on walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, photographed by Charles Hawes

No one seemed to be interested in collecting these – probably cos everyone has enough for their personal needs

We began our education in how much pressure to apply between boot and road to crack open the cases without reducing the sweet fresh nuts to pulp (not much).

Walnuts were obliviously the most important crop of the area, with signs pointing to sellers of the oil.

Sign for walnut oil on walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, photographed by Charles Hawes

Cruges was announced by a damaged metal cross mounted on a multi-tiered stone plinth.

Roadside cross on walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, photographed by Charles Hawes

A rather pretty but worse for wear summer-house in the garden of an impressive house caught my eye….

Summer-house near Cruges on walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, photographed by Charles Hawes

… as did a group of sturdy farm buildings that had used the local red sandstone.

Farm builing in Cruges on walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, photographed by Charles Hawes

For some posh pigs?

This was easy walking through mixed woodland, but with few views out to the countryside. We thought that Keith (the writer of our notes), might have used a strange mound of rocks with a metal vent pipe in its middle as a marker, but we had no problem keeping to our route.

walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, photographed by Charles Hawes

Any suggestions as to its function?

At  the tiny hamlet of Bois Vidal we headed east, now joining the GR (Grand Route) 480 footpath. Stone tracks, grazed fields, deciduous woods and occasional tidy farms characterised this gently undulating countryside.

Near Bois Vidal on walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

When  grand views are not on offer it can be the small things that one notices and a rock hanging from a cord on a tree had us stumped as to its purpose.

On walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Any ideas?

We argued with Keith a little on the approach to Branceilles, where we would have reckoned a “turn left” should have been a “keep straight on”, and we thought that the newly built “Station de Branceilles” could be used as a marker to keep us on the straight and narrow.

Station de Banceilles on walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

I think this was some kind of council depot

The hamlet of Greze just before Branceilles had some very pretty abandoned properties…

Ruined house near Branceilles on walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Amazed that such a nice place has not been snapped up for rehabilitation

… and on the wall of one in good repair, a very pretty dog.

Dog near Branceilles on walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Any dog breed experts out there?

Branceilles looked large enough to be able to offer us a cup of coffee…..

Approaching Branceilles on walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

…. but alas, cafes and bars was there none (or at least none that Bob saw on a quick shufty).

Branceilles on walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Nice place

At the edge of the village Keith’s notes directed us to turn left for Puy ‘L’ecole…

Roadside cross near Branceilles on walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

We were to look out for a small house with a leaning chimney, which we found……

House near Branceilles on walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

I think I would have the builders in before it falls down

( It was curious in two respects as there was a sign on its post box saying “Pas de Pub”)

House near Branceilles walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

What?

…..and a small stream, which we didn’t find.

Still on the GR480 footpath, we passed a substantial stone cross…

Stone Cross on walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

I wonder who paid for all there crosses

… and then climbed gently on a rough stone track towards Curemonte….

Approaching Curemonte on walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

…. arguing at times with some details in Keith’s notes but not to the extent of feeling that we had gone the wrong way. We passed another mound with a vent with a little building on its side…….

Building on walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Hobbit houses?

….. emerging into open countryside just above Curemonte.

Countryside near Curemonte on walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

A pretty orientation table  deserved a pause….

Orientation table above Curemonte on walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

…. as did the view over this next of the Beaux Villages that we would pass through during the week.

View of Curemonte from walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Jolly pretty

Curemonte boasts a fine iron cross and a grotto.

Cross and Grotto at Curemonte taken on walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

It seems to me that one or other should have been placed elsewhere.

It was, indeed, a pretty village; I rather liked a detail on the wall of an old forge.

Wall on house in Curemonte - walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

We found ourselves  outside a restaurant/bar called La Barbacane which was just setting up for lunch. A casual look at the menu was all it took for us to make the unprecedented and unanimous decision to have lunch. At 12.00 we were the second customers to occupy a table. By 12.30 the place was nearly full. This was one of those places that clearly serve the local working people as well as passers by; some men were in their overalls. The quite feisty but friendly waitress offered soup, then Tete du Veau and, if I remember rightly, an apple flan. We admitted to being unenthusiastic about the veal so she offered Boef Bourguignon instead, which we were both happy with.

The soup – an earthy vegetable was delivered in a serve-yourself bowl, (a new one on me),  containing one and a half servings each.

Restauant Barbacane in Curemonte taken on walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

What is the significance of Bench?

The stew was good, served with boiled potatoes and some veg, though these were paddling in tepid water. The flan was ok. This was not fine eating but  the atmosphere and feel of the place was so “genuine” that we both enjoyed the meal enormously.

It was pushing 2pm when we left. We toyed with the idea of finding a quiet spot for a doze, but agreed to defer that treat until the end of the days walk.

We continued on the GR 480, which took a little lane down from Curemonte to the valley of the River Sourdoire. Here, fields of sweetcorn destined to be animal fodder had yet to be harvested.

Corn crop near River Sourdoire taken on walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

One field that had been cleared revealed the owners veg plot, which seemed a strange place to put it.

Field in Sourdoire valley taken on walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Maybe some clever companion planting technique?

Leaving the valley we climbed gently through woods and meadows again;I spyed a buzzard that was the look out for a meal.

Field above the Sourdoire valley taken on walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

At the top of the hill, near Le Breuil, a pair of donks rushed up who were also clearly expecting to be fed. They kicked up the most almighty racket when we offered them no more than a pat on the head.

Donkies on walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

They look so placid, don’t they?

Dropping from there through woods, we arrived at the D144 where Keith directed us to cross the bridge and then go straight at the cross roads; these roads we had been on were almost completely without traffic. In fact the entire countryside seemed to be without people!

walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

We left the road after about half a mile near a hamlet called Sennac, taking a steepish narrow track through mostly chestnut woods.

Wood naer Sennec taken on walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Another half a mile brought us to the D153 ….

Walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

….where we concluded, after some deliberation and a few hundred metres in the wrong direction, that when Keith had advised “turn left” he had missed out a “turn right”. Anyway,  we did find the correct track that zigzagged down the hill to a large pond at Doumazac. If it had lillies when Keith was last there, it had none now.

House at Doumazac taken on walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Nice house

From there for a mile or so our route was through a wood of mostly conifer.

Conifer wood approaching Beaulieu-sur-Loire taken on walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

First conifer we had come across

It was there we met the only people we had seen walking on our path for two days – an elderly man with what I took to be his daughter. After a cheery “Bonjour” he enquired whether  “Vouz cherchez les champignons ?” We mumbled something unintelligible and smiled. In times past I would have been able to manage a better reply.

This track joined a road and we were climbing again – still on the GR480 – for about a mile, passing several rather attractive but not in the least bit smart properties…

walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

… and one that was both attractive and smart.

House on walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Architecturally sympathetic but lacking character

At the top of this road Keith advised us that we were at an “impressive vantage point”. Perhaps we were being singularity unobservant but although we could glimpse some distant hill, neither of us we overly impressed.

Ridge overlooking the Dordogne Valley taken on walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

From this ridge at around 1,000 feet, we followed what Keith describes as an old mule track that wiggles down the valley side….

Descending to Beaulieu taken from walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

…. giving us our first glimpse through the trees of the Dordogne river.

View of the Dordogne river from above Beaulieu, taken on walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

The path was lined with ferns and unusually, pulmonaria.

Pulmonaria in Dordogne valley taken on walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

It is a native plant, so not a garden escapee

It flattened out towards the bottom….

Descending to Beaulieu taken on walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

…. before dropping steeply immediately above Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne.

Beaulieu taken on walk from Meyssac to Beaulieu-sur-Loire, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Our next Plus Beaux village

Beulieu was bustling. We followed the road into the centre; the Hotel Le Beaulieu where we were staying was situated in a quiet square just off the main road and immediately made a good impression on us.

Hotel Beaulieu, Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, France, photographed by Charles Hawes

Bob’s room was the one above the doorway with a balcony

We were warmly greeted and we loved the rooms (sorry, no pics); I was happy for Bob to have chosen the room above the square – mine was at the back and no doubt the quieter of the two (I’m mildly phobic about noise). Tomorrow was designated as a rest day so we were here for two nights. Yipee!

***********

We had time for a gentle walk around town and a snooze before supper. The highlight for me was the beautiful Abbatiale Saint Pierre. Here’s a few pics.

Abbatiale Saint Pierre, Beaulieu -sur-Dordogne, photographed by Charles Hawes

Abbatiale Saint Pierre, Beaulieu -sur-Dordogne, photographed by Charles Hawes

 

Abbatiale Saint Pierre, Beaulieu -sur-Dordogne, photographed by Charles Hawes

 

Abbatiale Saint Pierre, Beaulieu -sur-Dordogne, photographed by Charles Hawes

HAPPY CHRISTMAS!

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Bob December 18, 2016 at 8:46 am

The fantastic hotels were as much as feature as the beautiful countryside.The hotel in Meyssac did include a wasps nest in my attic room which prompted me look up the how to communicate this to the hotel staff.
Bench by the way is one of many Designer label clothing ranges, all of which are anathema to my friend Charles.
Great blogging.

Reply

Charles December 18, 2016 at 9:53 am

I’d forgotten the wasps nest. Your fluency was only surpassed by your imitation of the sound of wasps. True, Berghaus and Montaine are my designer labels of choice.

Reply

Charles December 18, 2016 at 11:02 am

PS I have just added a bit at the end.

Reply

julia fogg December 18, 2016 at 9:45 am

Gay bars in France – mon dieu – and in the Dordogne!

Reply

Charles December 18, 2016 at 9:48 am

It could have been his vivid imagination.

Reply

Ian Thorpe December 18, 2016 at 9:46 am

Lovely pics and a real sense of Frenchness here. I can’t solve most of your puzzles but I think the ‘pas de pub’ means ‘no junk mail’ – publicite?

Reply

Charles December 18, 2016 at 9:49 am

Aha! Yes, of course. Excellent. Only two more mysteries to solve.

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John December 18, 2016 at 10:59 am

Now come on, Charles. You know full well the purpose of that hanging stone. It’s dry so you know it’s not raining. Though, actually, it’s the local entertainment. You should have looked for the hidden camera. Walkers with pockets full of walnuts think “Aha! I can use that stone to crack some open.” So they hold a nut against the tree and whack at it with the hanging stone. Later, the locals gather in the pub to watch the film of people dancing around holding their fingers and screaming “Ouch”. Bob looks a lot younger without all his walking gear on. And is that area known for producing something smoked? Those mounds look like “smokers”.

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Charles December 18, 2016 at 11:04 am

Hehe. Like the theories. I did think of walnut cracking but it hurt, as you say. I bet there was a camera. Great idea. Smokers. Now what would they be smoking? By the way, I have just added a bit at the end for a more seasonal finish. Have a good one.

Reply

Paul Steer December 18, 2016 at 2:43 pm

Lovely finish , and Bob you’re looking younger …. How do you do that ?

Reply

Charles December 18, 2016 at 6:21 pm

Thanks. I thought you might like the finish .I had to do a lot of work in Photoshop to get him to look that young.

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Neil December 18, 2016 at 6:58 pm

Looks a very interesting walk. Lovely countryside, and great weather.
And Happy Christmas to you too 🙂 xx

Reply

Charles December 18, 2016 at 10:46 pm

Thanks Neil!

Reply

David Marsden December 23, 2016 at 5:24 pm

I can’t believe there was any question about you NOT stopping for lunch, Charles. Unprecedented you say? You’ll see some serious lower lip quivering when we walk if I’m not allowed the unexpected delight of a pub/restaurant at lunch time. I’ll probably sulk for a good long while too. D

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Charles December 23, 2016 at 6:06 pm

Oh no, I am sure that your sulking would be unbearable, so I will indulge you.

Reply

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