So we left Annecy and headed back across France towards the Atlantic coast. I was driving sometime in the evening and told Maurice I was exhausted and saw that the next place was a city called le Puy de Velay and asked Maurice to use Google (what did we do before Google and our portable phones?) and see if they had hotels there. Indeed, they did so we took the exit and saw a cathedral on top of a hill as well as a chapel on another little hill and a giant figure of Mary on yet another-it turned out to be an old volcanic area. The name le Puy sounded familiar to me and I soon found that this area was home of the famous green lentils with their own AOC label and very famous in France for their taste-it’s that volcanic soil. It turned out that le Puy had a very long religious history and that it is the starting place for the Camino de Santiago de Compestela, an ancient route across France going into Spain to the tomb of Saint James. In fact, Maurice wants to try it next year, at least the part in France. Maybe someday we will make it all the way. We saw a lot of people with back packs around the city and beyond in this area.

image
Seen on a building near the cathedral.

image
The steps , and there were many, going up to the cathedral where there even more steps. That is quite a hill.

image
This is the starting place of the Camino. The night before I read that there was a mass for the people starting the walk but it started at 7am so I thought I wouldn’t see it, however, I woke up really early, so early that I had to wait for the sun to rise to set off and I made it to hear the mass with about 200 walkers. I liked seeing their bags in the aisle.

image
A sign marking the start.

image
All of the streets and alleys in the old section of the city were paved with either plain rocks or with these nice black and white stones.

image
The cathedral has two black Madonnas which are said to cause miracles and have roots in the deep relious past of Goddess worship.

image
Statue of Saint James. His symbol is the half shell and you see it in many places welcoming the pilgrims to hostels and the like.

image
This huge statue of Mary was outside the cathedral up even more steps. It was made of melted down Russian cannons captured during the Prussian war.

image
Next door was a chapel with this fantastic ceiling. The whole place was very baroque in decorations.
So, who knows what you can find by making an unscheduled stop? This turned out to be a most fascinating city.

We went to Annecy to see Maurice’s Aunt and Uncle. We were married in a little village near there. They have both lived there for years and they both came to our wedding. She did a lot to help with planning it. They are both in their late 80’s and the uncle is doing well but the aunt is having health issues. It’s nice to see them and to also walk around the old section of Annecy which is criss crossed with canals and full of lovely buildings.

image
Lots of bridges and brightly colored buildings along the canals.

image
Here is one at night with lights reflecting onto the water.

image
I liked this door and window.

image
The canal reflecting the sky.

image
There are flowers all along the canals.

image
Everyone takes a photo of this old photogenic jail-no longer in use.

image
This is a painting done of Maurice’s aunt when she was a little gitl that I have always loved.

Sarlat is another beautiful village in Dordogne. The fifteenth of August is a holiday in France and the French usually take a long vacation during this time as can be seen by the almost empty streets in Paris. Many French people go to Normandy or Brittany but I think a lot went to Dordogne, along with many English. I read that there are one million visitors a year going to Sarlat and I think most of them were there when we were. We went to the medieval part of Sarlat with its very narrow streets full of people most with umbrellas in the rain. Maurice says that there is almost always bad weather around the 15th which was true in our case. I have determined to never travel in August again if I can avoid it. On an interesting side note, we were on a freeway and it was lunch time. Earlier we had stopped for gas and it was packed with people like the sale day after Thanksgiving in the States so we thought we would try a town off of the freeway. It turned out that this town was eerily empty. I mean empty like a bomb had gone off and everyone had died in their beds. There was no traffic, no animals, no people. Every shop and restaurant was closed. This was due to three factors: The building of the freeway had cut off people going through the town, the industry that had lead to the growth of the town was gone and, most importantly, it was the 15th, that major holiday. We ended up going to a crowded stop off of the freeway to eat. Anyway, back to Sarlat.

image
A shot of the village with all of the buildings built with golden stone, dark gold in this case because of the rain.

image

The poster for Sarlat shows what this region is famous for-mainly duck and goose products, like foie gros. There was shop after shop selling foie gros along with walnut oil and a local drink.

image
One of two large squares in the medieval section.

image
I was tempted by this nougat but was strong.

image
There was an old church, St Maria, that had been turned into a covered market. As you can see, it was packed.

We were in Dordogne, a really fantastic part of France and I had done some research and had put Beynac on our list of places to visit as it is listed as one of the most beautiful villages in France.When we been at the beautiful Marqueyssac Garden we could see the village across the valley with a castle perched at the top of a cliff. It rained the whole time we were there but you can’t have everything.

image
Here’s the castle all dark and gray in the rain.

image
A little door that I liked outside the castle in the village which we didn’t explore due to the steep hill and the rain.

image
A look at an upper street there in Beynac.

image
It wasn’t the prettiest chateau I’ve ever seen, rather run down, but I liked the light on these stairs.

image
This was the view from the top of the Dordogne River and a boat going under the bridge.

I had seen photos for years of the beautiful Marqueyssac Garden and had it on my list of a must place to visit. We were on our way across France to Annecy and passed through the Dordogne area (a very spectacular region) and I finally got to go. It’s on those lists you see listing the most beautiful gardens in the world and for a reason.

image
Here is a map showing the size of the garden. We walked to the very end with fabulous views of the country side down below.

image
What the garden is best known for is the sculpted box bushes. There are over 150,000 of them with five full time gardeners to keep them in shape and I’m sure, many more people to keep it clean. There wasn’t a leave or twig to be found on the grounds.

image
This is the most popular and most photographed view.
On the other side. I’m so glad we got to go. It turned out to be a very rainy day but we got there early before it started.

image

Fort Boyard is a very popular TV show that started in France and now has been done in thirty other countries. I don’t watch it as I don’t like reality type shows where people have to be in a container with snakes or bugs. The Fort where it takes place is not far from oue beach place. There are all sorts of boat tours taking people out to see it and I think there will one day even be tours of the inside. It was built between Île Oleron and Île d’Aix to keep out the English who raided France at this point many times. It was finished at the end of the 1800’s, then abandoned until it became a listed bulding and then the TV show really put it on the map.

image
We rented a boat one day and one of the things we did was circle the fort. We were one boat among many-it was a nautical Eiffel Tower experience.

image
Getting closer.

image
One of the boats as we circled.

image
The bst photo that I got on the bobbing boat. It was a fun thing to do.

Next Page »