My guest blogger, Emily, continues:
We’ve become seduced by this lovely area of France, and had one of our most memorable experiences when we hiked into the forest to a fabulous 17th century sunburst bridge. It will remain in my memories of special places forever, along with the crumbling castle of Camarque standing alone, deep in the Dordogne, that we discovered many years ago. It is a magical place and quite off the beaten track – we found it in no guide book but were told by a couple who had an apartment in a nearby village. Our instructions were to travel the winding main highway through the mountains until we saw a farm house on the left and a sign advertising an auberge on the right. We then parked in a wide space beside the road and hiked a ways up the narrow 2 lane highway (a little scary, with traffic zipping by) until we came to a small dirt path leading into the woods, with fading signage stating “no vehicles or picnicking allowed.” In only moments all sights and sounds of the 21st century were left behind as we trudged along beside a small stream, with stone remains of an old aqueduct running alongside. If we hadn’t been forewarned, we may have missed the bridge entirely because – seemingly – only a small hump-backed incline just one stone high crossed over the stream. However, after crossing the bridge and turning back down in front – on the downstream side – we were treated to the sight of this marvelous bridge.
Easing down the fairly steep incline, we ate our lunch under the huge spreading branches of an old oak tree, sitting on large rocks above the stream and gazing at this wonderful bridge. We felt so special to have found it. Lucky us! In true French fashion we ignored the “no picnicking” sign we had seen earlier.
(but were very careful to carry out everything we brought in.)
I thought of the people using this bridge over the centuries, hauling their produce and wood; guiding donkeys and sheep; perhaps carrying crates of chickens. I thought of the unknown mason who built the bridge. Was he simply following orders to create a tribute to Louis XIV, the sun king, or was he a mason who was an artist at heart, leaving his mark for all to enjoy? I like to think it was the latter.