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Trip Report: Bordeaux, Dordogne River, Lot River, and Tarn River

This is a trip, long in the planning, we did in May 2017. First stop was Bordeaux, not covered in Rick Steves’ books but is a worthy starting point. We visited the Musée d’Aquitaine for the fantastic pre-history exhibits, then St. Andre Cathedral where Eleanor of Aquitaine first married King Louis VII of France in the 12th century, and the Musée d’Art Contemporain (Contemporary Art Museum). For food, we really recommend Le Cheverous Café, 81-83 rue du Loup.

We rented a car from SIXT. Picking the car up at the train station was easy because customer service was at an easy pace (not rushed like an airport). The drive to Sarlat-la-Canéda was 206 Km or 128 miles on high speed toll roads. On the way, we successfully negotiate French toll booths (look for the cash only green arrow) and round-a-bouts. Arrived Sarlat-la-Canéda in the rain and found the Saturday Market day closed one of the streets where the manager of La Villa Des Consuls would meet us. We worked this out by phone and checked into the Colbert Room of La Villa Des Consuls in Sarlat-la- Canéda. We paid to use the garage and would recommend it for the security.

In town, we enjoyed eating at Brasserie le Glacier, Place de la Liberté and Le Bistrot, 14 Place du Peyrou. North of town is a Carrefour Supermarket and gas station, it made for easy shopping. The first day we drove to Les Eyzies de Tayac to visit the Musée National de Préhistoire. The museum signs are small and the building is hard to see from the road, but we find the well-marked free parking for Prehistory Welcome Center (Pôle International de la Préhistoire). The welcome center and museum are first class.
The second day, we drove to Beynac, got directions and a map at the TI, walked a vertical climb of approximately 600 feet to Chateau de Beynac, castle of Richard the Lion Hearted. Later, drove to Canoes Loisirs at Pont de Vitrac, ate a picnic lunch at the launch and put our canoe in the water before 2:00 PM. We paddled the Dordorgne River for 10 miles pulling out once for refreshments and then finishing at the bridge below Beynac. It was perfect weather and except for the tourist excursion boats making waves, it was smooth sailing. We remembered to use lots of sun screen, cap, zip lock bags, eyeglass strap, towel, etc.
The third day we did some of the Rick Steves Sarlat walk and shopped. In the afternoon, we arrive early for the 4 PM tour of Font de Gaume. Tickets are very hard to get (only 78 people per day; 52 are sold the day of the tour and 26 can be purchased on line if you order early in January. We had on line tickets and both tours we saw were complete sell outs. The cave is a remarkable experience where you are very close to the art and only a small group can be there at one time. Fortunately, our tour was in English. The cave is fabulous; very tight passages and excellent art.

The next day we drove to Pech Merle (80 Km, 50 miles), best cave of the Lot River region. Pech Merle tickets are easier to get, we ordered by email in March. Still our tour time was sold out when we showed up. Although in French, the guide took great care to help us and we had an English pamphlet to use along the tour. Pech Merle is so impressive; excellent art, large caverns, and great presentation. Finished our drive at the Mercure Albi Bastides Hotel located on the Tarn River. This was the most difficult driving of the trip with very narrow roads with plenty of turns.

In Albi we visited the TI and purchased a City Pass to save money on admissions. Visited Ste. Cécile Cathedral, considered one of the largest brick buildings in its time, construction started in 1282. Also visited Toulouse-Lautrec Museum. We are astonished to learn they close the museum from 12 to 2 everyday but we finish our touring and shopping just as they shut down at 12:00. The last day we checked out and drove to Toulouse Blagnac Airport. Best trip ever!

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408 posts

Wow thanks for posting. Sounds like a great trip

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440 posts

Sounds great glad you booked your Pech Merle tickets in advance as you would of been disapointed on the day

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Yes, we always try to avoid uncertainty and having a pre-paid time reserved at Pech Merle was essential. Another tip. At Font de Gaume, you must enter thru the welcome center to join the tour. At Pech Merle, if you have pre-paid, you can bypass the welcome/ticket center and go directly to the cave entrance (just a few steps down the hill) and check in there. They do have a sign in English but it is easy to miss, especially if you are in hurry to be on time.