It was a bit of a slower start this morning, as David was still recovering from his birthday festivities the previous evening. Once we were dressed and ready to roll, we headed out in search of a morning pain au chocolat. Most everything is closed on Sundays, but we did manage to find a boulangerie open. Flaky-goodness in hand, we walked up to the car (thankfully still there, but unfortunately had a bit of a scratched paint on the bumper from someone pulling out from behind us likely). On the docket for the day was Rocamadour, apparently the second-most visited site in France after Mont St-Michel (which we visited on our last trip to France). Traffic was relatively light, probably because it was Sunday, so we whizzed through increasingly winding roads, with more than a few hairpins, much to David’s delight. We kept driving up and up, and the drop offs next to the road kept increasing, until we were driving along the top of a ridge. We had actually driven out of the Perigord region and into neighbouring Quercy. We headed for the village l’Hospitalet, which I had read afforded some spectacular views of Rocamadour. It did not disappoint.
We rolled into the village, which seemed to be primarily populated with restaurants, and pulled into a parking lot (actually belonging to a restaurant) that looked out across the valley to Rocamadour. The view was pretty breathtaking. Rocamadour is essentially a fortified village built into the side of a cliff face, very much harkening to images from the Lord of Rings of Minas Tirith. After ogling the view for awhile, we parked and went to grab lunch. Two enormous pizzas later, which for the first time they actually offered to pack up for us (D didn’t believe they actually ever did that in France), and we hopped back in the car and drove down to the base of the valley to park. The sun decided to favour us with its company as we made the climb up to the lower village. The lower part of Rocamadour was fairly touristy, mostly shops and restaurants, but otherwise pretty and low-key.
We reached the Great Stairway and started our ascent of its 216 steps. Rocamadour was a famous centre for pilgrimage, and apparently pilgrims used to climb these steps on their knees. We opted to go with feet. We reached a small courtyard, part way up our steep climb. The upper part of Rocamadour is a complex of churches and shrines. We went into the Chapelle Notre-Dame, containing the wooden statue of the Black Virgin and Child (not really sure why its black, but anyway). From there, we made our way through to the Chemin de Croix, a steep pathway that wound its way through some pretty woodland (which also served well to shade us from the sun) all the way to the top of the ridge. We visited the ramparts and were a little wary at how high we were, precariously hanging over the valley. But they did command some pretty extensive views of the lower village and the surrounding valley. After drinking in our fill of picturesqueness, we made our way back down. D was need of some caffeination, so we stopped at a little restaurant for some coffee and ice cream before heading back to the car.
As we were pretty beat for the day, we decided not to roam to other villages but just to head back to Sarlat for the rest of the afternoon. We wound our way through the hills, stopping briefly to ogle a random chateau, perched atop the edge of a cliff. I just love that about France—there are literally hundreds of chateau dotting the countryside, and you can just be cruising along on some country road, and come across one. Once we got back into town, we spent the evening relaxing in our room, watching good (and not so good) movies and sorting through pics. We ventured out into town briefly for a spot of ice cream and a light dinner.