After a couple of restful days in Jaligny-sur-Besbre, we set off keen to get to the Dordogne Valley. Our first stop was at Montpeyroux, one of the ‘plus beaux villages de France’. We could see the hilltop castle from some distance away, though it was a pain to get there as the exit for the motorway was closed for roadworks.
The village was a short but steep walk from the aire, and so we set off after lunch. There were great panoramic views as we reached the top of the hill, though it was a shame it was such a hazy day. The castle tower at the top of the hill is only open at weekends, but we probably wouldn’t have paid €4 each to climb up anyway. The village was very small, with just one restaurant and one café, both of which were very expensive. The place was almost deserted, and so after a good mooch around we headed back to the van.
We’d planned to stay in Montpeyroux for the night, but as it was still early afternoon we decided to move on towards the Dordogne. After consulting the excellent CamperContact app, we programmed the satnav for an aire at a town called Meymac and configured it to avoid toll roads. The route took us through some national parks with the most wonderful scenery, enhanced by the changing colours of the autumn leaves.
We arrived at the Meymac aire to find that it had been turned into a construction zone, with a digger filling up a dumper truck from a mountain of gravel. We could probably have parked for the night at the far end of the aire, but the chances were that there would have been lots of noise late into the evening and early the next morning, so we fired up CamperContact again which pointed us towards a hillside aire overlooking a lake on the other side of town. Ten minutes later we were parked up in a lovely quiet area by the lake with just a couple of other vans for company. As an added bonus, we could still pick up the Freeview satellite, so we were again able to watch Gogglebox!
Yesterday morning we set off a town called St Cyprien in the middle of the Dordogne Valley. The first part of the journey saw us continuing through the national parks, and after a while the road started to run alongside the motorway. Keen to get to our destination, we switched off the ‘avoid toll roads’ setting on the satnav and joined the motorway, and before long we were arriving in St Cyprien.
The entire town is covered with a floral bunting, with each road having a different colour schemes, including the aire (which cost just €7 per night including electricity). Established in the 7th century, it’s quite a compact town, built into the hillside and overlooked by a 12th century abbey. The main street, Rue Gambetta, is less than five minutes walk from the aire. Yesterday when we arrived, the tourist office and many of the shops had closed for the day, so we set off and explored the town. After spending the rest of the afternoon enjoying the sunshine outside the van, we returned to Rue Gambetta in the evening for a meal out.
We’d read that St Cyprien was famous for its Sunday market, but were a bit wary after being so disappointed by the market at Autun. However we needn’t have worried as the market was excellent, with food stalls selling local produce alongside other more general stalls selling clothing and handicrafts. Best of all, there were two rotisserie chicken stalls which were way better than the ones at Autun, as you could see the chickens being cooked, with the fat dripping onto the potatoes below.
As the tourist office was open we went inside, and the helpful lady there highlighted all of the best places to visit on a local map. There are a few more ‘plus beaux villages de France’ nearby, along with caves and other interesting places to visit.
After a coffee we treated ourselves to some local produce – Toulouse sausages and strawberries – then returned to the rotisserie to buy lunch which we ate back at the van. It was delicious, well worth the wait.
Tomorrow we had thought about taking the train to Bergerac for a day out, but the fares alone would have cost over €20 each which we’d rather spend on a nice meal out somewhere, and with so many beautiful places to explore at this end of the Dordogne Valley, missing Bergerac is no big deal. Instead, tomorrow we’ll be heading to Villefranche du Périgold.