Rocamadour tour and A New Life in the Sun – Belvès, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France

We started our day before breakfast in Rocamadour with a 3 mile loop tour of the medieval village on the cliff. We started at the castle ramparts, though these were sadly closed, we were able to descend the winding path down the cliff side. We had the place to ourselves, except for one other couple and some builders completing out of season repairs. We passed a shrine in one of the cliff side caves and then the sanctuary below. It really is quite a climb down, first via the path and then several flights of stairs, the elevator options not available for out of season visitors. Although we and the dogs were more than happy to get some morning exercise anyway.

It’s certainly a quirky place, the ingenuity and effort of previous generations, without modern machinery, to build elaborate structures on mountaintops, cliff sides etc never fails to amaze me. Hard for us to comprehend now the level of faith and devotion that miracles and saints inspired in that era. We enjoyed our wander along the quiet and almost deserted cobble streets. There were signs one or two restaurants would be opening for lunch at least, I guess the builders need to eat too. We were happy to retire back to the van after our hike back up the hill to L’Hospitalet for a well earned brunch.

We then had a couple of hours driving through the Dordogne region to reach our next spot for the night in the village of Belvès.

A Place In The Sun, is not really a programme we watch very often, but we happened to see a few episodes a couple of years ago when we were planning our first French / Spanish trip. One episode featured a couple, Graham and Damon, who made the slightly audacious move of setting up a cheese and wine bar “Planches et Plonk” with accompanying accommodation in one of the main wine regions in France. It had all the usual fun and panic of an apparently unachievable opening date, renovation work spiralling into the 11th hour before opening etc. However, the finished product looked absolutely fabulous and just the sort of place we would enjoy. I duly made a note in my Future Places to Visit list and over 2 years later, we pulled up into the village of Belvès with a table reserved for the evening.

Beautiful Belvés

Funnily enough when looking up the website / Facebook page of Planches et Plonk to make the booking the day before, we discovered they had reappeared on UK TV only a couple of weeks before in A New Life In The Sun: Where Are They Now. So as part of our homework preparation for our visit, we watched the update on their ventures the night before. It seems business has been booming and they have since opened a wine shop in the village too.

We drove through the surprisingly sparsely populated wooded Dordogne region towards Belvès down all the little D roads enjoying a leisurely journey. The last leg of the journey being the only stressful time, as you really do not want to approach these medieval villages from the wrong direction in a motorhome. There is a free Aire in Belvès, so we know it cannot be impossible, but you have to be really alert to the no lorries / motorhome signs. Our sat-nav was obviously trying to get us down roads with max height and width of 2.5m, no doubt through some 11th century irreplaceable town gate!

Anyway, we eventually parked up safely on the Aire with one other motorhome. The Aire happens to be literally next door to a vets and Lola was overdue on her annual booster jabs, so after a spot of lunch I popped in on the off chance they could fit us in. The vet, Carine Fondu, turns out to be the nicest lady, who after showing out her current patient is happy to fit us in, as she seems to also provide reception duties too. Lola falls in love with a vet who feeds her kibble out of a cow’s hoof – “very good chew for dogs – not so much for the cow” 😂. She is then rewarded with a lick of Primula cheese triangle from the vets hand as a treat for being brave for her jab. Carine shows me out and proudly shows me the scratches on the front door where dogs scratch to get into her practice 😍.

When I put Lola’s records away, I belatedly realise Lizzy is only a month off her booster being due as well. We figure it is finally a chance to synchronise their appointments, so head to see if we can get Lizzy done early too. Dr. Vet Fondu is happy to oblige and even offers a discount for the second jab of the day so for €90 both dogs are done, I think less than we last paid for one dog in the UK and both recorded in the EU pet passports.

Carine also heartily recommends an old colleague who is a specialist veterinary eye surgeon in Bordeaux for Lizzy’s cataract surgery. It is one of the tasks we want to do as soon as we are home, as having Lizzy away from her familiar home environment has made us realise how much sight she has lost and she is only 8 years old in May this year. It seems to have been congenital and has been getting worse since she was young. We fill out a contact form for her recommendation as soon as I get in and now await to see if we may be postponed in Bordeaux region for a while for Lizzy’s surgery – a really very agreeable implication of the possible plan.

Belvès chateaux

Finally, in the early evening we wander into the lovely village of Belvès, another of the Beaux Villages of France with its seven bell towers, chateau and old covered marketplace. We have a little walk around and a beer in the local bar, chatting to a couple of English builders who have made the area their home. Damon and Graham of Planche et Plonk seem to be well known helping to put Belvès on the map and are currently campaigning to get Belvès voted the most popular village in the region in a national competition.

Belvès marketplace

We are warmly welcomed by their rescue dog Malbec on our arrival and are relieved we did not bring our two to add chaos. Damon and Graham are super hosts for the evening as we enjoy their recommended wines by the glass, Kev on white, me on red, sampling from a selection of local vineyards. The planche of cheeses and meats from the local area with a glass full of artisanal bread is quite simply the best we have ever had.

When we could not tear ourselves away, we are also offered a homemade cheese cake and some handmade chocolates for desert. It was a really special evening and we really enjoyed speaking to Damon and Graham and hearing their story of life in this beautiful region of France. We vow to see them in the morning at their wine shop to buy some takeaway bottles of our favourite wines from the evening.

Night under the stars in Belvès Aire

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