France 2016 - Wednesday, October 12 - Cahors, Rocamadour, and Brive

(Relaxed Start) Stop in Cahors, famous for its ‘Black Wine', and see the Pont Valentré before heading to Rocamadour.  A resting place for pilgrims on their way to Spain, the medieval town is perched on a cliff side above the Alzou River.  After some time to explore, continue on to your hotel in the Dordogne.  Hotel: La Truffe Noire, Brive-La-Gaillarde.  Buffet Breakfast, Dinner.


We went to breakfast in the morning, and not only were there not only were there no cooked eggs, there was very little breakfast left at all.  I kept hoping they would bring out replacement product, but they never did.  So, again I skipped breakfast for the most part and hoped for good lunch prospects.  At breakfast though, I overhead one of the other travelers saying to another that the woman server was german originally, but was engaged to the son of the current owners, who were apparently fourth generation owners of the place.  Above the stairwell going back to the main floor from our first floor room, there was a painting of a man brandishing a riding crop which was apparently the very original owner of the hotel.

Our first stop after we hit the road was in a place called Cahors (YOU’re a CaHORs…) to go to the bathroom really, but the excuse was some sort of old bridge crossing a river.  Again, interesting to see, but not life changing.  Joyce seemed more interested in taking pictures of the street side garden flowers, and the odd metal devil climbing up the metal enclosure protecting a tree by the river.  I discovered a new fascination, deliberately casually inserting myself into Joyce’s pictures, adding to the ways I could playfully irritate her.

We then went into Cahors proper, and after getting off of the bus in the centre of the town, we were shown where we could get lunch after making our way back here.  Mark then took us on a walk deeper into the town.  He walked us through a very interesting open air market which had just about everything, and infinite variety of just about anything, complete with street musicians going off on a didgeridoo.  There were seafood stalls, all cheese, all meat and sausage, all vegetable, whole berry things, really just about anything.  We were then shown the outside of some old church, but more interesting was the very bizarre looking statue behind it which was either a winged Gollum perched on a tree stump, or an old woman with ratty clothes and breasts down to her knees.  Either way it had a really agonized look on its face, and I tried to emulate it for a picture as best I could.

Naturally by now Joyce needed a bathroom, and we first tried this one place which drew me in rather at random, but then I saw that there was no beer I recognized on tap, and there was no one else in there except one rather run down looking woman who said hello and then looked really sad when we turned and left.  The bartender and the man he was talking to didn’t seem to even notice we came in.  Joyce said that the sad woman reminded her of Patty from when I was working at Hangar 9 and I agreed.

After I popped into a tabac store and finding a sticker to buy, we made our way back to the main square where we were dropped off, where Mark ran into us and without prompting pointed out our two good options for places to eat.  We went left and went into this one café.  The man who served us, I can only presume the owner, seemed irritated that there were customers and was short.  I wouldn’t say rude, just a total absence of sucking up, as I’ve come to appreciate from the French.  I ordered a Coke Light and Joyce ordered a beer, or maybe the other way around, anyways the point is that Joyce’s drink came but mine never did.  I wasn’t too concerned though, because he (like everywhere else) also brought us water.  Bob and Ruth (I think) and the younger single woman from the states (I think) were sitting together beside us where we sat down to my left in the corner, and after we sat down soon after Annette sat down to my right.  She had a harder time communicating with the irritated server than us.

I ordered the lasagna, which looked good based on seeing the people at the other table having ordered it.  It came in a tilted round bowl with salad, and was really good.  Again, some of the best food I got in France was Italian food.  When we ordered more drinks I saw that on the hand written tab on our table, he crossed out the number one for each of our drinks, and wrote two.  When he brought us the drinks I told him in French that this was my first and I had never received the first.  He seemed really confused and uncertain, but in the end crossed out the two and wrote another one.

I saw that the food and dishes were being transported through a dumb waiter and I assumed that the kitchen was upstairs, but when I went to the bathroom it was downstairs, and I passed a doorway to the kitchen.  I had to wait for the men’s bathroom, and was a little irritated when a woman came out, but when I saw that there was no toilet seat I instead felt bad for her.

After we left, with the few minutes we had before we had to get on the bus, we screwed around a bit by the fountain centred on a statue of some guy.  I walked on past the bus a bit just to see what I could see, but it was soon time to get on the bus and we were off again.

After our next bit of driving, we seemed to be let out in the middle of nowhere, a place that looked like a town in the hills with only three or four buildings.  We were then led down the road a bit, until the big reveal.  What we saw across the valley was this remarkable town built into the side of a cliff, called Rocamadour.  We had the photo op, and then filed back onto the bus to actually make our way over there after seeing it in its entirety like that.  Before we got back on the bus I was drawn to a souvenir store, but not for anything I was typically looking for, but a rack of bookmarks on which I saw one with Alexia’s name.  Mark said something about it being a sin and ushered me onto the bus.  I was annoyed, not sure if I’d see that again.

So, this place Rocamadour was cool… probably the most interesting part was getting there, Augostino THAT was his name!!  Our bus driver squeezed the bus just barely through this rock tunnel to get there, and then did this amazing turning the bus around so that he could park faced in the direction in which we would leave again.  The question was whether or not we would walk up the many steps to the church up top or take the elevator for a small fee.  Mark told us that the original pilgrims on their way through were expected to climb up the steps on their knees so they were appropriately bloody before getting to the church.  Fucking religion…

Anyway we opted for the elevator, well I did.  I didn’t realized though that you had to pay for both ways, and we instead paid for the trip up but not back down.  We got into the elevator down at the end of this cave and ascended.  This place deserves more credit than I am probably giving it.  The way it comes out of the rock is amazing to see, it’s like that Star Trek: The Next Generation episode where they’re screwing with phasing technology, and they come across that ship in the asteroid that rephrased while it was half inside rock.  It looked like that, as though it was travelling through the rock and got stuck.  It was a remarkable thing to see.  At the top of course was a church, with its typically garish golden death cult motif.  It was old and of interesting construction, especially the roof, but it was an old church.

Outside the church there was a short wooden post with a hammer and a bowl of nails, and the wood was entirely encrusted with nails.  I wondered… is this so you can figuratively drive the nails into Christ yourself?  I still don’t understand the meaning of what that was at all.  There was also a giant sword wedged into a crack in the cliff, with the hilt attached by a chain to the wall.  A woman, possibly the ‘he surrounds himself with good people’ woman, said to Joyce in wonderment ‘it’s a miracle…’  Sure it is.  OR… some dude put it there.  What is with people.  What’s with me right now?  I think I’m hungry…

After climbing down the stairs, I checked out this weird store which seemed kind of like a regular souvenir shop upstairs, but it had this vast downstairs that I checked out alone while Joyce waited outside upstairs.  I was dumbstruck by what I found down there, especially with how much religious paraphernalia there was upstairs.  I saw huge Coca-Cola section, a wrestling memorabilia section?  WTF??  Not to mention the plethora of buddhas and hindu idols, and… just no idea.

Outside I saw a cat hanging out by the dumpsters which looked decidedly more stray.  Joyce said it was, based if nothing else on the fact that it was hanging out by the dumpsters, that cats wouldn’t hang out there looking for scraps unless they had to.

I never found sticker or bottle opener there, but I did at least find a souvenir coin.

So we left Rocamadour, and then headed on to a place called Dordogne.  On the way Mark had gone on at length about how we should lower our expectations, and how it was the last year they were going to this hotel, but that we shouldn’t mention this to the staff because there was still one tour coming through after us, and where to complain to, etc, etc, etc.  In the past on previous trips, when we’ve been given this kind of ‘warning’ it usually was an ironic rouse to set us up for the nicest hotel we’d be staying at the whole trip.  This was not the case this time though.

It was not the nicest hotel, I mean… I don’t have very high expectations in this regard.  It was another place with physical keys, the ceilings seemed to bow down in the hallways like they’d been water damaged… but other than that, no big deal.  There were little things like there being no water kettle, only an odd Keurig like machine which never ran clear no matter how many times I put water through it, little pieces of coffee stain always came through, so eventually I gave up and went downstairs to get hot water for my cup of noodles. 

The real disappointment came when it was dinner time, but again I was not that disappointed, certainly not as much as Joyce was.  Sure it was a little odd that the menu put on the table didn’t exactly match.  Sure it was a challenge to get our drinks refilled and Carolinda after dinner waited a loooong time for them to figure out how to give her milk for her tea, but other than that it was fine.

Before dinner I walked the half block down to the Carre-Four.  I had ideas to buy all kinds of things but I forgot a bag so in the end I just got Coke Light or beer or something, I don’t really remember.  I do remember that yet again I was unable to find the ham wrapped boursin, and that I found not only boxed wine, but bagged wine.  Stay classy Dordogne.

So our dinner.  Our appetizer was printed as a cold soup gazpacho.  It was instead a hot pumpkin soup (well, warm) and it was quite good.  Bland of course, but good.  Then the entrée was listed as beef cooked with red wine sauce and mixed potatoes.  It was instead a sheppard’s pie with just beef and potato.  Again, I liked it but Joyce was disappointed.  Dessert was advertised as Apple pie, but it was this odd thing which was like three quarters something between dough and flan filling, and remarkably unsweetened slices of apple overtop.  It was topped with a gingerbread ice cream, something we’d had somewhere else already but exactly where… oh right, it was at the winery dinner.  Joyce found it extremely disappointing and didn’t even eat most of it.  I found it bland, but not too bland for me to not eat all of it, especially since I’d been happily drinking wine.

As mentioned there was a fiasco where Carolinda, who was sitting with us, ordered caffeine free coffee with milk to someone who didn’t seem to speak a word of English, and it took a good ten minutes for them to figure out how to give her milk, and seemed to have forgotten about her several times. 

After dinner I had to have a shower, and it was almost as bad as the one which wasn’t a shower, but at least this time I was prepared for it and knew what to expect.  It at least had a mount for the shower head, about nipple high, and when I thought aiming it into the corner where the glass met the tub would be safe, it leaked out onto the plastic mat floor and it took me some time to realize this before I redeployed it.  I really missed my home shower.