Staggered Junctions Ahead

"Château, Sodium Light et Vin Rouge"
“Château, Sodium Light et Vin Rouge”

Our journey from Figeac to Najac started well on wide swoopy roads but as usual, just as we thought we were making good progress Mr Garmin stepped in. He turned us left before Villefranche into a series of twisty back roads. Without exaggerating, if we hugged the verge on our right we had about half a car width between us and the left verge. The road surface varied between potholed and ‘what road surface?’ And poor Gill nearly got out and walked when a narrow bridge loomed into view. Our saving grace was the fact that France is a big country with far fewer people per square mile than the UK, so during our 20 kilometers of waiting for an oncoming car to crash into – none appeared thank goodness. Yes I know, I’ve read those newspaper stories about folks who follow their satnav into rivers or get wedged between houses too; but it looked ok when I turned in. Once committed there’s no chance of a U-turn.

Our reason for heading to Najac was so we could visit some friends we’ve known for (counts fingers*) 28 years. Cameron was employed by the same company as me for over 20 years, and worked for about half of them. He and his lovely wife Tricia have a house in Najac and now they’re in retirement they can spend much of the summer there, grandchildren permitting.

The season is only just getting under way here so we were the only guests on the site. This meant we could luxuriate in long hot showers without fear of an icy shock as the water ran out. Once we’d made ourselves presentable our chauffeur arrived to take us into the village and welcome us into his home for dinner. You can call us lazy as it wasn’t far in distance, but Najac is a bastide or fortified town on a ridge so unless you’re a mountain goat the hills take a lot of negotiating!

Tricia made us a lovely meal from local delicacies, with a fine local red wine; I won’t go into more detail as things are still bit hazy and our personal chit chat would probably be of interest only to ourselves. Our brilliant evening ended with a spooky walk down the steep slope to the campsite, holding each other up and trying not to go over the edge into the deep gorge.

Najac from the road to the campsite. The village is dominated by the château and church.
Najac from the road to the campsite. The village is dominated by the château and church.

Hopefully you can see from the pics that Najac is one of the most attractive villages in France, our friends love living there and it’s easy to see why. A substantial 13th century church looks up at the chateau perched at the very top of the ridge, narrow streets wind the length of the village to the main square. I highly recommend a visit – just don’t try taking a 7.5m motorhome into the village!

vImg_4042

Day two of our stay had a lazy start – well it was a late night… We climbed the North face of the Eiger to meet C&T for a guided tour of the village and a café-au-lait in the warm sunshine. We had lunch out on our friends’ terrace overlooking the gorge then we were treated to a drive to see Corde-sur-Ciel, a town voted by the French as their favourite place to be. Again, it was easy to see why when we took the petit train up the steep hill to the medieval houses, squares and steep cobbled hills. We paused at a restaurant with what must be the finest views of any eatery that I’ve been to – the French countryside was spread out below us like a movie set.

That evening we decided to eat out at a local restaurant and it was a delight to hear about the many characters populating the village of Najac, nothing of which I can repeat here for fear of litigation. All I’ll say is the French reputation for affaires de cœur seems to be well-earned. Say no more 😉 There followed another tipsy trip down the hill for our final night at the campsite.

I have another copy of this pic taken ten years ago. It hasn't changed a bit!
I have another copy of this pic taken ten years ago. It hasn’t changed a bit!

Wednesday morning saw us servicing Vince with the usual taking water on board and discarding the used stuff before heading off with a brief goodbye to Cameron & Tricia on the way. I said it then but will repeat it here – Thanks guys for making us so welcome, and for a great couple of days! 🙂

The road was taking us back the way we had come – not literally, there was no way I was taking those roads again. We ignored Mr G and headed north as we’d read of an interesting visit but hadn’t had time to do it on the way down. More er…interesting roads led us to Pech Merle, one of the country’s foremost prehistoric sites. In 1922 three teenagers stumbled on a cave entrance, and alerted the local priest to its existence. The priest had a keen interest in speleology and soon realised the magnitude of the find. They had happened upon a cave complex with evidence of human and animal habitation going back tens of thousands of years.

Above ground there is a small museum and cinema where the history of the caves is described. We entered the caves (inevitably) through the gift shop in a tour group of fifteen or twenty people. The elderly guide took a real shine to Gill and made sure he ‘guided’ her to the front each time he wanted to show us anything, in a very ‘hands-on’ way if you get my drift. He then proceeded to explain everything to her chest!

A 25,000 year-old footprint. Just think about that!
A 29,000 year-old footprint. Just think about that!

We didn’t let that affect a fascinating visit – we drifted further back into the group – as we couldn’t believe our eyes. Enormous stalactites and stalagmites. Discs of calcite formed by water spraying out of fissures in the rock over tens of thousands of years. We were shown ancient scratch marks made by hibernating bears. Most interesting and thought provoking of all were the cave paintings of mammoth, aurochs, horses, bison and some human figures. There were stencilled hand prints made by prehistoric men and women spitting red ochre against the rock whilst pressing a hand against it. Most impressive of all to me was a footprint in what had been mud, but which had set and then been covered in a layer of calcite. An actual footprint of an actual man who walked around this area some 29,000 years ago. Amazing.

No photography was allowed in the caves; I can understand why flash photography could affect the paintings but wasn’t convinced by the statement that even non-flash photography might ‘compromise our research’. Maybe it had something to do with the large number of expensive photos available in the gift shop. Unfortunately at one point my phone slipped out of my pocket and as I fumbled to catch it, it must accidentally have taken a pic or two. Or maybe it didn’t if you happen to be a French scientist. Below are a few grabbed images from the web.vPechMerleHorses vPecheMerleThe-RedHall-Hanging-Disc-and-Column vpech721cysm vpech311cysm

Our final stop on Wednesday was in a village called Vers, a short drive from the caves. We found a cheap aire by a railway station which had been converted to a house. Although the rails were still there they were no longer in use and we could cross the track to admire the Aveyron flowing past. There were picnic tables dotted around so we ate outside with maps and guide books at the ready for a planning session. It was so warm that we had to leave Vince’s skylights open, but even with the insect screens in place we both suffered our first mozzie bites of the trip dammit.

Restaurant terrace view in Corde-sur-Ciel
Restaurant terrace view in Corde-sur-Ciel
Najac view of the château
Najac view of the château
Bell-tower Corde-sur-Ciel
Bell-tower Corde-sur-Ciel

 

*I had to borrow some of Gill’s

About Ken Tomlinson 207 Articles
Semi-retired biker, blogger and world’s best grandad. Doesn’t take life too seriously. Discovered motorhoming in 2015, sold up and downsized to fund more travels. Now with added Yorkshire.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.