Cycling Southwest France - Biking the Dordogne

Day 3 - Les Eyzies to Montignac - 18.7 miles

This was to be a short, hilly day, and our first one taken from the Cycling France guide. For the most part, we were going to follow the Vezere River northeast to the town of Montignac.

As usual, the morning started gloomy. It was raining as we left our hotel, but not hard enough for us to don our rain gear. By the time we had gotten down the street to the museum in town the rain had already stopped.

We spent an hour or so in the National Museum of Prehistory in Les Eyzies. It deserved more attention, and even though we had a comparatively short day of biking ahead of us, we felt a certain pressure to be moving along.

Greeted by a prehistoric man at the National Museum of Prehistory

Gallery in the National Museum of Prehistory

Outside the second floor of the museum was a porch overlooking the city and the river. From this vantage point we had a good view of some of the cave entrances and the statue of prehistoric man that watched over the city.

Cave entrances above Les Eyzies

Prehistoric man, up close and personal

Leaving the National Museum we went to another cave museum in Les Eyzies, only to be told that it was closed during the middle of the day. We couldn't wait, so off we biked.

The road out of Les Eyzies was a long hill, rising 500 feet in elevation gained. After coasting down, we stopped at one of the ubiquitous duck farms. There was a lot of quacking going on. I tried to tell the ducks to stage a jail break, but they weren't listening.

Doomed ducks

Here's a typical picture of the road at this point. It looks like nice biking to me.

Heading north from Les Eyzies

At just about this point in the road Len suggested that we take a detour to one of the several roadside prehistory attractions, a site called La Madeleine. I was a little reluctant, foreseeing a big hill that I would have to climb needlessly. I was right about the hill, but wrong about the needless part. It was worthwhile.

At the top of the hill we reached the entrance to La Madeline, a prehistory and medieval history site, said to have been continuously occupied throughout the ages. It had both prehistory caves and a middle ages castle overlooking the Vezere River below.

Coming out of the ticket pavilion, Len accidentally dropped his digital camera on the concrete floor. Three parts fell out from the lens mount, a steel ring and two little levers. Sitting on a bench, Len patiently pushed the parts back into the camera, and miraculously it worked. To prove the camera worked, Len asked to take a picture of the pretty girl who sold tickets and who had witnessed his misfortune with the camera. She refused. Len wasn't having much luck at getting women to agree to pictures.

Len holds his (temporarily) broken camera

We walked along the cliff overlooking the river, where there were caves with magnificent views on this gorgeous day. The cavemen really knew what they were doing with real estate.

La Madeleine Site

A cave at La Madeleine

View below at La Madeleine

After eating one of my nutribars and drinking a Coke from the refreshment stand at La Madeleine, we rode back to the main road. I was worrying about the upcoming hill, which I knew about from the route description and elevation profile in Cycling France. But we made a fortuitous mistake. Near Peyac we made a wrong turn. Even with the route displayed on our GPSs, it's still possible to make wrong turns. We were following the signs to Montignac, and didn't pay much attention to the route on our GPS. So instead of following the back roads to the big hill, we biked on a main road without a hill. I lamented this mistake greatly.

I should add here that, although we had preloaded the routes into our GPSs, I made a mistake in not checking the specifications of my Garmin eTrex Legend. It had a capacity of 50 waypoints in a route. Most of the daily routes that I had carefully laid out on my home computer had about 100 waypoints, so halfway through the day my GPS would quit displaying the route. Len's eTrex, a better model, displayed more waypoints (though the specifications said it didn't), so after the middle of the day I had to rely on his routes. He was always up front anyway. His comfortable speed was a little faster than mine. Going up hills he was a lot faster than me. But he always waited.

So we came into Montignac on the boring, but flat, main road. We had been told by the North Carolina people that Montignac, unusually in this region, was on both sides of the river. We weren't sure which side had our hotel, but we found it (the hotel du Soleil d'Or) on the main street right across the river.

Crossing the bridge at Montignac

We were planning on visiting the nearby famous cave, Lascaux, on the next day, and knew that tickets had to be purchased in advance in the town of Montignac, so we went to the tourist office. There we were told that the first tour of the cave in English was at 11:00am. We weren't sure we could wait that long, so we left without buying tickets. We got about 10 feet out of the office before returning. This was a world-class attraction. We could wait. We bought tickets and decided that we could sleep in the next morning before going to the cave.

Len went into a grocery store to buy some fruit, and came out to get me and show me something inside. He pointed to displays of local wines. The bottles cost less than $2. So local wines really were cheap -- just not in the restaurants where we ate.

Whenever in the future I hear about Montignac, which might be never, admittedly, I'll think of it as the city of two dogs. The first dog we encountered before dinner while walking in the old town on the other side of river. This was a little dog, absolutely immobile, but ever alert, guarding a woman's purse on the church steps while she was presumably inside. We watched the little dog for probably 15 minutes while we were in the general area of the church. Only the dog's eyes moved to follow us. He wasn't going to let anyone touch that purse.

A little dog guards a woman's purse at the entrance to a church

After a good meal (and relatively expensive wine) at our hotel, we went for a walk in the darkening town.

Montignac at night

We were looking for a place with those big ice cream deserts, and we found one across the river, about in the middle of the picture above. I had a banana split at an outdoor table at the river's edge. While I ate, I watched the second dog, who guarded the store. I admired its nonchalance as it slept for a while right in the middle of the road.

The second dog guards the little cafe entrance

It was a beautiful night as we walked slowly back to our hotel, looking forward to sleeping in the next morning. We were, however, somewhat mystified about Len's camera, which had gone into a strange mode. It's one of those digital happenings, where you've pressed something inadvertently and the thing has gone haywire.

Len called my room later. He had discovered the magic sequence to restore his camera.


Proceed to Day 4 of the Dordogne Trip

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