Down in the Dordogne – Kayaking in the Sun   6 comments

Of course the main draw of the Dordogne is the river itself and whilst the bridges, lanes and villages give you a feel for it, the best way to experience it is from on the water

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We’re experienced at this now having done the classic Dordogne trip twice (once on a glorious day and once in the rain). We’ve always hired kayaks before but this year I wanted a little more freedom so we bought our own inflatable kayak.

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This means you don’t have to pay out every time you want a trip and start and finish when and where you want. The downside is no free lift back to the start. It was left to yours truly to drive the car to far end and cycle 12 miles or so back to the start (in hot weather on a mainly busy road). Well worth it for extra freedom it gave us

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With all the to and fro we didn’t get started till lunchtime and not long after paddling off we stopped for lunch on one of the many beaches for a picnic and a swim. The Dordogne is justly popular and busy with kayakers but the atmosphere is still fairly peaceful and relaxed and there are numerous places like this to stop, relax and swim in the cool clear waters

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The photo above is our new toy, a Sevylor Alameda for anyone interested and very well it performed on several kayak outings. Despite being big enough to hold 3 people it only takes around 10-15 minutes to unbag and inflate. Its also pretty durable and survived numerous scrapes on beaches and rapids

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The river is slow moving so the pace is nice and easy. It passes some wonderful and classic Dordogne sites. This is the village of La Roque Gageac

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And in the distance is the Chateau de Castelnaud

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We pulled over for short stop, swim and cold drink, for it was a very hot day

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This is the impressive Beynac et Cazenac and its hilltop chateau

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We pulled up near where I’d left the car and took another final evening swim before heading back to the campsite. Much better under a clear blue sky than in the pouring rain!

Down in the Dordogne – Up in the Trees   6 comments

The family have a passion for these tree climbing places. France would appear to be their spiritual home as most places we’ve visited seems to have one nearby. Competition appears to be a healthy thing as most of them are far better and far cheaper than the UK’s own Go Ape franchise that seems to be the only offering.

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This one was by far the cheapest and biggest course we’ve done and also the toughest. A full half a day to get around most of it in 30C temperatures (quite some undertaking for the 50+ age group)

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TJF is a natural, being slim, tall, lithe, athletic with a good sense of balance

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TBF takes pride of place in these photos as me and TJF gave the final course a miss. I’d managed to turn one of the rope bridges upside-down so I was in the bad books. I was pretty much banned from the final few obstacles for being old, incompetent and out of shape

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This did however give me the chance for some action shots of TBF while she outdid most of the people on the course by completing the final and very difficult looking course with aplomb

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Considering her diminutive height she’s rather good at this stuff although she clearly isn’t hampered by hauling around the excess weight I have to deal with🙂

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As always, a great afternoons entertainment that’s a firm fixture of our French holidays. Thanks to the people at Appel de la Foret for building the course and rescuing middle aged men from activities they should know better than to attempt

Down in the Dordogne – Campsites and Medieval Towns   9 comments

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After a hectic two days back home from Wales we were off again for our main summer trip to France. Sadly it was only the three of us as TJS preferred to stay at home and visit his friends, basing himself at my parents. I understood his decision and had no wish to see him trailing around with looking bored and frustrated. It still never felt quite right the whole time we were away, not having him with us on holiday for the first time in 17 years. I guess its sign of things to come

We had a 3 part trip planned to take in some river based fun. First stop was the Dordogne after a horrid wet drive down from Caen. The rain stopped just as we finished putting the camper up.

Our home for few days was the Domaine de Mathevies. It was a very pleasant site aimed at, and almost exclusively populated by, British families. There were kids everywhere, hundreds of them and I’m sure had we visited 10 years ago our two would have loved it. I can’t quite put my finger on it but we never felt quite as welcome as on other sites. The facilities were first class and particularly their idea of using local street food vendors for evening meals was a big hit. I just don’t think I’d go back. This wasn’t helped by the fact that despite clearly telling them we had a trailer they put us on pitch that was completely unsuitable and took major effort to manoeuvre the camper on and particularly off the pitch

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What the site did have was excellent views across the peaceful Dordogne countryside. A few shots to give you a feel for what it was like

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Sunsets were particularly stunning

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To relax after a long drive we took a visit to Sarlat de Canadet on our first day. It’s one Frances best preserved medieval towns and is packed with the rustic stone buildings that typify the Dordogne region

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We spent a pleasant morning wandering its narrow streets and alleys and the busy main square

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We had a very fine lunch in one of the numerous restaurants followed by ice cream. A very relaxed way to spend some time together. We were particularly impressed that the the local tradition for postcards is for sweeping views of the Dordogne fronted by scantily clad ladies in bikinis

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A very easy paced day before we started to ramp the activity levels up a notch or two

Llyn Peninsula Coast and Mynydd Anelog   6 comments

As the kids break for summer we head to the Llyn Peninsula and Towyn Farm. Familiar faces of old friends and favourite beach spots and play draws us back year on year. It was, as always a wonderful few days, relaxing and comfortable. The weather was kind, warm with plenty of sunshine and the rain restricted to nights and early mornings. I don’t seem to have taken any photos of the beach fun that dominates these holidays. If you want a flavour then just look back through my older posts and you’ll find all the evidence you need of just how special a place this and why it has such a hold on my heart.

By way of compensation I do have some photos of a walk along the coast and up to the splendidly name Mynydd Anelog.

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We did a similar walk a couple of years back and discovered just what a quiet, unspoilt and magnificent stretch of coast it is.

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It was bright but with a good spread of cloud but as we walked it cleared into a pretty much cloudless late afternoon and early evening

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We even managed to convince a few of the teenagers to join us

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The views from Mynydd Anelog – and in fact all of the various hills along the peninsula are majestic. It’s rather splendid to be able to see both north and south coasts simultaneously. There are other parts of the UK that have a much higher profile and reputation for coastal splendour but the Llyn Peninsula is as good as any of them

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At this time of year both the heather and gorse are in bloom and gives striking contrast of colour especially on a clear blue summers evening

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As always the island of Bardsey has pride of place off the coast

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We were late back to campsite to find everyone else in a deep game of – well, I can’t remember the name – that involves throwing blocks of wood at other blocks of wood. It’s a  rather strange and equally skilful and compelling game and I was bit disappointed to miss out. Made for a good spectator sport while I fired up the BBQ

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And seeing as the campsite delivers some stunning sunsets………..

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A fabulous long weekend to warm up for our main summer holiday (yes,another one!)

Family Day in the Elan Valley   8 comments

After all the excitement and thrills of the Pyrenees trip we needed something a little more subdued for a family day out. A picnic and short stroll in the Elan Valley was in order.

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We parked up by the Pont Ar Elan at the head of the Craig Goch Reservoir. My memories from my childhood was of playing in the the river but today it was a raging torrent. In fact the Mountain Rescue were practising their fast moving river techniques in it. I don’t recall it being particularly wet in the previous couple of weeks but I guess it must have been

Whatever, it was a fine place to spend a couple of hours filling our faces and it was actually pretty hot and humid. I would have taken a swim if I’d had my stuff with me

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We moved on to the dam of Craig Goch and were surprised to see it gushing with water. This normally only happens in winter and, despite the fact that I’ve visited the Elan Valley dozens of times, I’ve only ever seen it like this on a couple of occasions. Normally in summer the water is low enough to leave several meters of bare shoreline exposed. It makes a pretty dramatic waterfall when its in “spate” as it were

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We took a short stroll along the lake shore and over the small rocky outcrop that overlooks the dam. It was wonderfully clear day and the dark blue of the reservoir contrasted to great effect with the green hillsides (further evidence of wet conditions) and the paler blue sky

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The aerial view down over the dam was especially grand

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We moved on to the second reservoir and dam of Pen y Garreg to see if the water was flowing over which indeed it was. You can walk easily to the base of this one and it was mighty impressive

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I told the kids that extreme kayakers love to shoot the sides of these flows (although its strictly forbidden not to say bloody dangerous)

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We finished the day with a cuppa by the visitor centre at the lowest reservoir and dam of Caban Goch. This was also thundering with water which I’ve never seen before in almost 50 years of visiting the Elan Valley. Alas no photos as the car park was a chargeable one which I was too outraged to pay up for so we wanted to avoid a parking ticket by overstaying our “welcome”. Clearly the money the generate from the gift shop, cafe and bike hire isn’t sufficient to pay the shareholders dividends

We went our separate ways. TBF and TJS to mid Wales for some walking (not entirely successful as this was the start of few days of heatwave so too hot for hiking) and me and TJF back home to work and school

Pyrenees Grand Tour Day 6 – The end of the Trail   8 comments

Alas this was our final day. Time to to make the long walk back to the car and begin the journey home. The original plan had been to cross two more passes and spend a final night in a hut before a descent to the car. The difficulty and snow cover rendered that a tough ask and we agreed that we’d just retrace our steps from the first day. I was little disappointed not to continue my planned tour but our new plan gave us chance for a final visit to the wonderful Campoplano and hopefully see some views of the Arrens Valley we’d walked up on that first day. Ample compensation we hoped.

It had clearly been raining through the night and the sky was mix of blue and threatening blacks and greys. It made for some impressive sunlight shots as we ate breakfast, packed and set off from the hut

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Campoplana was just as magnificent as before and we made light work of the two stream crossings that took us back towards the short steep climb to the Col de St Martin

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Near the top I actually put my waterproofs on as there seemed to be heavy storm approaching. It never amounted to anything and they were soon back in the pack. It was the only time I wore them on the entire trip🙂

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On the way up on the first day the last 30 minutes had been entirely on snow. Six days later and the reduction was dramatic. Merely patches now. The spot where I’d filled the bottles for a brew rather than being in middle of a huge snow patch was now in the middle of a boulder field.

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The weather seemed to brighten immensely and as hoped we had some wonderful views of the Val D’Arrens that we’d seen nothing of on the way up. Rather than being a repeated walk it was like a brand new route and its a very fine valley and walk

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The Lacs de Remoulis looked stunning under the bright sunshine

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On that first day we’d walked through what seemed like a wide, flat, grassy meadow that would have been perfect for a picnic had we not been walking in dense, cold fog. You can see  it now much better in the image below

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It proved to be the case and we had a long, leisurely and final mountain lunch lazing on the grass by a clear, cold, mountain stream. We made a brave attempt to eat the remaining food we had left but we made only the merest impact on our vast supplies

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The walk through these meadows in the sunshine was a fitting final memory of the trip. A stunning spot that barely gets a mention in the guidebook

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All that was left was the last 3 miles along the track back to the car passing the Lac de Suyen we’d seen nothing of on the way up

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And that was that. Back to the car, another night in a local hotel and long drive home via Caen and the ferry to Portsmouth the next day. As a special treat for sticking with the story (and the mid-season break!) you get the bonus of some nice pictures of Portsmouth and the Spinnaker Tower from the ferry

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A fantastic trip. Superb walking, amazing weather, stupendous views, some eventful moments and a lot of lessons learned. Great excuse to go back and do it all again🙂

Pyrenees Grand Tour Day 5 – Back on the Trail   9 comments

Enough rest, it was time to continue our adventures. Having decided to avoid the direct route to the next hut we needed an alternative. The hut staff were again marvellous in helping us arrange a taxi that would take us from the road-head below this hut to the end of the road nearer the Respumuso Hut from where we could continue our walk. I was a little disappointed that we were “cheating” but it was the sensible decision and the replacement walk was very fine indeed

After another bright morning with sunlit clouds we were back underway again

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It was a steep and very rocky descent down to Banos de Panticosa. The path took us steeply down towards a deep gorge with thunderous waterfalls before another steep drop down to the village

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The path was very narrow in places and several stretches were protected by cables and handrails

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After all the adventures and edgy moments of the previous few days the closest I came to real mishap was on a tourist path just above the car park. I lost my balance (no doubt due to a shift in cake position in the rucksack) and flailed about desperately to avoid a tumble down a short gravelly slope to a picnic bench. I still don’t know how I managed not come crashing down and do my self a nasty one.

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The taxi arrived bang on time and the very nice lady and her young baby son took us to the road-head at the La Sarra lake above Sallent de Gallego. From there we had an easy steady climb along the valley of the Rio Aguas Limpias.

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The route initially took us through wonderful grass meadows with lots of butterflies for company

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From there it was up through a deep and rocky gorge with more waterfalls and rapids and up through the bouldery slopes towards the hut

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We stopped for lunch below the dam admiring the now expected spread of colourful wild flowers that were a constant and delightful feature of every day

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Before too much longer we were back at the Respumuso Hut we’d visited a few nights before

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The hut was much busier and having arrived relatively early we had a nice lazy afternoon reading and enjoying the surroundings. There had been the threat of heavy showers and rumbles of thunder all day but after the only light shower the skies cleared for some dramatic evening views across to the same magnificent mountain ranges we’d admired from before

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The Pico del Infernos were again catching the eye with their dramatic outline

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This was to be our last night in the mountains and it was a pretty fine one. Tomorrow is was time to start the long journey home

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