Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Mini Cooper Road Trip, Rocamadour in pictures

French Village Diaries Mini Cooper road trip France Rocamadour
Early evening in Rocamadour

We parked right outside the hotel in Rocamadour l'Hospitalet and entered the reception by the bar, the view over the valley being cleverly concealed by the side of the building. Inside, our tired eyes took in the interior, but failed to notice the view from the terrace behind us, so knowing we had paid a bit extra for a room with a view, we entered our room excited to catch our first glimpse of Rocamadour. However the shutters were down so still we saw nothing, until we waited for them to slowly rise up. 

It was stunning. An uninterrupted view of the valley, the rocks and the perched village set into the rocks over many levels with an imposing church at the top. What surprised me most during our stay was that the view kept changing and each time I looked it seemed better than the last. There was a slight haze when we arrived, but as we dined on the hotel terrace and the sun began to set it started to glow.

French Village Diaries Mini Cooper road trip France Rocamadour
Dinner overlooking Rocamadour

Back in our room at sunset it looked fabulous.

French Village Diaries Mini Cooper road trip France Rocamadour
Sunset at Rocamadour

After dark it was illuminated and I could have sat and watched it all night. 

French Village Diaries Mini Cooper road trip France Rocamadour
Rocamadour at night

The following morning, the early dawn light gave it natural highlights and I thought that was my favourite view.

French Village Diaries Mini Cooper road trip France Rocamadour
First light at Rocamadour

But then, although the cloud came down a little it couldn't spoil the amazing sight of hot air balloons rising from the valley floor between us and the village. This changing view alone was worth staying in Rocamadour l'Hospitalet, in my opinion. 

French Village Diaries Mini Cooper road trip France Rocamadour
Hot air balloons at Rocamadour

We were up and out early, although not quite as early as the balloonists, to do some walking and exploring with high hopes of beating the crowds and enjoying our breakfast croissant in Rocamadour. Gizmo enjoyed his roar down the valley and through the tunnel and we were delighted to find the parking was free until 10.00am, so leaving the car by one of the stone gateways we set off on foot through the narrow streets. 

French village diaries Mini Cooper road trip Rocamadour France
The narrow streets of Rocamadour


It seems that Rocamadour, like Sarlat, is (unfortunately) not a morning place and although the neck-cricking views of the churches are certainly very impressive from the lower streets looking up, the deserted village gave the impression we shouldn't be there yet. We climbed (most of) the 200 steps of the Grand Escalier that links the lower village with the higher places of worship, on our feet rather than our knees as many pilgrims before us had done, but we were alone in our journey and our footsteps echoed eerily. 

French village diaries Mini Cooper road trip Rocamadour France
Rocamadour from below

We failed to find a boulangerie to buy our croissants or a café open for a simple coffee, even the tourist shops selling knives and smart phone cases were shuttered closed, although what they would add to village life is questionable in my opinion. A real village should be about daily life rather than just tourist attractions that open when the parking charges apply and we felt more like we were out of hours visitors to a theme park than travelers taking a morning wander in a living village. Sadly, with 260 kms to drive we were on the road long before Rocamadour opened for business, although the nice lady with the farm shop just out of town was very happy to talk to us about her duck products, sell us some tasty rillettes for lunch and some wine to take home for a celebratory drink with Adrian's parents.