Paris and the South of France Tour

Day 9 Saturday May 9, 2009
Sarlat, Carsac

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The actual digital photos have much better resolution than the enlarged photos.
Market day in Sarlat.

All kinds of goodies were for sale.

I felt pretty well rested when I arose at a little after six. I got dressed and started up the computer. Weather.com now rated the chance of rain for today at 60 percent. This was a little lower than yesterday’s prognostication, but I suspected that we would not be able to dodge the bullet this time. I looked up the hockey results for Dave and the other Canadians. Three series were tied at two games apiece. Carolina led Boston three games to one.

Whoops, I almost forgot to shave. I went into the bathroom and took care of all my morning ablutions.

The early birds got the best stuff.

“You can get anything you want ...”

It did not appear to have rained overnight, but it was quite overcast this morning. Nothing was officially on the group’s agenda for this day. Saturday was market day in Sarlat, but shopping in a French tourist town was not high on my bucket list. The plan was for Tom and me to meet Roscoe and Gigi at the front desk at 10 a.m. Patrick had told Tom where to find a good path for hiking that went for many miles from Sarlat to several other towns. If we got back, and there was still time, I might look for a shirt to replace the one that I left in Chinon. Otherwise, I had little doubt that Sue and Patti could be trusted to do whatever shopping was required.

The cathedral was charming.

Phoebe and Jacqueline were already at breakfast when I arrived downstairs. I sat with Phoebe, who told me that she originally hailed from Spring Hill, TN, the home of Saturn. I restricted my consumption to a banana, some strawberries, some grapes, a little cereal, juice, and coffee. Tom Stan and the Lantzes arrived as I was leaving the breakfast room.

They knew how to build pulpits in the good old days.

Back in the room Sue told me that Kathy was quite knowledgeable about plants. Her husband Paul was the one person in the group about whom I knew exactly nothing.

I looked out our room’s window, which faced the square in front of the hotel. I could see Brad down there in his running togs doing some stretching. Since we were planning a fairly long walk ourselves, I did not feel too much guilt.

I had quite a bit of time to kill before our scheduled departure time, so I walked through the market, which was essentially all over the old town, and took some photos. I saw Phoebe there.

Whoa, Nellie! No kneelers. Either the congregation just stood and sat, or everyone must have worn knee pads.

I visited the cathedral again. It was very nice in the daylight. A sign on the door indicated that tourists were not allowed to enter during services. I saw a picture of St. Sacerdos. I tried to enter the Lantern of the Dead, the strange asparagus building dedicated to St. Bernard, but it was locked.

The enfeus by daylight.

I found Le Pub, the free Wi-fi hot spot, but it was closed. I sat outside on its steps, turned on the netbook, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that the wireless reception was excellent, and it was open to anyone. Just outside of the hotel I also was also able to get good reception using the network that I had employed up in our hotel room. Unfortunately, I was unable to send e-mails either way. Oh, well. There was one business-related e-mail that I needed to forward, but no one would be in the office over the weekend anyway.

Monks were buried here.

The fruit and coffee strategy worked. What a relief!

The Lantern of the Dead.

I met Roscoe, Gigi, and Tom at ten o'clock. I dropped the key off with Sue in the breakfast room. I thought that I had brought a map of Sarlat, but I could not find it in any of my pockets. No matter. Tom had one, and he seemed to have a pretty good idea of how to reach the path. I wore my jacket, which would suffice if there was a light shower, and I had my poncho in my backpack in case the weather turned ugly. The other three hikers toted umbrellas.

We walked through the very heavy traffic on the Boulevard Henri Arley until we reached Avenue du General Leclerc, which, after changing names once or twice, brought us to the big roundabout on the south side of Sarlat. Along the way I noticed that many door stoops were equipped with mats, presumably for wiping feet. On the ground in front of one door was an old pair of pants that must have served the same function.

I asked Gigi about the funny-looking trees that were so abundant in Sarat. She identified them as plantanes,[1] which, I remembered, was also the name of the hotel/restaurant in which we had eaten lunch in La Roque-Gageac.

The door was open, so I poked my head in and took a photo. It reminded me of home.

By nine o’clock on market day parking slots had become a precious commodity.

Everyone was headed toward Sarlat’s market day.


I wondered if Gigi felt like Dorothy. I fit the scarecrow role; Tom would make a good lion; that left Roscoe as the tin woodsman.

Tobacco barns were familiar sights in Connecticut.

At the roundabout we turned left onto the road that paralleled the train tracks on their north side. We followed that road until we could see the stadium, which was called Le Stade Madrazes, on the left. We looked inside and were surprised to see goalposts. Evidently a local rugby team played its matches there. Patrick had told us that rugby was as big as soccer in southern France. I took some photos.

Yes, those are goalposts.

We kept walking past the train station until we reached the path that Patrick had described. We had already covered something like two miles. A nearby sign indicated that Carsac was 6 kilometers away. It seemed like an ideal destination. We figured that we would get there just about in time for lunch.

Sponsors of the rugby club.

The path had obviously been constructed by paving over railroad tracks that had previously been laid on an embankment. In most places trees grew on both sides. The shade was not an important consideration during the morning. The weather was cloudy, cool, and, at times, threatening.

They knew better than to wait for me.

Gigi and Roscoe were both obviously veteran walkers. They even carried dueling pedometers. I was constantly hanging back to take photos. Fortunately, the other three were experienced enough to know not to wait for me. I would always hustle to rejoin them after a minute or two.

Tom occasionally spelunked.

Roscoe saw a small animal cross the path some distance ahead of us. When we reached the spot where it disappeared, we looked for tracks, but we did not find anything. We never did find out what it was. Gigi said that Roscoe had been hoping to see a sanglier (wild pig) for some time. I told them about the problem of feral pigs in Kauai.

We came to the only place on the path in which a car could gain access. A sign there indicated that we were two kilometers from the start of the path.

We could hear ducks in the barn.

For the most part we was just enjoyed a pleasant walk through the Périgord countryside. In most places we could see or hear the nearby roads, but they were not heavily traveled. One jogger passed us and a few bikers. The biggest source of excitement came from a farm off to the right. As we passed, we watched a guy split wood quite close to the path with an electric auger. We could hear but not see his ducks.

What a shot! The jogger, Gigi, Roscoe, and the guy splitting logs.

Gigi asked a young man walking the opposite way how far it was to the next village. He replied that it was two kilometers. I was a little surprised to hear such a precise answer delivered with no hesitation whatever until we came to a sign no more than fifty meters down the path. It said that Carsac was 2.1 kilometers away.

By the time that we reached Carsac we were all a little tired, hungry, and ready for a break. We found a set of stairs by which we could descend into town. Off to one side we saw a sign advertising the McDonald’s in Sarlat.

Carsac was not nearly as large a town as Sarlat, and there was no sign of tourism. We felt as if we had stumbled onto something special. Two cafés were on the main drag. We decided to dine at the one called La Grange. It was a little farther, but we liked the cut of its jib.

The outskirts of Carsac.

Downtown Carsac.

Gigi and Roscoe had very large salads that contained an incredible number of quartered tomatoes. I ordered pizza Napoli, which was what they called the one topped with anchovies and capers. I explained that I liked to order pizza with anchovies because it meant that I never had to share. Gigi and Roscoe said that they also liked anchovies. Tom ate a ham omelet with fries and greens. Tom and I both drank the beer that was on tap. I had a Stella Artois. Tom had a Leffe and then a Stella. The Carnahans shared some wine. My share came to 10€6, which to me seemed fairly reasonable.

The kiln (or whatever it was).

The open end.

Roscoe told us that he had started out as a surveyor. He later worked as a project manager on large construction jobs in the northwest. He explained that he and Gigi could afford to travel because of their conservative lifestyle. I took the word “conservative” in the context to mean “thrifty.”

Some diners in the café were drinking a very red beverage in beer glasses. It looked like cherry soda with a head. Strange indeed.

The restaurant was not crowded at all. We had a very peaceful and relaxing lunch. The pizza was better than tolerable. My three companions seemed to enjoy their selections, too.

Spooky moss-covered rock formations.

While we were in the café, the sun had come out, and it had warmed up considerably. I saw no need for my jacket on the return trip, so I stuffed it in my backpack. I offered to do the same with Roscoe’s jacket, which he had been carrying in his hand for some time, but he said that he did not mind carrying it.

There was no shortage of shade.

On the way up the stairs toward the path we paid more attention to a brick building that was just below the trail. It appeared to be a kiln or some kind of a huge oven. If so, it was one of the cleanest ones in the world. We left with no explanation of the structure’s purpose.

They must have blasted through the rocks to keep the track level.

We followed a path that ran parallel to the railroad path for the first kilometer or so. Because it was higher than the paved path, it afforded slightly better views. Its purpose remained a mystery to us. It was too narrow for an automobile to use, but it was worn enough that it had obviously experienced a good deal of some kind of traffic.

We certainly never expected to encounter a pony on our hike.

As usual, the return trip seemed much shorter. The highlight of the hike occurred as we reached the intersection. There stood a couple with a pony. Gigi talked with them in French. They told her that they had come across the animal right on the trail and had called the gendarmerie on their cell phone. They were waiting for the police to locate the owners. We took some photos of the couple and the pony, who was very handsome and extremely tame.

A little later Gigi expressed a good deal of worry about the pony and the couple who found him. Roscoe assured her that they would all be fine.

“Because, because, because, because, because ...”

When we finally got back to the start of the path we found a sign with a map of the entire trail. We had traversed a very small portion of it.

Our route through Sarlat to the hotel must have been slightly different from the one that we traversed in the morning. We passed by the cinema, which I did not recall seeing previously. A poster promoting a presentation of the Metropolitan Opera’s performance in HD caught my attention. If they were showing the Saturday matinee[2], I calculated mentally that it would start at seven p.m. unless it was a Wagnerian monstrosity. We could probably attend if we wanted to.

We only covered the part marked in red.

When we reached the hotel, I found the key at the desk. “Huit.” Sue had left a note in the room ordering me to eat some cookies and fresh strawberries. I obeyed.

When she came back to the room a few minutes later, Sue told me that Donna had become ill during the day and had to receive medical treatment. Sue did not know the details.

Doug: “How’s it goin’, eh?”
Us: “Fine. We hiked 17.2 kilometers today.”
Bob: “Take off, you hoser.”

We encountered a wedding party in Sarlat on our way back to the hotel. Another one passed the hotel while I was up in the room.

I took a little nap. My sleep was repeatedly interrupted by cramps in my legs and feet. At one point I suffered simultaneously from cramps in my calves and shin splints. Dealing with either one was not too bad, but trying to relieve both at the same time posed a real challenge.

Our window at La Couleuvrine.

Someone who claimed to have eaten at most of the restaurants in Sarlat had advised Sue that the best one was Le Bistro de l’Octroi[3]. Actually Sue thought that the name was just Le Bistro, but after a good bit of searching on the Internet, she finally convinced herself that there was only one restaurant in town with “Le Bistro” in its name. It was just a little outside of the old town, about a ten minute walk from the hotel. Sue had trouble getting the phone to work, but she ended up making reservations for six of us – Sue, me, Patti, Tom, Brad, and Donna – at eight o'clock.

Le Bistro de l’Octroi.

The walk to the restaurant was not bad at all. We probably did not need reservations. It was a little chilly, but we sat outside. We deemed a few shivers a small price to pay for avoiding a potentially smoke-filled room.

We had to struggle with the French menus. I ordered asparagus salad, lamb with a mixture of vegetables, red wine, a lemon meringue tart with raspberry sauce, and espresso. Sue also had the asparagus salad and the meringue, but she selected Coquille St. Jacques with mushroom gravy and white wine. Tom had Rumsteak Beef and crème brûlée. Patti ordered Beef Limousin, chocolate for dessert, white wine, and café au lait. For some reason the waiter did not bring her a steak knife. Brad had lasagna and a beer. Donna also had the Coquille St. Jacques and crème brûlée. Everyone seemed to enjoy the restaurant’s food and the atmosphere pretty well.

A healthy Donna, Brad, and an old guy.

Brad said that he had received a BS in math from Gannon University in Erie, PA, in 1970. He was surprised to learn that I knew another Gannon Grad and that both Tom and I also had degrees in math. Brad had joined the navy out of college, but he ended up with only two and a half years of active duty. He worked in IT for the Pennsylvania state police for thirty years before retiring earlier in 2009. He also earned an MBA somewhere along the line.

Was that physalis on the tart?

Brad told me that Mike had been an Air Force officer for twenty-five years. Since retiring from the service he had been running a vineyard. Brad also said that he knew how old everyone in the group was. He evidently garnered this information by first volunteering his own age. I had to wonder if everyone was truthful to him.

The deserted streets of Sarlat as seen through raindrops on the lens.

Donna had been taken to the hospital in the afternoon, but she seemed to have come through the ordeal relatively unscathed. They gave her an IV, but I did not hear the rest of the story.

Our return walk to the hotel was dramatically different from the journey to the restaurant. We found the streets silent and almost completely deserted. It was actually a little spooky.

The parks in Sarlat had tree branches that had been painted blue. I never did find out what this was supposed to signify. Maybe it was part of the decoration for the holiday.[4]

I went to sleep at eleven. During the night my ear plugs fell out, but I did not notice it.



[1]  Plantanes are called plane trees in English.

[2]  They were; the opera was Rossini’s La Cenerentola, and it was the last show of the season. In March, 2008, Sue and I had attended a terrific rendition of this work staged by the now defunct Connecticut Opera Company.

[3]  L’Octroi was a municipal tax.

[4]  Evidently not. Photos of the blue branches can be found on the Internet, but I never did find an explanation.