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Road Trip to Les Eyzies-de-Tayac

Minnesota
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Road Trip to Les Eyzies-de-Tayac

In mid-April, 2011, my husband and I (in our late 50’s) traveled by car from Nice to Les Eyzies-de-Tayac in the Dordogne area of France to see the Cro-Magnon cave paintings. This first time in France for us Minnesotans was so fantastic that I had to write about it. The cave paintings were fascinating but the wonder of the trip turned out to be the wealth of prehistory that can actually be seen and touched in this area of the world. The Vezere River is full of easily accessible natural caves and overhanging rocks that were hollowed out into shelters. They were inhabited by people for tens of thousands of years, up into the 16th century and later, leaving behind traces of their lives. Michelin Map France 721 was used for the entire country and then 329 for the Dordogne area. Bullet points for a similar trip:

• Go off season to avoid crowds and touristy feel but go late enough that the caves you want to see are open. The first full week of April sees the opening of many sites. Font de Gaume, perhaps the best, was still closed but we saw Lascoux II, Rouffignac, & Rocque St. Christophe. Pech-Merle was open but we didn’t make it. Highlights included Beynac for the town, chateau, and river boat (Gabarre) ride.

• We would return to Les Eyzies for another stay at the Cro Magnon Hotel – only off season - great food, quaint accommodations, perfect location to explore the area from

• Rent a canoe in Les Eyzies – you are driven with canoes to start at Rocque St. Christophe (tour it first another day so you understand what you are seeing from the river). Paddle about 2 ½ hours down river, “rediscovering” for yourself the rock caves and remnants of cave dwellings.

• Towns I missed: Sarlat-la-Canada, Domme, St.-Armand-de-Coly, St. Cirq Lapopie, La Madeleine

• Road Trip: From Nice, drive to Ste. Enimie then on through the Tarn Gorges (Gorges de Tarn Road) which are among the deepest gorges in Europe. Views into the gorges with medieval fortress towns built up the rock walls of the river are indescribable. We stayed at the Chateau de la Caze built in 1492 where we walked along the banks of the river and watched people fly fishing.

• There are closer airports than Nice but it made for a nice road trip. Understand that the trip we took is through an area vacationed in primarily by the French; English is not spoken everywhere.

• Stop to tour Rocamadour (about 90 min drive to Les Eyzies)

• Towns I want to return to for a longer stay: St. Enimie, La Malene (to rent kayak/canoe), Millau, Castelbuc, Roquefort, Figeac.

9 replies to this topic
Seattle, Washington
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1. Re: Road Trip to Les Eyzies-de-Tayac

Thanks so much for your detailed report. This is such a nice part of France and I'm glad you had a great time. When my wife and I came back from our trip to this area (also during the off-season and also by driving from Nice), we likewise began making a list for "next time." On your return, you will want to see Font de Gaume (and perhaps Pech Merle if you are in the area near St. Cirq)

Minnesota
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2. Re: Road Trip to Les Eyzies-de-Tayac

Yes, there is so much to explore in that area; my husband and I are trying to figure out how/when we can get back there to see what we missed!

3. Re: Road Trip to Les Eyzies-de-Tayac

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Minnesota
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4. Re: Road Trip to Les Eyzies-de-Tayac

You will have a wonderful adventure. If you haven't driven in France before, want to know where to rent a car, need to eat gluten free (!), want to know which sites to choose from (for there are too many to even scratch the surface), etc. look for answers in this forum, go to Michelin for maps and mileage, and/or ask me my opinion. I am not sure what you need/want to know. I do suggest knowing how long a drive will take because it typically takes much longer to drive than one would think from looking at mileage. I highly recommend not packing too much in a day; plan an itinerary but also plan to skip half of it if something else catches your eye and leave plenty of time to discover things on your own, meet new people, enjoy the food, etc. And bring snacks! it is tough to find well stocked grocery stores and lunch after 2 -

this is a rural area.

5. Re: Road Trip to Les Eyzies-de-Tayac

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Illinois
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6. Re: Road Trip to Les Eyzies-de-Tayac

Thanks for posting. This is one of the places I am thinking about for my daughter's spring break this year (which happens to be the 1st week of April), so it was nice to hear your trip report. I know she would like the canoe trip. Can you get out places to see the caves, etc, or do you just see them from the river?

Tampa, Florida
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7. Re: Road Trip to Les Eyzies-de-Tayac

There are two different rivers, btgm -- you are allowed to get out anywhere along both of them, although there is no access to the caves, as they're not near the rivers.

The Dordogne is the larger of the two rivers, and runs fairly slowly past lots of small villages and castles. The banks are generally very gentle and easy to pull out.

The Vezere is smaller and virtually untouched -- there are some villages and wonderful chateaux, but it is primarily through forests. The current runs considerably faster than the Dordogne, and the steep stone banks make stops difficult.

Neither are particularly difficult, and both are completely safe -- just very different experiences.

We canoed both of them on subsequent days and had two fabulous days out simply messing about in boats...and they are each well worth the time, depending on what your interests are.

When you rent the canoe, you're given a map -- it works one of two ways -- either you start from the rental site and are collected at some point down-river (which will be well-marked) -- or you're taken upriver to return to the rental site. Either way, they will expect you to show up within a few hours of the intended time. The trips are of various lengths, and the estimated durations are very accurate for a lazy day -- we took photos, stopped and had lunch, and were very much in no hurry, and both days showed up at the agreed-upon point almost exactly when they said we would. Because their schedule (and subsequent rentals) depend on your return, it will work better for everyone if you have canoeing as one activity and visiting sights as a separate activity.

Do pack dry clothes in the car -- no matter how hard you try, you'll end up with a wet seat (both yours and the canoe/kayak's).

Edited: 4:44 am, November 27, 2011
Illinois
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8. Re: Road Trip to Les Eyzies-de-Tayac

Thanks for the details, sunshine. It sounded from the op like you could just get out and be right by the caves. No such luck I guess. DD would still like canoeing though. She wants an "outside" vacation.

Tampa, Florida
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9. Re: Road Trip to Les Eyzies-de-Tayac

That's one of the greatest areas in France for "outside" vacations -- things Le Roque St Christophe are an outside museum (a troglodyte settlement) - the chateaux are smaller, so you're not indoors for long, and it's a stunningly lovely area with lots of things to do. Hope you have a great time.

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