Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Canoeing in the land of châteaux

The "lazy hazy days" of summer don't get much better than this.

La Roque-Gageac as seen from the bow of a canoe

We wake up early, forego our (my) daily workout, rub on sunscreen, put on bathing suits, load the car with towels, snacks and wide-brimmed hats and head to the river.

One recent jour trop chaud we drive to Port d'Enveaux where we're taken by van upriver to just past La Roque-Gageac. We're the first departure of the day so before 10 a.m. we are on the Dordogne. After a bit of frustration trying to figure out who is supposed to be steering the canoe — bow or stern — we're on our way.

Canoeing along the Dordogne at La Roque-Gageac

Along our 14 km journey we pass by the village of La Roque-Gageac and châteaux Beynac, Castelnaud and Milandes, among others in the distance.

Castelnaud from a canoe on the Dordogne

The village and Château de Beynac from a canoe on the Dordogne

Aside from fellow river drifters, we spot some swans and lots of fish. We stop a couple of times for cool dips in the crystal-clear water. And really, before we know it, we're back at base camp. It's just starting to get hot and the gnats are starting to swarm around my face, so even though my heart says I could have stayed on the river another hour, my reddening shoulders tell me it's time to go home.

A garbarre tour out of Beynac on the Dordogne river

Swans on the Dordogne

If you go

There are lots of canoe and kayak rental places along your river of choice. Pick up brochures at your local tourism office. Call ahead for reservations. By the time we returned to base camp, the parking lot was full of cars. Also, we tried to reserve a canoe the last week of June and were told the river was too high and fast due to recent rains. Typically, you can choose from half- or full-day rentals, costing between 8 and 25 euros per person. Most places offer a snack bar at base camp, but bring along water and munchies for the "road." And don't forget the sunscreen.

A family canoes on the Dordogne river.

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