It’s not often a campsite really wows us but Le Moulin St Laurent certainly did. Almost non-existent on the Internet, it’s nestled in apple orchards 2km south of Port Sainte Marie behind a formidable four storey u-shaped mill-house, with huge chimney stack.
The crumbling town of Port Sainte Marie was everything we associate with the south of France: winding narrow streets punctuated with small squares shaded by sprawling plane trees, hemmed in by grey weathered shuttered buildings, and brought to life – just – by small elderly people who’ve probably never left these winding narrow streets.
It was in the heart of this pleasing old town that we met – for the second time on this trip – our good friend Stuart, returning from four weeks of flying in Spain. We agreed to explore the nearby village of Clermont Dessous. The uphill race to get there finished predictably with Stuart and his outrageous mini in first place, Helen on the ‘normal’ bike in second, and The Pied Piper of Hamlin encouraging his followers into distant third.
Clermont-Dessous was worth the climb, offering up a menu of delights we hadn’t seen on this trip. Very small in stature but huge in personality, her narrow, white stoned lane ways directed us around heavily laden fig trees (we were obliged to lessen their burden), stone buildings which looked as though they had pushed themselves out of the ground on which they stood and a very simple old church.
The other menu of delight we found at Clermont was at a pizza parlor where we indulged in the Best Pizzas Ever.
The proprietor over ordered on our behalf and we carried a box of leftover pizza downhill with us as we waved goodbye to Stuart. The leftovers ended up going to the chooks, pigs and goats…
We covered a whopping great 15 flat kms that evening to our first Warmshower in a while, Laurent and Gwen, who reside south of Agen. This young couple did an amazing job of welcoming us despite being busy working, as well as training for a half marathon the coming weekend. Gwen had spent an action packed 7 months in Australia recently and we were all happy to share her photos and stories from her time as a jillaroo on a remote NT station.
Agen lies just to the south of the Dordogne, a fabled area of France much loved by the English and especially abundant with 2 and 3 star Michelin villages. The area is also abundant in hills, so it’s not ideal for cycle tourists with long heavy bikes. We decided to hire a car for four days to explore.
And it all went belly up!
The weather turned grey and wet 😦
Our faithful Sierra Designs tent decided she could no longer keep out rain 😦
Rosie sprained her ankle – badly – playing soccer 😦
We bought crutches and tried to keep our spirits up by visiting villages from Les Plus Belles Villages de France and the caves of Lascaux. The caves were exceptional – although you can’t visit the original (carbon dioxide was trashing the art) they have created a duplicate cave to within 10% of the original’s accuracy – we were all in awe of these 17,000 year old cave paintings. Exceptional.
But wet weather, soggy gear and three children no longer able to get rid of energy by pedaling got the better of us and we ran with the proverbial tail between our legs to the only part of France still bathing in warm sunshine. Languedoc-Roussillon, specifically the department of Pyrenees Orientales.