• Sheryl Gwyther

#15 The Dordogne ... and 6% of separation

I love train travel ... always have, ever since I was a railway-man's little girl. So when we boarded the train from Paris to travel south, it didn't matter that the rain threatening us for a week, finally came down. By the time we got to Brive, where we were to pick up the hire car, it was pouring.

Driving in Europe in the rain, in a manual car = nightmare. Not that I was the driver, but being navigator when one is direction-challenged is not a pretty thing. It took us 20 mins to get out of the car park because we hadn't located the electric handbrake (we finally did at Sarlat B&B, with the help of Luca, our host who could read the Audi French instrument book).

Now, after three days of driving around the region, Ross is fine with it. And our marriage survives.

So many highlights to this region, and so many things seen and experienced in three days already. I'll just pick a few that stand out.

Sarlat-la-Caneda is a picturesque, historical town (apparently overrun with tourists in summer), but now fairly quiet. I couldn't stop taking photos of alleyways, and the buildings' angles and colours. But it was the people we met who turned out to be the highlights of our time in Sarlat.

Our B&B, Le Casse Noix, run by the owners, Luca and Alessandra was a delight - quiet, comfortable, with the delicious smells of Alessandra's bread and cake baking (for her guests' breakfast) wafting up the stairs to our room. (If you're looking for accommodation in the area, email them and mention our name, you'll get a good deal).

They were so helpful with suggestions for my specific cave-painting, Cro-Magnon-people information seeking, and with Ross's newfound interest in the troglodytes. (Learn something new every day, we do!)

And when we had to leave early one morning to get the bus to the Lascaux Caves II, and before breakfast was served, Alessandra made it earlier for us so we could still eat brekkie. We loved talking to them both.

It was at Le Casse Noix, we met fellow travellers, Brian and Pam from Port Macquarie, and Mary and David from Scotland. Great conversations over breakfast.

Then on the small bus - a Viator tour of the Les Eyzies de Tayac Prehistoric museum, Lascaux Caves II (more on the Lascaux experience tomorrow!), and the Rouffignac Cave, an authentic one dating back over 15,000 years - we joined six, very friendly Americans, most from the northeast, I think, and university educated.

In a small bus, one can't help get into conversations, and we did. Along with our fabulous guide, Florence, who also had a keen interest in anthropology and Cro-Magnon people (very useful for my research!), we befriended Carolyn and her husband, Hampson.

And in that Six Degrees of Separation thing, it turns out Carolyn loves Vivaldi too, and is in a big choir and has learned to sing Vivaldi's Gloria, the one that figures in my work-in-progress, The Four Seasons of Caterina.

Yes, someone who finally gets why I'm so enthusiastic about Vivaldi's genius! We will certainly keep in contact.