Four-and-a-half hours after departing Austerlitz station in Paris, my train arrived in Brive-la-Gaillarde. This is a good sized city and clearly not the hamlet I had envisioned, my erroneous assumption having been that only the names of small towns are hyphenated in order to find them more easily.(“Which Brive is it you’re looking for, monsieur? Oh, the cute little one down south near Gaillarde!)
Before picking up the rental car, I stopped at the SNCF counter in the station to buy my ticket back to Tours. Alas, the information I received from the SNCF web site was incorrect and the first of three trains suggested by the web site would not, in fact, be operating that morning. Instead, my journey to Tours will be half by train and — alas — half by bus.
I collected my Avis car, had the attendant inform the GPS I was headed for the medieval town of Domme in the Dordogne Valley, and headed south. At a stop light, I instructed the GPS not to route me on the main roads which evidently upset the female voice coming inside the dashboard because she stopped speaking to me. I continued nevertheless, and the graphics guided me without problem through spectacular countryside directly to Domme.
This little town dates back to the late 1200s and that does not come as a surprise when you first enter the great stone gate. From that moment, you’re traveling at just a few miles an hour, steadily climbing up twisting and turning streets. All are, of necessity, one-way and many are just wide enough to accommodate one small car and pedestrians with any sense stop walking and flatten against the walls of the house on either side.
Finally, at the very top, and just off what is the town square, is L’Esplanade, Domme’s premier hotel, perched at the edge of a rocky cliff and overlooking a broad valley with the Dordogne River meandering through it. It’s a breathtaking view, but it’s more than that: it’s quite lovely, almost serene. I’ve been here almost three days now, and I keep going over to the stone wall and staring out over the valley. I’ve noticed other visitors doing the same. I’m quite sure taking one long look and snapping still more photographs will be the very last thing I do on Thursday morning when I leave Domme.