Day 8 The Marqueyssac Gardens and Castelnaud-la-Chapelle
Our day began with an early start as we ventured towards the enchanting Marqueyssac Gardens (website), nestled amidst the picturesque village of Vézac, there was plenty or free parking near the entrance. The renowned gardens, renowned for their stunning landscaping and intricate boxwood sculptures, promised a captivating experience.
As we purchased our tickets, we were pleasantly surprised by the option to combine our visit with Castelnaud-la-Chapelle, a medieval fortress overlooking the Dordogne River. This combination ticket not only provided access to both attractions but also offered a significant saving, making our decision a no-brainer.
Stepping into the gardens, we were initially surprised by their seemingly modest size. However, as we delved deeper into the verdant expanse, we discovered a network of over 6 kilometers of pathways, each offering breathtaking views and hidden treasures.
The gardens, meticulously manicured and adorned with an array of flora, were a feast for the eyes. Towering boxwood hedges, meticulously sculpted into intricate shapes, provided a sense of order and artistry amidst the natural beauty.
As we strolled along the pathways of the gardens, we were treated to enchanting panoramic views of the Dordogne Valley, adding a touch of magic to our experience.
Play areas are scattered throughout the gardens, providing a welcome break from the walking. These play areas feature a variety of climbing structures, swings, and slides, perfect for burning off energy.
One of the most popular attractions for children is the suspended pathway, The pathway is gently sloping and accessible to children of all ages.
After we set our sights on Castelnaud-la-Chapelle (website), a majestic fortress perched atop a hill overlooking the Dordogne River. Seeking a respite from the previous day’s activities, we opted for a gentler approach and drove to the castle’s entrance.
The parking lot, situated comfortably at the base of the hill, offered a welcomed escape from the sun’s heat and provided a convenient starting point for our exploration of the castle. Refreshed and energized, we were ready to embark on this historic adventure.
We wandered through the castle’s labyrinthine corridors, each turn revealing a new treasure. Medieval weaponry, meticulously restored, lined the walls, a reminder of the fierce battles that had once raged within these walls. Tapestries depicting scenes of chivalry and courtly life adorned the halls, transporting us to a world of opulent splendor.
After our adventurous day, we headed back to our campsite for a well-deserved soak in the pool. We lazed around in the refreshing water, letting the stress of the day melt away. As the sun set, we wrapped up our day, feeling refreshed and ready for more adventures tomorrow.
Day 9 Lascaux II
On this memorable day, we embarked on a 50-minute, 50-kilometer drive to Lascaux II (website). The journey, though scenic, posed challenges with winding roads that took a toll on our kids, who unfortunately fell ill during the car ride. Despite the setbacks, we made strategic stops to refresh ourselves, ensuring we reached our destination in good spirits and happily took advantage of the free parking available.
Lascaux, with its three distinct replicas, beckoned us, and we chose to explore Lascaux II—the first replica. The guided tour, eloquently conducted in English, provided a fascinating insight into the original cave and its intricate drawings of ancient animals. Remarkably, even our children found the cave’s history captivating, adding a unique dimension to our road trip.
The return journey demanded a more cautious approach around the winding turns, ensuring everyone’s well-being. Back at the campsite, the remainder of the day unfolded as a tranquil retreat. The pool and water slides, now enjoyed exclusively by us, offered a welcome respite. After several full days of exploration, having an afternoon dedicated to relaxation was a well-deserved and rejuvenating conclusion to our adventure.
Day 10 The Water Gardens and Domme
Our tenth day on the road took us to the stunning Water Gardens of Carsac (website), a mere half-hour drive from our campsite. As we stepped through the gates, we were greeted with an explosion of beauty, the carefully tended terraces and cascading water features creating an atmosphere of serenity that instantly calmed our spirits.
The highlight of the gardens was the winding path that meandered through a harmonious symphony of nature’s wonders. Lush greenery enveloped us, while a kaleidoscope of vibrant flowers adorned the landscape, their petals dancing gracefully in the breeze. We were particularly captivated by the vast array of water plants that adorned the gardens, their delicate leaves swaying softly in rhythm with the flowing streams.
Nestled within this verdant paradise, a serene lake shimmered like a precious gem, its mirrored surface reflecting the vibrant hues that painted the gardens. We strolled along its banks, mesmerized by its tranquil beauty, feeling a sense of peace wash over us.
The Water Gardens of Carsac were truly a hidden gem, a sanctuary of beauty and tranquility amidst the bustling Dordogne Valley.
Our Dordogne odyssey unfolded with our journey towards the enchanting town of Domme a name that had tantalized our senses since our arrival in the region. The town’s renown as a picturesque gem drew us in, and with eager hearts, we set forth to uncover its hidden treasures.
Upon reaching Domme, we meandered through its charming streets, where history seemed to resonate from the weathered stone walls. Our car gracefully settled at Parking (P1), strategically chosen for its proximity to the beating heart of the town.
As we stepped into Domme, a breathtaking panorama greeted us. Perched majestically atop a hill overlooking the meandering Dordogne River, the town emanated a medieval grandeur, with ancient walls and cobblestone streets that whispered tales of a bygone era.
To delve deeper into Domme’s rich history, we descended into the town’s underground caves—hidden gems concealing prehistoric secrets. Our footsteps echoed through the cool, damp air as we explored the labyrinthine chambers. Intricate stalactites and stalagmites adorned the walls, their formations a testament to millennia of ceaseless water sculpting. The subterranean adventure offered a mesmerizing glimpse into the geological wonders that had silently evolved over ages.
Day 11 Rocamadour and Gouffre de Padirac
Our eleventh day brought us to Rocamadour, a pilgrimage site nestled atop a stunning cliff overlooking the Alzou Valley. Renowned for its sacred sanctuaries and awe-inspiring scenery, Rocamadour was a must-visit destination in our Dordogne adventure.
We set off early from our campsite, eager to avoid the crowds that typically flocked to Rocamadour during the summer months. The drive, though only 55 kilometers, took us about an hour due to the winding roads that snaked their way through the picturesque countryside.
So, we went for a bit of an unusual move. Instead of parking up at the top and walking down the Grand Escalier, we decided to start from the bottom. Turned out to be a smart move because the town was practically empty when we got there, making it a breeze to find parking.
Contrary to online warnings, the ascent to Notre Dame de Rocamadour and the Black Madonna statue was surprisingly effortless. The winding stone paths, far from being arduous, presented a scenic route to the basilica. The panoramic views from the terrace captivated us, offering a breathtaking panorama of the surrounding countryside.
After immersing ourselves in the spiritual aura of the sanctuary, we embarked on a journey to the top of the town, following the “Chemin de Croix” (Way of the Cross). This picturesque path meandered through the tranquil woods, unfolding 14 stations depicting Jesus’ final journey to Calvary. As we traversed the path, we were deeply moved by the serenity of the forest and the profound symbolism of each station. The Cross of Jerusalem, our final destination, stood as a poignant reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice and the transformative power of faith.
Gouffre de Padirac (Padirac Cave)
Note: The Padirac Cave is very popular in the summer, book your time slot in advance.
Leaving the tranquil atmosphere of Rocamadour behind, we set off on a 30-minute drive to Padirac to visit Gouffre de Padirac (website). As we arrived, we were pleased to find a free parking area situated right next to the caves, eliminating the need for a time-consuming hunt for one. We decided to grab a quick lunch to ensure we made our scheduled time slot, and while we were at it, we added warm clothing to our backpacks. Despite the sweltering summer temperatures outside, we knew that the caves would present a different scenario, with their internal temperature hovering around 13 degrees Celsius.
At the entrance, we were greeted by a friendly attendant who handed us an audio guide and explained our options for descending to the cave’s depths. We opted for the more adventurous route and embarked on the 103-meter descent via a series of steep, winding stairs. The cool air wafting from the depths below served as a refreshing contrast to the warm summer day.
Upon reaching the lower level, we were enveloped by an atmosphere of profound awe. The vast, cavernous space was bathed in an otherworldly luminescence, courtesy of the mesmerizing underground formations. As we traversed a lengthy passageway, we were guided towards a boat dock within the depths of the cave. This embarkation point served as our gateway to the Grand Dome, a colossal cavern brimming with awe-inspiring stalagmites and stalactites. With bated breath, we boarded the small, wooden vessel and embarked on a journey through the intricate labyrinth of the Padirac Cave.
The experience was truly unparalleled. The cave’s interior was nothing short of spectacular, and the boat ride proved to be the highlight for my kids. On the way up, we opted for the effortless ride in the elevator, feeling quite content with the considerable amount of walking we had done that day. After Rocamadour and Padirac Caves, we had certainly earned our rest.
Day 12 – Hike in Chemin de Halage
Since we didn’t feel like we’d walked quite enough the day before, our adventurous spirits nudged us to embark on a hike along the Chemin de Halage the next day. After just an hour’s drive and covering about 72 kilometers, we found ourselves in Bouziès, a charming little town nestled next to the River Lot.
With our backpacks laden with provisions and an air of confidence, we embarked on an 8-kilometer hike along the Chemin de Halage. Despite the distance, we were reassured by our children’s prior hiking experience. The trail began alongside the serene Lot River, leading us towards the highlight of the journey – the Chemin de Halage, a pathway etched into the mountainside.
After devoting two hours to our trek, navigating the trail markers with ease, we conquered a series of steps and ascended to the captivating town of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie. Nestled atop a verdant hill, this charming village offered panoramic vistas that captivated our senses. We paused to savor a delectable picnic lunch, invigorated by the breathtaking scenery and the promise of the journey’s second half.
With satisfied stomachs, we tackled the second half of the trail, winding along the mountaintop with a breathtaking view of the River Lot. Fortunately, the trail offered numerous shaded spots, a welcome relief on one of the hottest days of our trip. Our kids beamed with pride at completing the 8km trek without a hitch and were eagerly anticipating the return to our campsite for some well-deserved relaxation by the pool!
If you are planning on visiting Chemin de Halage on your road trip we highly recommend that you try this trail.
Day 13 – Last day in Dordogne, Parc du Bournat and Dordogne at Night
On our thirteenth day, with the excitement of Futuruscope still lingering, we embarked on a journey to the Parc du Bournat (website) in Le Bugue. This enchanting living museum, with its daily ticket offering unlimited access to traditional rides, provided a refreshing escape from the futuristic realm of Futuruscope. As we stepped into the park, we were transported back to the charm and simplicity of a 19th-century village, where the echoes of the past mingled with the thrill of modern attractions.
The Park offers a daily ticket that grants you unlimited access to its traditional rides, allowing you to savor the thrill of the past as many times as you please. Whether you’re seeking the exhilarating spins of the carousel or the nostalgic charm of the merry-go-round, the Parc du Bournat invites you to relive the joys of traditional amusements.
We had a blast! There were so many different rides, and my kids were constantly darting from one to the next. You can even saddle up and ride a horse on a dedicated horse track.
Dordogne at night
It was our final night in Dordogne, and to bid farewell to the enchanting Dordogne Valley, we came up with the idea of exploring the illuminated chateaus and towns at night. Although our attempts to find information online proved fruitless, luck was on our side – Castelnaud and La Roque-Gageac were beautifully illuminated, giving us a memorable and magical conclusion to our time in Dordogne.
We absolutely adored camping and exploring the Dordogne Valley; our only regret was not having more time to soak in its beauty!
Day 14 and 15, Capfun Paradis de Bazas
Our 14th day marked the bittersweet beginning of our return journey. Bidding farewell to the Dordogne’s beauty, we embarked on a 2-hour-15-minute drive (150 kilometers) to Bazas. There, Camping Capfun Paradis de Bazas (website) awaited, its promise of water slides, sandy beach, and mini-golf offering the perfect antidote to two glorious weeks of exploring with our hiking boots on.
After 14 days filled with nature’s wonders and countless steps, we relished the prospect of two days dedicated to pure, carefree indulgence. We could already picture ourselves plunging into the refreshing embrace of the water slides, basking on the sun-kissed sand, and putting our putting skills to the test on the mini-golf course. It was the ideal way to unwind and savor the sweet memories of our road trip in France before returning to the rhythm of everyday life.
Day 16 One Last Push to Lisbon
Our French road trip neared its bittersweet end, and with time and budget in mind, we made the bold decision to tackle the final leg in one epic stride. Bazas to Lisbon in a single day – a staggering 1340 kilometers and 14+ hours behind the wheel, easily our longest stretch yet. It was a challenge we embraced with a mix of nervous excitement and weary determination.
With a deep breath and a glance at the map, we prepped the car, programmed the playlist, and stocked up on travel essentials. As the engine roared to life, we knew this wouldn’t be just another drive; it would be a test of endurance, a last hurrah for our four-wheeled chariot, and a chance to etch one final, unforgettable memory onto our road trip tapestry.
France with kids? Turns out, it’s a total win! Sure, some folks get nervous, but for ours, it was a blast. From beach frolicking to castle climbing, they soaked up sun, learned a ton, and laughed till their cheeks hurt. France became their giant playground, and let me tell you, the memories we made… priceless! 🇫🇷☀️