Shutting down a French village

The last time I drove through the village of La Roque-Gageac was in the late fall, when a huge crane was pulling gabares out of the river for the winter. Gabares are 50-seat sightseeing boats that ply the Dordogne for tourists, and it was quite something to see them being plucked out of the water and put onto trailers.

But there’s no more driving through La Roque — it’s been closed, at least for the winter.

It’s not as if the entire village has gone out of business. What has happened is that the single road that runs along the entire length of La Roque where it meets the Dordogne River has been closed, for construction. And that means absolutely no traffic can get through until the work is done, in March or April.

If you’ve ever been to the Dordogne, the département where Daglan is located, chances are good that you’ll know La Roque-Gageac. It’s been called (among other compliments) “truly the perfect picture postcard village.” And it’s listed by an association called Les Plus Beaux Villages de France as (you guessed it) “one of the most beautiful villages of France.” (There are now 157 such villages, in 69 départements, and quite a few are in the Greater Daglan Area.)

Here’s a view of the village, taken from the level of the river, and looking up at the village as it climbs an imposing limestone cliff:

The waterfront of La Roque-Gageac.

The waterfront of La Roque-Gageac.

For all its charm, and attraction to tourists, La Roque acts like a challenging bottleneck each summer, as cars, buses, trucks, and campers compete for space on the single narrow road — on which countless tourists are trying to walk without getting run over. (There are no sidewalks.)

And so, at a cost of more than 2 million euros, something is being done about the problem. At one end of the village is this sign, saying that the chantier or worksite is closed to the public:

A warning to the public: Keep out!

A warning to the public: Keep out!

As you can see in the photo above, behind the sign there are stacks and stacks of concrete pads. Just beyond them are stacks and stacks of iron railings or tracks, like these:

Metal railings stacked up along the Dordogne River.

Metal railings stacked up along the Dordogne River.

So what’s actually going on? The plan is to widen the road along its entire length through the village, and create a walkway for pedestrians so they can move easily — that is, without being run over — from store to hotel to restaurant to bakery. And so trucks and bulldozers have been creating a crushed-stone foundation out into the Dordogne. You can see it in this photo:

04 - Road

Based on the one drawing I’ve seen of the finished project, the walkway will be reasonably wide and quite attractive. But in the meantime, no vehicles can get through La Roque-Gageac, and pedestrians are being forced to go along a narrow walkway that’s been fenced off from the road. Here’s the sign directing pedestrians where to walk if they’d like to get to one of the shops in the village:

Access to businesses? Walk this way. But no bicycles please!

Access to businesses? Walk this way. But no bicycles please!

Of course, this is the right time of year for work like this. Many shops and restaurants are closed for the winter season anyway.

Just remember that if you’re thinking of driving from, say, Castelnaud to Cénac or Sarlat by going through La Roque-Gageac, you can’t.

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5 Responses to Shutting down a French village

  1. Rosemary McCaffrey says:

    We had a wonderful dinner at La Belle Etoile a year ago. Thanks for sharing your pictures. Very interesting. We are planning on a return visit to the Dordogne next September. What a lovely area in which you live!

  2. loren24250 says:

    Glad you enjoyed it, Rosemary. On our bike trip to the area (1998), we stayed at La Belle Etoile for a couple of nights; since then, we’ve eaten lunch there. Very good. Stay tuned to Radio Free Daglan for more restaurant reviews (we’ve just been introduced to another really good restaurant in Sarlat, and will cover it soon). And by the way, very smart to visit here in September — to my mind, that’s the very best month. Enjoy your stay!

  3. Lesley says:

    I thought they were to build another bridge and a sort of bypass road the other side of the River. Got that all wrong obviously, we haven’t been that way for a while and now won’t attempt a trip to Salat until much later in the year. It can’t be fun building in this weather.

  4. Gareth Knowles says:

    Hope it doesn’t spoil the village! But I’m surprised they haven’t tackled Beynac first. That’s the worst bottleneck. BTW I couldn’t get to the Dordogne last year because of sudden illness just days before we were getting the ferry. So your Grand Bleu reviews have left me extremely envious. But I’ll be back!

  5. loren24250 says:

    You’re absolutely right about the Beynac problem, Gareth. I don’t know why the Department hasn’t addressed the problem, but possibly it’s a budget issue. The stretch of road is much longer than the one in La Roque, and it’s higher above the river, so I imagine the work will be very costly. Glad you’re enjoying the restaurant reviews!

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