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Old August 13th, 2010, 02:51 AM   #1
Giri
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"Mission Yvelines" : Giri on French roads (includes : Périgueux, Limoges, Versailles)

I've had to cross the Loire river an unhealthy number of times this year. The reasons behind this new trip are not as funny as those who made me visit Picardy on february. To sum up, I had to help my uncle move from his flat near Versailles in Yvelines as his life has taken a surprising and unpleasant turn that has put a stop to 30 years of Parisian life.

The first part is about me rallying Périgueux from my home Béarn in deep SW France. Périgueux belongs to administrative Aquitaine but IMO areas situated North of the Dordogne river are really another universe. That's central France, its castles, its forests, its suffocating valleys.

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In order to reach the Garonne valley, I have to cross the infamous forest of the Landes. More than one hour through pinetree forests. People love it or hate it. I love it : this is the only original landscape from Moscow to Bordeaux but I'd get that people don't find that much charm to that former desert. Sickly pinetress and sandy roads cannot appeal to everyone.

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Pompogne :

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We eventually reach a rather little town : Casteljaloux. This is somehow the end of the "Landais" plateau : after Casteljaloux, landscapes do differ as we approach the Garonne valley.

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If you notice, horrible "Provençal" houses are being built on the heights of every hill. The landscape is irreversably damaged by those nouveaux riches lacking taste.

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The "Canal latéral à la Garonne" :

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We enter the large valley of the Garonne river around Marmande. No pics from the river or the town, that'll be for the trip back home.

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Bypassing Marmande :

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For those interested, note that this village named Virazeil is the last Gascon-speaking village before entering Guyennais lands. Guyenne is the name commonly given to non-Gascon parts of modern administrative Aquitaine. This is a border zone between SW France and Central France.

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The last Gascon houses, easily recognizable because of their triangular "Vasconic" shape. That style still can be observed in Guyenne as you'll notice but it's not as dominant.

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Guyenne !

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Miramont-de-Guyenne :

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Saint-Romain :

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Our escapade in the département Lot-et-Garonne is over as we cross the Dropt river. We're now in Dordogneshire. We'll visit Eymet later, France's greatest concentration of British people. Let's head to Bergerac.

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South Périgord still is very SW French-looking. The true frontier is the Dordogner river. That whole area South of that river is dubbed "Purple Périgord" because of wine. Périgord comes from Celtic "Petrocores" "the four tribes". It's quite probable that peole inhabiting these lands were one of those 4 peoples.

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The Dordogne valley ! In the distance is truer Périgord and in a way central France. Deep forests, high sloping roofs, the famous "Limousin" accent, ...

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Bypassing Bergerac ...

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Here we are : let's enter the forests. Just after eating at a local McDonald's though. The new "280" is not bad. I noticed that unfortunately enough, SW French accent has disappeared in Bergerac.

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Not enough luminosity for proper pics. I'll get my revenge soon when coming back home through those very same roads. I eventually reach Périgueux, the capital of Périgord. Périgueux by night :

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Next : from Périgueux to Versailles. Stay tuned.
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Old August 13th, 2010, 04:37 AM   #2
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charming French rural landscape.
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Old August 17th, 2010, 01:54 AM   #3
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You may not have guessed but I'm a bit compulsive. I feel like going somewhere without immortalizing the landscape with my cam would be a travesty. I want to own every moment of my life. That's pretty much why I will impose you dozens of highway pics in sordid central France.

Here's the road : about 500km through the rolling hills of Périgord and Limousin then the wheat fields of central France. The weather was quite hot and this was the busiest day in the year as july ended and august began.

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After a good night in Périgueux surrounded by posters of Booba and Juninho, it was time to take our truck on the roads. We'll visit Périgueux later : for the moment, you'll get a glimpse of its suburbs.

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Mitterrand is the new Adolphe Thiers : each town of France has got something named "François-Mitterrand". Unfortunately for Tonton, mayors in France do now mostly order the construction of roundabouts.

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The venerable "Nationale 21" towards Limoges. North of Périgueux, the landscape is immutably green and rather smoother. You never really get a fantastic panorama with an endless horizon. North Périgord is a lazy country : everything is charming but it never gets beautiful. The exact opposite of South Périgord.

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We reach Thiviers. This area is not really Périgord anymore, it's already Limousin in the way towns and villages are organized.

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La Coquille :

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Firbeix is the last village in Périgord but as I stated, this is a very subtle transition.

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The first town in Limousin is Châlus. My main reproach to Limousin is the lack of quality of vernacular architecture. That really is a big disappointement. Nature is beautiful but the creations of men are not that pretty. IMO there were too many recent reconstructions (the 1930s ?).

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Séreilhac :

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Guess where we are ! According to the name of the street, we're in Occitania. That's "Avenue d''Occitanie". The issue with Limousin people is that they're awfully complexed about being "Southerners in the North". Since I'm a nice guy, I won't contradict them. Even though there are no landscapes in France less southern than Limousin.

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Soon comes Limoges. Let's bypass the town.

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Towards Paris !

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The highway named A20 is going through the Mounts of Ambazac.

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I'm in Marche, a subdivision of Limousin and the former border between Southern and Northern France. IMO Limousin should have kept a Celtic language. Celtic languages are great for touristic purposes, people from the whole world come and visit your green rolling hills and find them marvellous.

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Some miles after leaving Limousin, I enter "Pays d'Oïl" aka Northern France. Everthing that defines France is from here.

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The landscape is suddenly changing : it cannot be denied that there's a true divide between Limousin and Berry. It's one of the most dramatic borders in France as far as I am concerned.

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Central France is an agricultural desert ...

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Châteauroux in the distance : I feel like I'm already in the suburbs of Paris. Paris really is the "greatest" town in Europe : a bit less than 300km from Paris and one is attracted like a magnet.

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Trees were planted to hide the landscape. Give me my endless horizon back !

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In Vierzon, my uncle's GPS unit made us leave the highways because of trafic. Vierzon is probably France's best-known city where there is strictly nothing to see.

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Back on highways :

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Orléans as seen from the highway : this is the Loire river.

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Paris is now an evidence. The apocalyptic and post-modern landscape is here to remind me of the power of that town. This is cartesianism illustrated. Ask me if you're interested in the names of the towns so that you forget about them right away.

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In order to reach Versailles, the best way is to go through the Beauce area on national roads. I'm in Île-de-France !

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Funnily enough, this road is named "Road of Liberty" : the sooner you leave, the more free you are.

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Eventually we reach the suburbs of Versailles.

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"Pariwest" (sic) and a McDonald's : who said that the French were viciously anti-American ?

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Saint-Cyr-l'Ecole :

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Eventually, my destination : Fontenay-le-Fleury. What can be said about those suburbs ? Mostly middle classes live here. It's a bit a counterpart to Marie-Antoinette's farm in Versailles : here urban people have the illusion that they live in the countryside without the fearsome hooting of owls but the thrilling sound of RER trains every 10 minutes.

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Next : tiny bits of Fontenay and Versailles then back to Périgueux ! We'll visit Limoges.
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Old August 17th, 2010, 11:16 AM   #4
christos-greece
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Really a great, very nice photo-tour
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Old August 17th, 2010, 11:39 AM   #5
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Great tour...beautiful French landscapes - but a agriculture desert seems to be a little depressing.
I am going to visit IDF next month. Many threads from SSC inspired me to go outside proper Paris and see some western and southern suburbs...hope to have a great time in your capital city
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Old August 17th, 2010, 01:18 PM   #6
Minato ku
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What is bad with Central France ? It is by far the most beautiful region of France.
OK being born here I am a bit spoiled.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Giri View Post
In Vierzon, my uncle's GPS unit made us leave the highways because of trafic. Vierzon is probably France's best-known city where there is strictly nothing to see.
So true !!
Vierzon is famous because this is the jonction between the A20, A71 and A85 motorways.
Three motorways for a boring town.
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Old August 17th, 2010, 04:29 PM   #7
Giri
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aliveinchains
Great tour...beautiful French landscapes - but a agriculture desert seems to be a little depressing.
Depressing is an understatement. Northern France is a monotonous and endless flat plain with bell tower-crowned towns emulating mirages in a desert.

Quote:
Originally Posted by aliveinchains
I am going to visit IDF next month. Many threads from SSC inspired me to go outside proper Paris and see some western and southern suburbs...hope to have a great time in your capital city
That's the best season for sure. September and october are an enchantment in Paris. IMO visiting some suburbs can be the subject of a great tour, you get to see what Parisian life is about. As a peripheral Frenchman myself more than 800km from Paris, whenever I visit family members in this suburban labyrinth, I feel like I'm finally living the true French experience. Métro, tile roofs, castles the gardens of which welcomed French commie blocks in the 60s. That's great. Still, if you don't know Paris, just concentrate on the centre-town.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Minato Ku
What is bad with Central France ? It is by far the most beautiful region of France.
OK being born here I am a bit spoiled.
Towns are undoubtedly the best thing coming from that area. Orléans, Bourges, Tours, the whole Loire river, ... are human marvels. People from central France compensated their lack of beautiful nature with the greatest buildings in France.
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Old August 18th, 2010, 12:27 AM   #8
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I love how you manage to use a bland photo of a highway in the middle of nowhere to make reflexions on the construction of the french nation (no sarcasm here).
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Last edited by eklips; August 18th, 2010 at 12:33 AM.
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Old December 24th, 2010, 07:06 PM   #9
Giri
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I haven't uploaded this thread as promised as the second part of the year was pretty harsh. My uncle died last month and this whole adventure on the roads of France appears nonsensical and useless to my eyes. We're nothing. Nevermind.

We stopped in the suburbs of Versailles and contrary to what I may have made you believe, we won't really visit Versailles. Many reasons : the weather was bad and Versailles is bland. Have you read me ? Yes Versailles is bland, its castle is utterly boring, perspectives are ridiculously classical, half of French cities are more seducing than this flat and monotonous overhyped city. The idea of Versailles is great, the grandeur of France is a thematic that can move me but reality has been deceiving since I first came to visit the town years ago.

Saint-Cyr :

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Towards Versailles : we'll bypass the castle in favour of sand-like XVIIIth century arteries.

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That's really a brief glimpse : hundreds of kilometres await us, no time to lose to reach Périgueux. Let's leave the town on the N12. The road will be the same one as the day before.

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Coignières :

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The A10 and its fauna once more :

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Don't hesitate !

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Our GPS is a clever chap : we made us leave the highway to avoid heavy trafic around Vierzon. You'll get to have a look at the sordid French countryside around Orléans with Salbris : its red-brick houses, its church, its kebab restaurants.

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Aubigny ? Souesmes ? I had never heard of such towns.

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Back on the highway towards Limoges : we'll get to go across Berry once more.

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The landscape gets hillier : that's "Southern France". We're near Argenton, soon we'll enter Limousin, the official entrance to the "South".

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Here we are : "Pays d'Oc". And then the weather got disastrous.

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A McDonald's restaurant ! Civilization ! We are in Limoges.

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Next : we'll visit Limoges under a heavy rain.
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Old July 31st, 2011, 05:38 PM   #10
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The pics are now one year old. Still a promise is to be respected. Limoges then. I fear I have nothing to state about that town. No jokes, no serious comments. Visiting a French middle town under a heavy rain is not a fascinating experience.

Still here we are : the main arterial road of Limoges : it could be anywhere else in France. That's "Avenue des Bénédictins".

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Place Jourdan :

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Each French town has got its "Galeries Lafayette" :

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To the old town :

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The Temple :

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Place Saint-Michel :

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Place de la Motte :

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Rue Lansecot :

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The 60s constitute the background of medieval streets :

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Onwards to the cathedral !

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The Town Hall :

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We reach the "Haute Cité" where episcopal power was situated :

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Eventually, Limoges' greatest monument : its railstation !

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Time to leave the town in order to reach Périgueux in the SW :

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Plain old boring national road :

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The road seems endless ...

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Périgord !

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Périgueux in the distance : in one year's time, we'll visit the town.

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Old July 31st, 2011, 05:47 PM   #11
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Great pics....thanks for sharing.
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Old July 31st, 2011, 08:10 PM   #12
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Cool pictures and commentary.
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Old July 31st, 2011, 08:14 PM   #13
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Even a saturday with an good weather, Limoges is not what I would call a vibrant city.
So Limoges sunday with during heavy rain. How many people did you see in the streets? 10?
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