Bonjour again, France! Did you miss us?

Trip Start Jul 23, 2012
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Trip End Aug 15, 2012

Flag of France  , Aquitaine,
Wednesday, August 1, 2012

As I sit here typing this latest blog post from the adorable, medieval city of Sarlat, know that I just literally fell down the stairs and ripped off a part of my toenail.  Like 20 minutes ago.  So, you know, ow.  But other than that, our trip back to France has been fantastic. 
Yesterday, we checked out of Barcelona, and headed to the city-state of Andorra for lunch on our way to the Dordogne.  It was a long day of driving, and Andorra is nothing spectacular.  Essentially, the Spanish and French go there to shop because it's tax-free.  So, lots of malls but not much else.  We stopped at a cute cafe, where Mark dined on ox steak, and I had a paella made of pigs' knuckles and snails.  No, I'm not kidding.  And no, I couldn't bring myself to eat snails.  After a quick lunch, and a realization that we had less time than we thought to get to Sarlat and check in to the hotel, we booked it out of Andorra and back on the road.  Driving through the Pyrenees Mountains was both gorgeous and at times, death defying.  Mark definitely got his driving mojo back as he careened us around sharp curves, passing the slower drivers that were once us. 
But, we made it in time to check in at our gorgeous hotel, La Villa des Consuls, right in the heart of old Sarlat.  We've been to this town before, so immediately we made a beeline for our favorite restaurant, Chez Galois.  This is not a traditional Sarladian restaurant, by any means, but everything is served with house-cured meats and 'mountain cheese'.  Both of us gorged on hams and potatoes with melted cheese, and some dry cider on the side to wash it all down.  We had just enough energy to wander the streets and alleyways.  Sarlat in the summer is full of street performers: clowns, acrobats, jugglers.  The crowds gathered around them is always huge and appreciative, and full of adorable French children loving every minute.  How these kids are wide awake after 10pm is beyond me.  I can barely keep my eyes open! 
We woke up early this morning to take in the Sarlat Wednesday market before heading on our canoe trip for the rest of the day.  The market is sensory overload-fresh goat cheese, homemade sausages, and the ripest, most lovely perfumed strawberries known to man.  The Dordogne is well-known, at least in France, for its foie gras, walnuts, and truffles.  Essentially everything you order has one of those three ingredients.  In fact, Mark is drinking a local beer brewed with truffles RIGHT NOW.  Surprised?  Not really. We bought 2 lbs. of strawberries, some pastries, and a baguette with jambon, fromage, and butter for lunch on our river trip. 
After the market, we drove to Vitrac, the put-in area for canoeing down the Dordogne River valley.  We took a death-defying van ride to Carsac, a town a few km up from Vitrac, and got our canoe on.  The 5+ hour trip down the river is one that we've done before as well, but it was so lovely we had to repeat it.  And it was totally worth it.  Every small village we came upon has so much to ooh and aah at, and there are a couple of pretty impressive chateaus along the way as well.  Both of us are a little sunburned (okay, Mark is!) but we had a great time paddling along the lazy river taking in all of the sights. 
Tonight, we indulged in another fantastic Sarlat meal at Le Mirandol, a bistro a few blocks away from the hotel.  Foie gras, cassoulet (even thought it's a winter dish, I could not resist), duck breast, and a salad piled high with gizzards!  We've eaten so well so far on this trip, but luckily I packed enough dresses without waists that all my clothes still fits.  We've deemed anything that is not healthy, but is satisfying, 'not-tritious'. 
That brings us to know.  Heading back out from doing a quick load of laundry (another reason this hotel is amazing!), I tripped down the steep staircase and busted my toe.  Hopefully it's not going to swell or anything, and Nurse Mark wrapped it nice and tight for me.  Tomorrow involves more exploration of the Dordogne, and lots of walking, so keep your fingers and toes crossed that I'm not limping.  :) 
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