No matter how integrated I might feel here in France, there is still a kind of basic comfort in finding some reading material in my mother tongue.
So when I come across the latest monthly edition of The Bugle , a local, free, English newspaper, I happily scoop up a few copies; one for me and some to leave in the gamesroom and up at La Tour de Genèbre for our guests. I then settle myself down for a good read with a nice cup of tea and some biscuits …. So British!
In among a piece about Ryan Air’s recent cancellations scandal and a story about France now banning too skinny models, this month’s edition just happened to have an article from The Grumpy Granny Guide comparing 3 Dordogne climbing attractions. These have all been visited by lots of our guests before so I thought it might be quite interesting to reproduce their findings here.
Their testing team was made up of an experienced mountaineer, a 10 year old child and a fearless teenager. It may be pertinent to note that they omitted to include a 50 something, risk averse, stiff jointed, prone to vertigo mother of two, ( aka Moi!!) in this focus group so the results may be somewhat skewed 😉 !
Anyway, here are their findings, copied verbatim (in italics) from the Grumpy Granny write up in The Bugle …. hope the editior, Steve Martindale doesn’t mind!
This attraction has been squeezed into the crowded Euroland site next to Le Bournat and is a glorified climbing frame for all ages. The safety harness ensures you feel totally secure and it was judged to be a very “tame” experience because at every step you can choose your level of difficulty and it’s not hard to negotiate.
“More annoying than challenging”, “An acrobatic and not a climbing experience”, “Fine for the very young or those who have never climbed before” were the team’s comments.
However the ticket price is high at €17 for what is a short visit (approx 30-40 minutes or even less for an agile or experienced climber), and not really exciting enough to merit a “stand alone” visit. But, it could be included if you are visiting Le Bournat or the Aquarium and have time, and money, to spare.
The Via Ferrata in the grounds of Marqueyssac was a much greater success. Well organised, there was a feeling of total security yet with more than enough of a challenge to make it exciting. The Via Ferrata is included in the price of a visit to the gardens, which means those in your party who are adventurous can test their skills while the others can can go off and admire the gardens. The cliff just below the gardens has been transformed into a via ferrata (climbing wall) and the panorama over the river is magnificent. Even our expert climber was thrilled with the spectacular view from this angle. Contrary to the impression given from the Marqueyssac online video, it is not – and does not feel – dangerous, but to allay any fears you may have you can make a 50m test run before committing yourself to the longer ( approx 45 minute) climb. An excellent initiative which some other sites would do well to follow.
The one negative was the lack of signs indicating where the Via Ferrata was located in the grounds. The team had a frustrating time finding it. Overall judgement – “Brilliant!”
You can see a video of people in action here!! In agreement with the above report, to me it just looks petrifyingly scary, but for all those adrenalin junkies out there I can see why it would be a fantastic experience – I can almost, almost see myself now, clinging one handedly on to those ropes while clutching my camera with the other hand , hoping in vain to capture some of those breathtaking views which are almost certainly … in my case, possibly quite literally … to die for 😉 !
FORET DES ECUREUILS
The experience at the Forêt des Ecureuils is different again, consisting of a number of high rope trails through the trees which present different levels of difficulty which you can select to climb as you go round the grounds. Again there is something for all ages and the price of the ticket depends on the level selected ( from €15 ). This site presents a real, but achievable challenge with the added advantage that you can spend the best part of a day there if you so choose, stopping off for a snack or picnic or just stopping to catch your breath.
This site was judged to be really exciting and very good value for money; far better than the flyer suggested,being a true climbing experience and not just a set of ropes and zip wires.
However, getting from one trail to the next was complicated by poor signage and the lack of information in the trail area. Something to be corrected for next year’s season maybe?
All 3 sites staff were friendly and helpful, ensuring clear, careful safety procedures and all spoke some English.
There are quite a few other similar activities in the Dordogne which the Grumpy Granny Guide intends to test for next season so if any of our guests who have tried out some others want to give their tuppence worth you can e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org
A few which could well be included next time are:
Do let us know if you’ve tried any and what you thought ….. in the meantime while I’m waiting for the November edition of The Bugle to hopefully come up with a more sedate set of amusements to test, I may well take myself off to the Via Ferrata for that 50 m trial run ….. who knows, I might even come back with a head for heights!