A Head For Heights

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.

The Bugle, monthly free local newspaper available at our dordogne holiday cottages

The Bugle, monthly free local newspaper

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!

The Grumpy Granny Guide to climbing in the Dordogne

The Grumpy Granny Guide to climbing adventures in the Dordogne




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.

Big Bird climbing experience in Le Bugue

Big Bird climbing experience in Le Bugue. Photo credit –  www.ce-multi-entreprises.fr


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!”

via rerrata marqueyssac

People in action on the Via Ferrata!  Photo credit  – www.journees-du-patrmoine.com

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 😉 !


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?

high wire action at La Forêt des Ecureuils in sarlat.

high wire action at La Forêt des Ecureuils in Sarlat. Photo credit : http://www.sarlat-tourisme.com


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 grumpygrannyguide@orange.fr

A few which could well be included next time are:

Monkey’s Forest

L’Appel de la Forêt

Airparc Périgord

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!

Parental pride!

Oh my days!!!

As this season hurtles towards a close it’s hard to believe that I haven’t found the time to post on here since March… this year has gone by faster than ever and finding the discipline and motivation to write has been elusive to say the least!

But events this week have spurred me on and fueled by a certain amount of maternal self satisfaction, here I am putting pen to paper at last ( or fingers to keyboard for a more up to date turn of phrase!)

Regular guests at Les Crouquets may well have heard our daughter Emma sing before , either here or at local events and more recently with our son, Alistair who also plays the guitar.

This year they both decided to audition for a place in La Truffe de Périgueux – this is a strange name for a singing competition but I presume it’s linked to prestige, both the truffle and the contest being well sought after products!

La Truffe de perigueux singing competition

La Truffe de Périgueux ……


……. and its prestigious counterpart worth around 1200 € a kilo!

7 auditions were held at various venues around the Dordogne and Emma qualified for the semi final first time round. Disappointingly Alistair wasn’t selected and in spite of several people saying he should try again next year, he was undeterred and decided to have another go at the auditions in Boulazac.

If at first you don’t succeed……” yes, his persistence paid off and in spite of facing an audition with some very stiff competition he was selected for the semi final. He couldn’t believe it and genuinely thought that he would have no chance at making the final.

Both the semi final and the final were held at the spectacular Parc Gamenson in Périgueux which was first acquired by the state in 1876 . A beautiful backdrop for a fantastic two nights of entertainment. We were absolutely thrilled that both Emma & Alistair got through to the final and so pleased that at least if they got no further they had both done themselves proud and anything else was a bonus!

finalists in La Truffe de Perigueux 2017

The 7 acts in the semi final plus the winner of the Under 16s section, 11 yr old Mary Wattiau who sang New York, New York

Friday’s final was a unforgettable & nail biting experience for all the contestants  ( and for us, especially Amar who was on the edge of his seat all night, crossing everything for his two prodigies !!!)

I was so impressed at how all the contestants coped with the pressure, especially the Jeunes Espoirs section who had children from 9 to 15 years old. Anything live brings an extra pressure as there’s no take two and your reputation is on the line. There were between 3500 and 4000 in the audience, plus it was streamed live on Facebook and on the radio’s website as well as broadcast live on all of France Bleu’s South West France stations. You wouldn’t have got me up on that stage for love nor money!

musicien tibz

Local musician Tibz with his recent track, Nation

The 13 strong judging panel was headed up by local musician Tibz whose recent track Nation has been featured  widely in France this year. Also performing was Ours , another famous French musician with an even more famous Dad, Alain Souchon.

Anyway let’s cut to the chase – after watching all the performances and entertainment (and celebrating Emma’s 20th birthday in the park with cake & bubbly) waiting for the results was one of the most nerve wracking experiences we’ve gone through for a long time …. of course you always hope your children will do well but the competition was stiff and so diverse that it was anyone’s guess.

So you can only imagine how over the moon we felt to hear Alistair get 3rd prize and Emma get awarded 1st !!!!!!

To everyone who wished them well and supported them on the night from near and afar …. thanks a million!!!

Emma’s winning performance – listen here!

singing at La Truffe de Perigueux 2017

Emma’s winning entry “Je Suis Un Homme” by Zazie

Alistair’s performance of “Liberta” by Peps earned him 3rd place – listen here!

Singing at La Truffe de Perigueux 2017

Alistair’s performance of Liberta by Peps earned him 3rd place

the winner takes it all

A proud Alistair and an emotional Emma collecting their prizes

So if you happen to see me and Amar strutting around Les Crouquets with our chests all puffed out like a couple of cockerels on steroids, don’t worry about it – it’s just parental pride 😉 !!

PS – a massive congratulations to all the contestants and in particular to Alysce , a hugely talented singer songwriter who walked away with nearly all the prizes for that category!!



A special thanks to France Bleu Périgord and CLAP Périgueux for providing us all with a fantastic experience!  Merci à tous !!!!