Hiking in the Durdogne – Day 3 – Sarlat-la-Canéda to Domme

Today was designed to be a transition day—where I went south from one hiking trail and joined another tomorrow. I also wanted this to be a shorter journey. I was feeling the combined 35 km of the previous two days.

Because I wasn’t relying on one of the Grande Randonee routes, I just free-styled my way out of Sarlat. Sarlat is a proper town—population 9,000–so it had the suburbs of a town, too. I followed progressively smaller roads and eventually a dirt track. Almost the whole way, there were houses and farmsteads. I listened to an audiobook as I walked. I only do this on paved roads, courtesy of an arbitrary rule in my brain.

The walk promised to be the most unremarkable yet. And then I saw lightning in the distance. There was a threat of rain in the forecast, but I imagined it would be a brief shower.

The darkening clouds and I were converging. I counted the seconds between the lightning and thunder and they got as low as three. As it began to lightly rain, it occurred to me that walking among fields of stubby French corn holding aluminum poles was probably a good way to become a terminal anecdote.

I was close to Domme, a beautifully-preserved medieval town on a hilltop. Would I beat the rain?

I did not. The skies opened with a tropical vengeance. I might as well have spent the next half-hour staggering forward under a shower head. I trudged up the road toward Domme through ankle-deep runnels of water. The wind picked up and, in an abstract kind of way, I wondered about my safety. The torrent did distract me from the steep climb into the town.

I would have captured more video, but everything was so wet that I couldn’t operate my phone.

An unappetizing lunch of fries, an omelette and salad sites on a wet cafe table.

I took refuge in a cobwebby bus shelter just outside of town and waited for the worst of it to pass. Then I sped into town to try to find some lunch. Of course, every tourist had fled inside and the collective indoor capacity of Domme was limited. I found a restaurant with a free table outside. It was damp but under an awning. I asked the elderly proprietor if I could sit there (for indoors was ‘complet’). He gave me a look that said “that sounds terrible, but feel free” and I shrugged and gave him a look that said “monsieur, I’m already saturated”. We reached an accommodation and I had a terrible lunch of a ham and cheese omelette and fries.

The trick with small towns that are popular with tourists is to stay there overnight. Most tourists are day trippers, and these places empty out in the evening.

So, I enjoyed a stroll around a very quiet Domme this evening. This fortress town was founded in the 13th century, overlooking the Dordogne river. It had a tumultuous few hundred years and then declined in prosperity and significance in the 17th century. Which explains why it’s so well preserved today.

Tomorrow, the final and longest day of walking takes me to Gourdon, where I’ll catch the train back to (our sometimes French) home.

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