There was one part of my France trip that I was more excited about than any other – canoeing the Dordogne and visiting the opposing castles. You see, during the 100 Years War, the French and English built castles on opposite shores of the Dordogne River. The castles are usually considered “paired” – one English to one French.
Today, you can visit the castles by land or, more excitingly, by canoe, traveling the Dordogne river. There are many canoe outfitters and tourist companies who will drop you off and pick you up at various stops along the river. You just canoe from one castle to another, hiking up to each one, and paddling on to the next.
I wanted to do this – badly. But remember what I said about all that rain in Spain? Well apparently is had been raining a lot in France too, and the river was far too high and fast to boat. How high, I learned the hard way.
Unable to take the river, I decided to follow my travel guru and personal hero Rick Steves’ advice to walk the river path between Beynac and Castlenaud. The signs submerged in the river should have been a clue. But oh no, I kept going. Water across the path – I took off my shoes and waded it. More water, kept going. Finally I got to a point where a whole field was flooded and the water was moving fast. I waded up to my knees before I realized – this was not going to work. So I walked across some fields and out to the road and walked to Castlenaud that way. Was I sad about the river – hell, yes. But the way I made the trip makes for a pretty good story and a day I will never forget. Disappointment happens on trips – what matters is your ability to make the most of it.