|Advent postcards, St Jean de Côle, Dordogne
Advent day four
One of the things that makes me smile the most as I look back on 2023 is our monthly mini cycling adventures that have not only prolonged our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary celebrations but also led us to some hidden gems.
Cycling gives us so much more than just outdoor exercise, which boosts our physical and mental health, but the slower speed of travel means it is perfect for exploring the tucked away villages that the main roads have bypassed for decades. Another exciting discovery for us this year has been the Terra Aventura geocaching app.
This is a Nouvelle Aquitaine initiative that comprises over six-hundred interactive treasure hunts, and we completed our debut one in May. It would be fair to say the first few involved a bit of head-scratching, some mild huffing and an almost falling out, and after a particularly awkward question in Brantôme, we nearly gave up completely. However, as each one takes you somewhere special in the region, shows you interesting features you would never have noticed otherwise, as well as sharing snippets of history, I’ve become somewhat addicted, and Adrian indulges me.
Today’s cycling advent-ures postcard is from St-Jean-de-Côle in the Dordogne. This Plus Beaux Villages de France is home to less than four hundred people yet boasts its own Terra Aventura parcours. Getting there involved us taking a detour off the tree-lined Flow Vélo cycle route from Thiviers to St-Pardoux-la-Rivière, on our return from two nights in Périgueux, but what a treasure we stumbled upon. This section of the Flow Vélo is along an old railway and the ancient station for St-Jean-de-Côle, decorated with metal artworks and photographs recounting the history of the railway, is worth a pause even if you don’t have time to descend into the village.
As we rounded the mairie at the edge of the village, the road gave way to the Place St Jean, a cobbled square leading to the river with views of the church, covered market and château that is a mix of styles from the 12th to 15th centuries. I do love a tower and a turret and there were plenty here to feast my eyes on. The more we ventured into the village, the more there was to delight in the narrow lanes with half-timbered houses. My highlight had to be the medieval stone bridge that crosses the river Côle, its bumpy cobbles witness to countless feet, hooves and wheels over the centuries. Having successfully completed the treasure hunt, we stopped for a cake break in the shade of a tree, before bidding farewell to this picture postcard village in the Périgord Vert and resuming our course on the Flow Vélo.