One of the neighbours in Frayssinet-le Gelat tells me Rocamadour is not worth visiting. Too many other more interesting places. I am pleased I ignored her advise and drove my car over the incredible small but fabulous road, in between Le Vigan and the place, where 170 miracles happened. I suppose you better avoid this very popular destination in high season, when several buses are unloading tourists and pilgrims on a daily basis. This time of the year is perfect for a visit, with barely any traffic on the road and the sky crispy clear. The best and only way to discover Rocamadour is by foot. Just park the car opposite the tourist information office and start walking on the road, from where you get an unforgettable view over the canyon and the old medieval village, with its churches, chapels and the Château.
We start our tour high up on the cliff, in the gardens of the Château. The interior is not open for the public, but you can walk via the steel bridge, bordering the garden and overlooking the Alzou Canyon. The entrance is 2 euros and you need coins for the machine to open the gate. You better start walking through the gate immediately, as there will NO ticket coming out of the machine (although it says so) and the gate closes right behind your back. A lot of people lost their money! If you are tiny, you can squeeze with two people through the gate in one go! Obviously, we didn’t try…..
Again, I had to push myself up the stairs, although I felt nearly sick of my fear of heights. The panorama is just something you should have witnessed.
From the top of the cliff, we descended over the winding road with the various stations of the Cross. At a certain point we found a small cave, where you could buy nails, and hammer them in a cross, as for protection of the pilgrimage journey. I refused to do such a thing.
The curvy and shady road ends where the 8 churches and chapels are draped around a little square. Here you find the Chapelle Notre-Dame with the Black Virgin and also the Romanesque-Gothic Basilica of Saint Sauveur. The beauty of these medieval buildings is stunning.
From here the famous 216 steps of ‘The Grand Escalier’ go down to the picturesque main street, where many boutiques and cozy restaurants are overlooking the canyon. Imagine the pilgrims were climbing all those stairs on their knees. Some of them still do these days…….
We leave the beauty of Rocamadour, while walking through one of the four gates. From time to time we stop and look back on the impressive three successive levels of this village above the canyon.
There is an old local saying;
‘Houses on the river, churches on the houses, rocks on the churches, castle on the rock’…….