Our journey home to the UK began with a brief detour to the Dordogne town of Monpazier.
It is easy to see why it is considered to be the most perfect, and best preserved, of all the 300-plus surviving bastides – a village or town in medieval France built especially for defense and usually laid out according to a definite geometric plan.
In 1991, it was declared ‘un grand site national‘ and in a normal year it attracts 250,000 visitors but we had it pretty much to ourselves.
Its characterful narrow cobbled streets and alleyways all lead to the understated but beautiful Place des Cornieres, a medieval square dating back to 1284.
Rather than grand buildings, this square is lined with charming houses butting up to one another all with balconies, arches and shuttered windows.
There is ancient looking market cross and pavement cafes sprawling across the square to create a picture perfect Perigord scene.
From here we headed north to our final stop-off point, the Loire city of Tours.
The sight of the gendarme out in force on the autoroutes, aires, service stations and in Tours itself vindicated our decision to head home.
Everyone in the city centre except for those eating and drinking is masked up and the police – including some on horseback – are there to enforce the rule as I found out myself.
For a change from camping we checked into a virtually deserted traditional hotel proudly displaying its one-star as French hotels are wont to do.
We spent a couple of hours roaming aimlessly admiring the city’s medieval centre before taking in its cathedral with its mix of architecture – Romanesque, gothic and Renaissance – and particularly stunning stained glass windows.
Despite the best and possibly misguided efforts of the city’s university population to enjoy life, there was little of the buzz you’d normally associate with this vibrant tourist destination.
Fittingly the heaven’s opened and we took shelter in one of the many Lebanese restaurants enjoying a welcome change from French cuisine. We finished our evening early with a delicious Bubble Waffle full of frozen yoghurt and various other sweet treats.
We enjoyed a restful night’s sleep in the relative luxury of our hotel room with its TV, proper bed and our own toilet and shower.