EDitorial ± 13-Aug-2012


Nestled among the brochures in our French holiday maison -- mais oui -- was one showing a bunch of nuns cycling along a railway track over a level crossing. Qu'est-ce que c'est que ca?

Big letters on the front said this was Le Velorail du Perigord Vert. Rather than pull up their disused tracks, it seems that they like to leave 'em be and use 'em for leisure purposes. Bonne idee, Jean-Paul. They've devised these pedal powered sit-on metal carriages, conveniently holding up to five folk, two of which perch on saddles and provide the driving force. Bits of said leaflet were in English, including the phrase "booking necessary" together with a ten digit phone number. Over to good ol' yours truly, then, for two simple tasks:

  1. figure out how to dial a French landline from an English mobile,
  2. and make a reservation for the family on Wed 8th August

Wasn't easy but did both, so we're up and out by 11am, complete with coolbag, en route to a village called Corgnac. Bloomin' hot today. Our name is on the list -- well done, me -- and we hand over our fistful of euros. Crossing the track, it's a half hour wait while the earlier travellers return and their vehicles are turned around. High noon and it's all aboard. We've got the last of about ten carriages.

Ahead of us is another non-native family, perhaps Scandinavian, so the guard dusts off his rather good English and talks us through the upcoming journey. It's uphill on the way out, keep your distance, and expect four crossings. What?! Should be fun. Then we're off, initially propelled by me and The Boy. Initially flat, we start to feel the incline. Did I mention that darned heat? It's hard work, and those of us in the engine room are soon demanding bottles of water. Relief to hand over to one of the girls and take a more relaxing rear seat.

The two cars immediately ahead of us also seem to be finding it tough going. We're happy to hang back and feel the breeze. Here's the first crossing: two of us dismount and push the carriage over, watching out for revving Renaults. Next one requires a barrier to be lifted. Another needs a rope raised. Past old rusting rolling stock, over a bridge, through a tunnel and we reach turnaround point at Thiviers. That's taken the best part of an hour. Time for some well-deserved ices in the shade of the refreshment area.

Girls have bagsied the saddles for the return journey. Course, it's downhill and we can all but freewheel. Whee! Brake! Far easier, much quicker, barely 20 mins. Top fun. Hey, UK: when we can a Velorail over here?