Monday, April 20, 2015

Le Relais des Sources

The campground we had found in the ACSI book was closed without any explanation... and according to the same book there wasn’t another campground for 200 km that was open this time of year. Of course it was almost dark, threatening to rain and already pretty cold. The perfect recipe for misery then. ‘Something will turn up’ I thought, it usually does. This day wasn’t any different. Just half an hour later we realised we were lucky that the previous campground had been closed, otherwise we had never found this one!

Trundling down the road I noticed a small hand painted sign with nothing more than a tent and a motorcycle on it. Not a fancy computer generated loud billboard style sign, just an unobtrusive little piece of board on a stick in the scrubs! I liked it already. We turned into the narrow road and found an old farmhouse, which seemed closed... Still, there was a tent pitched on the field in front of it so worse case scenario was that we would put our tent there as well! Then Serge, the owner, turned up and I started the conversation in my best French. I pulled out all the stops and used every word of my french vocabulary when I said 'Camping?' Serge said something back and nodded at the same time, all was good!

Serge and Nadia run a campground and guesthouse for motorcyclists called Le Relais des Sources. First impression was ‘a motorcycle hobby gone out of hand’, and big time too! Serge and Nadia have created something that is a cross between an old bikeshop and a museum. The atmosphere is great. There are bike parts of various ages and origin to be found everywhere, both in- and outside the farmhouse. Together with motorcycling memorabilia of several decades in the form of posters, trophies and the like.

Inside the farmhouse is a simple but stylish pub and a large dining room where Serge also serves a petit-dejeuner for guest (French for small breakfast). Outside is a covered area where you can enjoy the beautiful and long French evenings... in summer that is! It's a great place with lots of style and character, away from caravans, motorhomes and the like. Just as we like it. Serge and Nadia opened their doors 18 years ago right in the heart of the Périgord Noir à Vézac, just 4 km from Sarlat on the road to Bergerac. Serge was born and raised on the site, Nadia moved in later. This isn’t a campground which also accommodates motorcycles, but one which is operated by and for motorcyclists. Both Serge and Nadia have motorcycle genes. Serge obtained his motorcycle license in 1973 on a 175cc CZ and went through a long list of different motorcycles since. Nadia got her bike license in 1989 on a Moto Guzzi V50. Serge has been active in all sorts of motorsport too, from hill climbs and motocross to endurance racing. He has organised 16 tourist rallies, 15 races in the 50cc class, 10 motocross events, 21 hill climbs, 5 enduros and 16 trials to name but a few. He has also been head of the tourism section MC Sarladais “Salamanders” and Chairman of the Dordogne F.F.M.C.

Mike adding his sticker to the 'visitors book'
There is lots of room to camp, either in your own tent or in on-site small caravans and chalet type cabins. The caravans and cabins have all been given motorcycle names, making it the first place I’ve seen where you can actually sleep in a Ducati for instance! If you want to sleep a little bit higher off the ground then you might want to rent one of the rooms above the pub.

We had only just pitched the tents when the dark muted sound of a slow revving Moto Guzzi V-twin enhanced the already good feeling. As it turned out we where camping with several Moto Guzzis that night. Looking at the gleaming Norge, Stelvio and California models I realised our bikes desperately needed a wash and polish... One of them was a real engineering masterpiece: a sidecar combo with a single sided swing arm and hub steering. 

Single sided swing arm and hubsteering...
Serge is a great guy. He's easy going, even by Aussie standards. The resulting atmosphere is laid back. Stress simply doesn't seem to exist here. Even his seriously big dog, one of those with bear genes, is laid back! Le Relais des Sources is a great place to stay, with a friendly atmosphere in beautiful surroundings. Motorcycles come first here. You can find them at: N44.84910° E1.18317°