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  • Writer's picture by Rae-Helen

Hidden Water Treasures

Updated: Feb 27, 2019

By Rae-Helen Fisenden

This is an article featuring some "top secret" information about three fascinating places we've found and explored in our local area in France.

Pictured above is a fairly innocent looking tap but it's what it's connected to that reveals a sweet secret.

The water gushing from this tap is from an artesian well, the source of which is located approximately 200 metres underground and, believe me, the water tastes really good. That's because it's fresh and clean and contains a lot of trace minerals beneficial to good health. What it doesn't have is the high levels of toxic additives that are present in many normal water sources:- chlorine, fluoride and other nasties. In this part of the South West of France, there are also high levels of calcium and magnesium present in the water making it hard and a bit of a nuisance. It causes mineral build up on fixtures and poor soap and detergent performance. Notwithstanding, one's hair and skin feels very strange! UP side, your nails grow stronger.

So when in France, we buy large bottles of spring water from the supermarkets. We use this to drink, to cook and for a final hair rinse. That is, we DID buy our water until we were told about the St. Cyprien well. If you look closely at the panel forming the splash back in the photo above, you'll notice the words Saint Cyprien appearing at the top, a cross can be found pictured below it to the left, and Saint Cyprien himself, pictured to the right. Like a lot of french villages in the region St Cyprien owes its name to Cyprien the hermit, who settled in nearby caves in 620 A.D. A monastic community was later founded due to miracles that supposedly occurred at his tomb.

So we assume that the well has religious significance, that it is obviously quite old and that it's a bit of a well kept secret.

We were totally unaware of its existence. Until last week.

Last week, while at the local St Cyprien Carrefour Supermarket,( the nearest to our cottage, ) we happened upon a french acquaintance who was loading up his car at the same time we were. When we're speaking with him we use a mix of french and english which can be quite a funny conversation. Anyway, this friend noticed our large bottles of water and asked us whether we always buy them. We explained that we'd been buying water for the 10 years we'd been visiting and living in the area. He motioned for us to look into his car. There, on the front seat, lay two large containers of water. " From the well! It's free!" he exclaimed. "What well?" we responded in chorus.

A few minutes later and with much gesticulating we were given the directions to the well and the following day we tried in vain to find it. We ended up in a muddy field.

Not giving up, we had another go and the second time, lo and behold, we found it. It was located in a very strange, tucked away place just off a dirt road. Certainly nothing salubrious about its location but once we tried the water we knew we'd struck gold!

No more store bought water for us!

Such a strange phenomenon though. Local knowledge is sometimes just that,-local, and in France, it tends to stay that way.

Another example of local knowledge is the existence of a fabulous swimming hole located 15 minutes from our Berbiguieres cottage. We had absolutely no idea it was there or that it was a regular spot for locals to cool off during the Summer heat. See below:

Because of the action of the waterfall, the rocks on the floor of the natural pool, have been pulverised into an almost sandy bottom. The water is crystal clear and quite deep in parts but believe me, it's also VERY cold! Having discovered its existence after all this time, we often frequent the pool with a bottle of wine in tow which we keep submerged in the icy water. When it gets too hot we jump in for a brief cool off then warm up on the grassy banks. It's absolute heaven. Why not discover this for yourself? We can give you the secret directions ;) The GOUFFRE DE PADIRAC:

The location of the Gouffre de Padirac is NOT a well kept secret at all, but it IS most definitely, hidden. Underground that is. It's like discovering a submerged cathedral with little to see at ground level except a vast cavernous hole leading to the waterways and spectacular caves beyond. We notice that tourists can easily dismiss it as " just another cave" but for those who've taken the time to visit it, it has often been described as the highlight of their trip to France. It's a 20 minute drive to get to from our Beaulieu home and well worth the effort. Here's why:

The Gouffre de Padirac is an incredible cave system containing an underground river and gorge and a huge cavern. Underground lakes and pools and stalactite formations all add to its appeal but somehow it is the sheer size of the caverns that is really incredible.

It is the most visited cave system in the whole of France and the number one tourist attraction of the Midi-Pyrenees region.

Explore the Gouffre de Padirac

The cave system is 103 meters below ground and can be accessed via a lift or a staircase. Once in the system you are taken by a boat through the galleries and on to the large cavern. The boat is punted by a guide who can tell you a bit about the formation of the cave system.

As you glide over the "Lac de la Pluie" or lake of rain, you do indeed find yourself being 'rained' on by the water which is permanently running down the walls and in places overhead as it runs over one of the stalactite formations.

At the edge of the main cavern you leave the boat and begin the walking tour into the heart of the cathedral-like space that is the 'Grand Dome'. This cavern is incredible, with the river flowing along the bottom, a majestic rock enclosed space opens up above you with stalactite formations in places. The dome is 94 meters high.

A steep staircase then leads you up to the top of the cavern to get a view of the cavern from above and the sight of some lovely water pools along the way.

At the end of the tour your boat takes you back to the stairs and lifts to climb back to the surface.

We believe the cave system and lake is an exceptional experience for both young and old and a MUST see when visiting and staying with us here in Beaulieu sur Dordogne. Book your french adventure soon and discover this and many other wonderful hidden treasures.

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