This particularly beautiful region of France has had a curious attraction to humankind since prehistoric times. Celebrated rather more recently for its cuisine and wines, and the remarkable river that winds amongst its
fairy-tale châteaux and Medieval villages, visiting the Périgord really does feel like travelling back to a former era.
Built by the English in 1284
The Perfect Bastide
Though fairly small, the village is surprisingly lively and the majority of its inhabitants are still the local families which have been in the region for centuries. The photo shows one of the folk festival days, to which our guests as honorary citizens were invited. The locals are very friendly and you will soon feel totally at home in the community.
Visitors to the Dordogne, long regarded as one of France's most architecturally diverse regions, should look out for the very distinctive houses, often limestone with steeply pitched roofs, chartreuses (manor houses), quercy houses, dovecotes and dry-stone huts. Ecclesiastical and military buildings are striking too: churches, chateaux, and the remarkable bastides (fortified towns). Monpazier was one of the first, and is now considered the best preserved of these towns, with more than 32 buildings classed as historical monuments. Its perfect rectangular town plan is built around the central market place, with galleries and houses constructed between the 13th and 17th centuries.
The region of the Dordogne is also known as the Périgord. The area is characterised by river valleys and undulating hills, scenery on a peaceful, re-assuring human scale. Its most famous geological feature is undoubtedly its caves; many of them noted pre-historic sites. Primitive people used the caves for shelter and to create remarkable engravings and paintings, such as those of the Lascaux Caves (near Montignac), most of them about 30,000 years old. Other notable caves are at Rouffignac and Combarelles. For those intrepid people (who aspire to follow in the footsteps of Jules Verne) you can also take a boat down the underground river in the Gouffre de Padirac.
Swimming, cycling, canoeing, fishing, horse riding, golf, walking and visiting local wineries and restaurants are just a few of the leisure activities available. For the more courageous, you can even take breathtaking flights over the tops of châteaux in a locally hired ultra-light plane. Swimming options include lovely river beaches, a nearby fresh water lake and various aquatic centres - all close to the town. You can also hire push bikes locally to tour the surrounding villages.
Rich and filling cassoulets, duck confit, the most exquisite foie gras are to be found in abundance in the Dordogne. For this is the traditional home of every conceivable delight sourced from the gaggles of ducks and geese running about the idyllic countryside. Mi-cuit Foie gras is especially delicious when accompanied by a glass of the sweet Monbazillac or Cadillac dessert wine. Trout and truffles, omelettes aux Cèpes and many other heavenly delicacies are to be found in the numerous wayside restaurants – many unpretentious and charming, others expensive.
You’ll find our house book bulging with a host of tantalising suggestions!
The village itself sports a number of excellent eating establishments: there are four or five quality restaurants, two pizzerias (Chez Minou being very buzzy at times!), a coffee shop and bakery, several take away patisseries as well as two hotel-bars. There are also shops where you can buy prepared meals based on local recipes to take home.
In the town you will find at least four or five shops selling brocante and antiques. The hours of these vary according to the season and the enthusiasm of the proprietors! There is also a rather good boutique of pottery and terracotta that, though new, are made according to traditional designs. A specialty of the region is the various types of earthenware, some quite old, as shown in the picture on the right. You’ll have much fun seeking out treasures like these!
Summers in Dordogne are sunny, and can actually be hot (24º-33º) at any time from May to the end of October. It is possible to eat outside all summer, but evenings in early May and late October can be a little fresh. Summer often continues right through till November, when the autumnal tints make walking and wandering a real pleasure. Winter, usually mild but sometimes cold and dry, is the season when you can buy fresh truffles and other local specialities in the market. Visitors to the many caves in the Dordogne should think of suitable clothing; the weather can be 17 degrees cooler underground than on the surface!