France · 7 Days · 24 Moments · July 2012

Dordogne Trip, south of France

14 July 2012

Bergerac We had a short visit of Bergerac before taking the plane back - the city center is just 5 km from the airport. We had just a walk around and, being Sunday after the French National Day, the village was not exactly lively but was ok, with the statue of Cyrano on the main square and some nice church. Avoid all the restaurants on the main square with pictures of the food and menu in english: we had to go there as it was the only open places, but the're just a rip-off for tourist.

13 July 2012

Residence Adonis, la Barbacane Nice and clean hotel, we had a little flat with kitchenette and air conditioning and a private parking is available (not for free, though). Considering that we book it at the last moment, we were satisfied with the price/quality ratio, also considering that it was at walking distance from the historical center.
Carcassonne It was a bit far away but I wanted absolutely to go there for the 14th of july, (the national day in France). Carcassonne is a unique Medieval fortress and on the 14th evening they light the whole walls with fire and theres the most beautiful fireworks of the country. It was really worth it, although there was like 1million people on the river sides waiting for the fireworks and we sat from 6pm to have a spot. So we waited 6 hours to see this beautiful show and barely had a space. Think to go early if you decide to try :) We had a bottle of champagne, some biscuits, and made some new friends while waiting.

12 July 2012

Castle of Commarque Hidden in the middle of a forest, this is a splendid ruin. We went there while it was slightly raining, there was a choir in the church's ruins. They give you a book - available in many languages - explaining the history of the castle and you are free to roam around. There are also some pre historic remains.
Le Bareil Restaurant Amazing restaurant, with a menu at more or less 20 euros, they serve you huge quantity of food (entire paté, entire cheese, entire soup and so on) and you can eat it all if you want, coffee and wine was also included. The products are fresh and the dishes are local from the region.
Grotte de Lascaux II A must see in Perigord, the super famous Lascaux's cave. Unfortunately, the visit doesn't last that long, but, if you're interested in prehistoric art, it is absolutely worth a visit for the incredible amount of paintings left by our ancestors in the few rooms of this cave. It's better to get there early to avoid disappointments, as the place is among the most visited around. Also, be aware that from half september to Easter, you can buy your tickets at the entrance of the cave, but after easter to half of september the ticket office is situated in Montignac, "place du cinéma".

11 July 2012

Jardins de Marqueyssac Close to our hotel, these gardens are situated on top of a hill from which you can have a nice view on the valley, included for example La Roque-Gageac. They're open not only during the day but also a couple of nights a week, with candles as only source of light in most of the paths and alleys. I think it is really worth to visit them by night, the gardens have such a romantic atmosphere with all the candles :) The gardens are huge (in a couple of hours, we didn't manage to visit everything) and decorated: all bushes and hedges are cut in fancy ways; there are small waterfalls and panoramic points everywhere; we found little spots with small concerts and cafés, everything lit up by thousands of candles. A really nice and romantic spot :)
Canoe-Kayak on the vezere A few hours canoeing on the river Vezère: since my boyfriend never did canoeing before, we chose this river because the stream is not that strong and it's less crowded. If you are more experienced, you can also do it on the Dordogne. We passed by really nice places, included the Roque St. Cristophe (that we visited the previous day) and other prehistoric sites. There are plenty of places along the rivers where you can borrow canoe or kayak. We tried "vezere-canoe", it was alright and they gave us a map and other things.

10 July 2012

Les Eyzies National museum of prehistory, discover what our ancestors left us. Their collection contains a lot of objects made by cave men and many videos explaining how they built them. There are also many skeleton of men and animals. There is a panoramic view on the top of the museum.
Roque Saint-Christophe Natural cavities situated in the middle of a cliff's face over the Vezere river, it's been occupied since 55.000 years ago, throughout Middle Age until the Renaissance period, becoming a fortress and protected town. Free guided visits (you tip the guide at the end if you're satisfied with the explanation) are starting during the day, explaining how life was during the various eras in which the place was inhabited, included the functioning of some of the tools used in those period (i.e. the various winches used to bring up water/food/etc...).
Secret sightseeing This is a hidden sightseeing place, it is not super easy to find but I will try to guide you as good as I can. This place is situated on the D50 just after the camping "moulin de caudon". You'll need to find a little way, without any signals, on the side of the street. It is in the curve just after the camping. You can park your car, either on the side of the street, or if you continue just a little bit, there is a little area for bins, you can park there. You'll have to walk up the way for like 10mns and you'll arrive on the top of a cliff where you'll be able to see the dordogne river. It is a very nice and impressive view point. Be careful though cause there isn't any barriers. I added pictures from google map to make it easier to locate. If you look for "Turnac" in google map, you'll be able to see a lot of campings including "moulin de caudon" on the left. Hopefully you'll find the place, if you need more informations, please contact me :)
Village of Domme Nice little medieval village with impressive doors on each side of the city. There is a cave you can visit in the centre of the village, it was used as a hiding place many times by the inhabitants of the village during wars.
Sarlat's Market day 8am to 12 am, try the spring rolls and the super juicy fruits of the market, don't forget the covered part of the market, happening in the same place as it was happening in the middle ages. You'll recognize it at its huge metal doors on each side of the building.

9 July 2012

La ferme de Maraval The best restaurant we've been to, we had an amazing dinner here: we took one of the menus proposed and, seriously, it was a lot of food! Starters, soup and the main dish from the region: duck with "pommes de terre sarladaise" (roast potatoes Sarlat-style) and dessert. Moreover the waiter/owner of the place was always stopping by for a joke or for offering some liquor during the whole meal, making the atmosphere really jovial. Everything is produced by the owners in the farm next door and it's offered in big portions, so be sure to be hungry when you go there, and think to book in advance, as there aren't many seats!
Rocamadour Really beautiful village attached to a cliff. The village is split into 3 different parts each on top of another. You will first find the village, then you will climb stairs and find the castle and with more stairs you will find the church. There is the possibility to take a lift but you'll have to pay. There is one of my favorite cheese, named after the city, "Rocamadour", it is a little goat cheese with a strong taste. Ask for a creamy one!
Gouffre de Padirac Impressive chasm, you will go down with either the lift or the stairs, and then will take a little boat to do the first part of the trip on the underground river, then a guide will take you from there and you will walk inside the cave and look at the beautiful sculptures the nature has carved. It is really an impressive and breath taking natural environment to visit!

8 July 2012

La Roque Gageac One of the most beautiful villages of France: the village is perched on a creamy-coloured cliff that faces the river Dordogne. We arrived from a road along the river, from which you can see a series of caves once inhabited in prehistoric times: I'm not sure whether you can actually visit them, but the view is nice and I guess it's even nicer if you get there by kayak on the river. We stopped there just an hour or so for a walk around, but too many stairs prevented us from seeing more :)
Castelnaud Castle A bit less interesting than Beynac, this one is more like a war museum with all the medieval weapons and massive trebuchet. Guided visits in French, but also in English and German at certain hours. Worth a visit! (And its just opposite Beynac). If you visit one of these two castles you'll learn about how the english and the french fought for more than a hundred years. The french in Beynac, and the english in Castelnaud. And this is just a small part of what happened between these two castles along the years. You'll also hear about RIchard Lionheart, son of Henri II of England and Aliénor d'Aquitaine. He is still a famous character of History in the country, everyone knows "Richard coeur de lion".
Beynac Castle Built in the 12th century, it is the best castle we visited in the region, for its position overlooking the Dordogne river and the fact that it's almost perfectly preserved without the need of many renovations. Also, our guide, an old man, was really passionated and told us all its secrets. Although the visit was in french I am confident they have it in english too.
La cabane Little hotel with jacuzzi (It seems they added a swimming pool since our last visit), the room was nice although there wasn't any separation between the toilet and the room. The owner was friendly, there is the possibility to eat there as well. The place is really peaceful, as it's situated in the countryside: we chose it mainly because it was close to everything we wanted to visit - it is just 1km from Beynac for example.
Auberge du mirandol If you want to have lunch or dinner in Sarlat, sometimes its not easy to avoid touristic crap or to eat well without spending a lot of money. L'auberge du Mirandol, in the historic centre of Sarlat is a good choice to eat well for cheap.
Sarlat This is the village where I was born and I love it. It is a beautiful little medieval village, one of the best preserved in France. It is full of activities in the evening, with jugglers, story tellers and so on. (usually in summer). The atmosphere especially in the evening is incredible, don't hesitate to lose yourself in all the little streets. Shops and little market stalls stay open most of the evening. Don't forget the market days that take over the whole centre. Full of charm and really well preserved, Sarlat is a must see.
Gouffre de Proumeyssac Really nice cave, possibility to go down in a metal basket from the top of the 'gouffre' in the same way they were going down at the time they discovered it. Guided visit with light and sound. A bit hard to find without a map. Our GPS stopped working and we had to ask to old people for the way around. We didn't arrive from the main road so the cave might be more indicated if you don't get lost to begin with!
Arrival in Perigord Our trip began at the airport of Bergerac, one of the two airports with Périgueux, serving this area. Only a few airlines land here, included Ryanair, making this area easier to visit than some years ago. From here, we rented our car (essential to move around the region) and began our trip in Dordogne (in the Aquitaine region).