Sarlat-la-Caneda is a beautiful French Medieval village built around an Abbey in the Perigord- Dordogne area. We have moved from the Mediterranean /Provence look, to high, steep-pitched, slate roofs and turrets with golden stone building blocks. The golden colour of the stone gives the whole village a warm and inviting feeling. It is on the UNESCO short list and I find it hard to understand why it’s not listed already. The Dordogne region is very a beautiful and productive agricultural area, walnut orchards, truffles, mushrooms, ducks, ducks, ducks, geese and of course this is the home of foie gras. Our apartment, once again in the Old Town of Sarlat, is on the second floor and the staircase winds down to a cobbled street that enters a huge town square. The square is huge and the buildings spectacular as people sit at tables in their hundreds (it’s Market day ) watching the passing people as they sip their wine. The square leads to lots of small walkways that take you between the spectacular golden buildings. Every passage seems to have cafes with tables outside and lovely shops all brilliantly presented.
On the following day Sarlat has a food festival (every year in September) and we are lucky to be able to be a part of it and participate in the laughter and enjoyment of this event. Afterwards we join the French for a two hour lunch break at Restaurant du Commerce and have omelettes, duck fat potatoes, salad, the mandatory free bread and a bottle of Rose for 30 euros. The light is filtering in between the buildings, the air has that crisp autumn feel to it and I wonder why you would want to be anywhere else?
There are a number of small villages close by :
* Domme is only a 20 minute drive away. On the way to Domme we passed through Vitrac a very small village with no shops and a very narrow road that enters the village. We parked and walked around this well maintained pretty village but not much else to see there so we headed on to Domme.
The entrance to Domme is through the remnants of the Medieval wall - a very narrow arched entry that is two way but only room for one car. The main street of Domme gently slopes up the hill for about half a kilometre, with shops on either side of the street, a lot of them being pottery and some form of artistic display. As you look back down the street you are looking over Medieval roof tops with a green backdrop of fields and gently rolling hills. When we reached the top of the street it levelled out into a big tree covered square with the furthest wall being waist high moulded columns with rail. We knew we were high but as we neared the wall we were breathtakingly surprised at the view that was unfolding in front of us of the beautiful Dordogne River.
* Oradour sur Glane. – for a fuller report on this http://helsieshappenings.blogspot.com.au/2015/10/oradour-sur-glane.html
We had read about this village some two years ago and always felt that if we had the opportunity to go we should not pass it up. Travelling from Sarlat, it is a two and half hour journey. For me this is a brilliant memorial that is there so these people are never forgotten. I think we all walked out of there with very heavy hearts. I will never forget Oradour sur Glane.
*Wednesday Market in Sarlat
The stalls are a mixture of all sorts of home grown produce with some more professional looking stalls with portable refrigeration. First up that cannot be refused in France is a big punnet of strawberries. Next up some tomatoes, we spotted some backyard beauties that were bright red, firm and all distorted and ugly. Experience says these are tomatoes made in heaven. Later as we lunched on these tomatoes we were proven correct, they definitely have come from heaven, probably with the strawberries! Moving on we saw some beautiful black figs, a fruit we never bother with but have suddenly learned the error of our ways since coming to France. The figs went in the bag for only 3euros. Macaroons ? Why not, four citron please Madam. Madam seems to have thousands of these little beauties on display, all different colours and flavours. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted the nougat man. As anyone who has travelled to France would know, the nougat man on market day is a very sought after trader. We picked a flavour and got ready for the wallet to be emptied. Twelve euros please for our wedge of heaven! We estimated a nougat wheel to be worth 1000 euros, cheap at half the price! Next some jambon (ham) and finally some cheese. A bagette and our shopping is complete. Ready for a tasty lunch. This market seemed to be restricted to food and was one of the best we have experienced in France.
* Jardin de Marqueyssac is part of a Chateau overlooking the Dordogne River. Entry through the ticket office directs you to the Chateau and you can immediately see the topiary plants and hedges that are all box plants. The Chateau and gardens are situated high above the Dordogne and as you walk along the stone walled escarpment the views are magnificent.
* Beynac - head up quite a steep hill via a narrow cobbled laneway. Way above the village is a castle and that is where you are heading, winding through very old and pretty cottages there are again magnificent views along the Dordogne river. The laneways are very steep and at the top we were confronted by a huge castle wall complete with portcullis. Joan of Arc was filmed here and perhaps that was the most interesting thing I discovered in this castle!
* La Roque Gageac is quite small but very picturesque. The backdrop is a huge limestone cliff with two rows of houses built right back to the cliff, then there is a road and walkway with the Dordogne river right next to the road and separated by a stone retaining wall. As you look along the road there is a chateau complete with turrets. There are a lot of cruise boats running from here as the view looking up the river and back towards the village is wonderful.
Photos and blog :http://helsieshappenings.blogspot.com.au/2015/09/ok-this-is-it-im-never-going-home.html
Fnally a week in wonderful Paris to come.
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Part 3 - Five Weeks in France - September 2015