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Dordogne in October

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Heading to France in early October for a couple of weeks. Plan on several nights in Paris at the end of the trip, but wanted to go to wine country or south. Got the first 7-8 nights to travel anywhere, and would prefer to spend it all in one place however am flexible. Was thinking Burgundy or Provence, but have been to both and am looking for something new. On scanning other articles and posts, Dordogne came up as potentially a good option.

Our targets include history (like Medieval to the 18th C but not Roman), architecture, foodie-stuff, culture and picturesque locals. Not interested in nature, country-forest, caves, geology, rural life-style. Would love a central city/town/village to stay as a hub and spoke out from there - will have a car. Preferably a place with a good variety of restaurants and some nightlife - walkable would also be great. In Provence, for example, during a past trip in October, used Avignon as the hub, and it worked very well along with great weather.

On the weather point, don't care if it's warm or cold, just want to avoid endless days of dreary, dull, gray rain.

So, Dordogne or elsewhere? (Also any rankings of towns, villages, cities along with itineraries would be welcome.)

Look forward to hearing from you all!

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    Dordogne would be perfect. Sarlat would be a perfect base.

    Since you are a newbie - you probably haven't run across my itinerary offer. My wife & I have been spending 2 months traveling in France each year since we retired (early in life) in '99. We've spent 10 weeks in the Dordogne and six weeks just south of the Dordogne directly on the Lot River (or very close to it). I developed a 20+ page itinerary for the Dordogne which describes our favorite villages, scenic drives, sites, markets, etc. I've sent over 5,000 copies of my various itineraries (I have others) to people on Fodors. If you would like a copy, e-mail me at [email protected] & I'll attach one to the reply e-mail. So so soon - we leave for 4 1/2 weeks in France in a couple of weeks from today.

    Stu Dudley

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    Below is one of the interesting "day-excursions" that's in my itinerary

    Bastide Towns
    My wife & I have always enjoyed visiting Bastide towns. In June '13 we stayed for 2 weeks in Puy l'Eveque near Cahors on the Lot River, and visited 17 different Bastide towns from there. A Bastide town is a purpose-built town with a square grid layout modeled on ancient Roman towns. They are quite different from other medieval towns which have winding streets that grew willy-nilly over decades. In Bastide towns, there is almost always an arched arcaded market square at the center of the village. About 350 Bastide towns were built in southwest France between 1229 and 1372, in a medieval burst of urbanization. They were built on land owned by feudal Lords (English King, French King, local feudal lords, abbots, bishops) in the hope of creating commerce, which the lord could then tax. Bastides were built so rapidly that it was almost like an "arms race" with one lord building 2 towns, and then the other lord "calling" his 2 towns and raising him 1 - building 3 towns.

    A Bastide was a "planned" community where goods were traded in the town square and the farther you got away from the town square, the closer you got to the raw product. The town was laid out to optimize the movement of goods from the "fields" into the town square. For example, grains were grown outside of town, and then moved to the outskirts of the Bastide town where it was then ground into flour. Then it was move closer to the square where there were people who could package it before it finally arrived in the square for trade. The streets were laid out so some could accommodate two carts at a time (1 coming & 1 going), 1 cart going in one direction, a pedestrian-only street, and another half-meter wide street that carried rain water and waste. All of this is explained & demonstrated quite nicely in the Bastide museum in Monflanquin - which should be your starting point for visiting Bastide towns.

    Here is an itinerary for a "perfect" day of visiting our 2 favorite Bastide towns in France and a fascinating medieval village nearby (plus a castle).

    Leave early in the morning and head south on the D710 past Belves. Then before Fumel, take the D162 west then the D150 to Monflanquin*+. From Sarlat this is a 1 1/2 hr trip - so if you leave Sarlat at 8:30 you should arrive in Monflanquin around 10:00 - just when the tourist office opens - which is where the Bastide museum is located (don't know if it closes for lunch - probably does). The Tourist Office is located on the north end of the town square. There is parking at the south end of Monflanquin - you'll see it. As you walk towards the central town square after parking (along Rue St Pierre), note the large late 1800s photographs displayed in windows along the street, which depict what the buildings on the street looked like in the late 1800s. Go to the Bastide museum as soon as you arrive at the Tourist Office. It took us about 30 mins to visit the museum. Then pick up the walking itinerary (in English) and visit the Bastide town. Our visit to the museum and town consumed 1 1/2 hours - so if you arrive at 10 you should be finished at 11:30.

    Next, take the D272 north (changes to the D2E when you leave the Lot-et-Garonne dept & enter the Dordogne dept) and then the D2 to Monpazier*. If you leave Monflanquin at 11:30 you should get to Monpazier at 12:00. Park in the large visitor's lot and quickly walk to the town square where the Tourist Office is located. I don't know what time it closes - hopefully not before 12:30. Pick up a walking itinerary at the Tourist Office and proceed on the walk. There are plaques posted along the walk (in English) that describe the various points of interest. Monpazier is perhaps the most "famous" Bastide town in the region - so it will be more touristy. There are some souvenir shops in town - but there were much fewer "tacky" ones than I anticipated. At one time there was a Bastide museum in town and it still might be mentioned in a few guidebooks. We asked the Tourist Office where it was located, and they did not know. Another merchant said it might have been "just around the corner" - but there is definitely not a museum open now - it may be under renovation & could re-open in the future. The main square in Monpazier is fantastic. As you will see, it is a great place to have lunch. Do that. It should take you around 2 hrs to visit the town and also have lunch. If you arrive in Monpazier at 12:00, you should be "finished" at 2:00.

    Next, head southwest on the D2, and then the D53 south to Chateau Biron. If you leave Monpazier at 2:00 you should arrive at Biron at 2:15 - just as it opens after the noon to 2:00 lunch closing (that's why I suggested doing Monpazier before Biron - and backtracking a bit). Explore Biron*. Work was being performed on the Great Hall in June '13 - so hopefully it will have been completed. Biron will be about a 45 min visit, so you should leave around 3:00.

    Leave Biron heading north on the D53 and then west on the D2 west (which changes to the D104 when you re-enter the Tarn-et-Garonne dept) past Villereal (another interesting Bastide town with a two-story covered market) and then the D207 northwest (which changes to the D14 when you enter the Dordogne Dept - jeeze you'd think that this renumbering the same road could be solved) and head to the third Bastide town - Issignac*. If you leave Biron at 3:00 you should arrive in Issigeac at 3:30.

    Issigeac+ is a charming medieval village that doesn't appear in many guide books. It is a little different from the two Bastides that you have already visited, in that it does not have a town square, and the roads are not laid out in a grid pattern. Pick up a walking plan (in English) at the tourist office at the north end of town. Issigeac has lots & lots of pretty half-timbered buildings. The Grand Rue runs through the middle of town and I think the section of Issigeac east of the Grand Rue is more interesting than the section to the west of Grande Rue. Some tourists may prefer Issigeac over both Monpazier and Monflanquin. Issigeac is about a 45 min visit.

    It is about 1 1/2 hrs back to Sarlat on the D25, passing through another Bastide town - Beaumont du Perigord, which has a nice central square that you can see from the D25. You should get back to Sarlat by 6:00.
    End of Bastide day

    Stu Dudley

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    Preferably a place with a good variety of restaurants and some nightlife

    There are good restaurants in the Dordogne, but I would not vouch for a variety of cuisines. As for nightlife, I suspect that even the main towns of the Dordogne shut down after dark. A university town might be a better bet for nightlife; Montpellier perhaps?

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    I suggest Alsace for wine-country, history, architecture, "foodie-stuff", and culture. Base yourself in Strasbourg for a variety of restaurants and nightlife.

    I'm really not sure what "picturesque locals" might be, or where you might find them.

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