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guyanantigua May 31st, 2015 02:15 PM

Dordogne Valley--Please Advise on Which Part of Perigord...
As part of a driving trip through north Spain and France now in June, I'll be staying in the Dordogne/Perigord for five days or so. I'll be traveling with my mother. We're looking for the Dordogne experience so to speak, with scenic drives, good food, markets, and so forth, but are not especially interested in tourist sites. More interested to see how the people live and have an authentic experience of the place.

I know there are many Perigord/Dordogne threads, and I'm looking at them now, but I'm a bit stumped on which part might be the best to make our base for five days, and need to make a decision relatively soon. Is Perigord Vert the nicest part? Any advice on this particular question, which part to stay in, how to find a good place (whether a country gite or staying e.g. old town Bergerac) ... (as well as more general pointers for interesting/off-the-beaten-path things to see during June) would be much appreciated.

StuDudley May 31st, 2015 03:08 PM

Draw a 20K circle around Sarlat la Caneda and stay within it. Not much of it will be "off the beaten path", however.

Stu Dudley

guyanantigua May 31st, 2015 03:15 PM

Yes I see now that Perigod Noir and Sarlat its "capital" is closer to the Basque country. Is it a very nice area?

But then I wonder when you say not much will be off the beaten path...why not go to parts of the Dordogne that are more interesting?

This is my concern. I don't know the difference in "flavor" between different parts of Perigord, so that's why I'm asking this. Is there a part that's more beautiful? One that's more ritzy, one that's more obscure, etc.


StuDudley May 31st, 2015 04:25 PM

Nothing in the Dordogne is ritzy. The area around Sarlat has the most diverse stuff to do & see, and is the most scenic.

We've spent over 3 years traveling around/through almost every corner of France. We've stayed for 10 weeks in the Dordogne, 10 weeks in Languedoc/Roussillon/Lot, 20 in Provence, 20 on the Cote d'Azur, 4 in the Pays Basque, etc. Provence & the Dordogne are our favorites.

I have a 20+ page Itinerary I wrote for visiting the Dordogne. I've sent my various itineraries to over 5,000 people on Fodors (really!). If you would like a copy, e-mail me at [email protected] & I'll attach one to the reply e-mail. Do so soon - we leave for France in about 10 days.

Below is the first paragraph of my itinerary:

The Dordogne is the perfect mix of natural beauty, picturesque villages, astounding historic sites, and, not unimportantly, marvelous food! Taken individually, each would warrant a visit to the area, but together they make the Dordogne one of my very favorite regions in France.

Touring the Dordogne, the rolling hills with the meandering lazy rivers and Cinderella castles beg for pictures at every turn. The deep greens of the hillsides soothe your senses, and the towns and villages with their fairy-tale houses complete the pastoral scene. Life seems to be on ‘relax’ setting here, mirroring the gentle pace of the Dordogne River itself.

Interestingly, this gentle backdrop is in sharp contrast to the aggressive nature of the Dordogne’s history. Huge medieval castles impossibly perched on sheer rock cliffs attest to the centuries of fierce battles fought between the English and French, as neighboring castles changed hands frequently. The castles adapted their defenses to the changing nature of warfare and later evolved into pleasure castles. There is a reason why a popular restaurant here is named the “Relais de Cinq Chateaux” – 5 impressive castles are readily visible from the dining room and magically lit up in the evenings.

But, the appeal of the Dordogne doesn’t stop at ground level! – the area is riddled with subterranean caves/’grottes’ of two main varieties – those with geological formations and those which sheltered prehistoric humans. Each is captivating in its own way. The millions of years required to form the geological caves astounds the mind – the mathematics of the elapsed time required to form a 2-foot long stalactite (one centimeter a century) ensure that you will appreciate the magnificence of what you’re seeing.

The ‘human shelter’ caves have their own story – or actually, more intriguingly, have no known story. The caves did not provide living habitats, and the rituals resulting in the cave drawings have never been truly understood. Standing in a dimly lit cave 1 foot from astoundingly accurate animal drawings created 30,000 years earlier elicits an awe that is hard to describe.

The geological caves, the shelter caves and the castles each with their long histories (from millions - to tens of thousands - to thousands of years) force you to reconsider the concept of ‘time’ in all that you see and do in the area.

Talking about ‘food’ seems almost inconsequential after such weighty subjects as architecturally impossible medieval chateaux and cave art galleries created mysteriously by humans in millenniums past. But, in my opinion, the Dordogne is ‘food heaven’ characterized by robust/flavorful food choices enhanced by sophisticated and complex preparations and presentation……duck, foie gras, chestnuts, truffles, wild mushrooms.

The Dordogne is truly a treat to the senses: visually, intellectually and gastronomically!

Stu Dudley

guyanantigua May 31st, 2015 04:52 PM

Thanks Stu! I will write you for your guide then :)

Kwoo Jun 1st, 2015 11:44 AM

I brought Stu's guide with me when we visited the Dordogne in May, and it was very helpful. You can read my trip report if it will be helpful. Perigord Noir and Sarlat are beautiful! The scenery is gorgeous, food is delicious, and there are lots to do and see. May was quiet, and I think June should be quiet, too. July & August are high seasons. We visited 5 caves and each one is different. There are no highways, just narrow and curving roads up and down hills. You will love this region. We stayed 2 nights in Brantome, which is quieter than Sarlat, and 4 nights in Sarlat. The Lot Valley is quieter and wilder than Perigord. We drove from Sarlat to Pech Merle (in the Lot Valley) and definitely noticed a difference. There were very few towns and the few we saw are tiny villages. Pay attention to closing times of the castles and caves; some close for lunch; some are open all day. Restaurants typically close at 2PM for lunch.

guyanantigua Jun 4th, 2015 02:56 PM

Thanks Kwoo! Look like we're going to stay in Perigord Noir about 20 min from Sarlat.

rosemaryoz Jun 5th, 2015 02:00 AM

If you stay within 20 minutes from Sarlat you will be right in the thick of the most touristy area of the Dordogne...which will be quite busy in June. If you really like quieter, more authentic 'off the beaten path' experiences, I would recommend you consider villages like Belves, Beaumont du Perigord, Monpazier, Daglan, Limeuil, Tremolat or even St Cyprien. This would put you within easy driving distance of the most well-known sights, but be a good base for peaceful evenings & dining options. There are many lovely family-run chambres d'hotes or small hotels in & around these villages for you to research. The markets in many of these villages are all good in summer too, with many of the same stallholders at each one. So if you don't want to be in the crush on Sarlat's market day, you can still enjoy the experience in another place.

La_Tour_de_Cause Jun 11th, 2015 02:19 PM

When you say 20 min from Sarlat, which direction? I agree with RosemaryOz that the bastide villages of Belves, Beaumont du Perigord, etc., are away from the busier towns along the river such as Beynac. Staying north of Sarlat is a little less scenic and not quite as beautiful as the area to its southwest, although you can often stumble into some exceptionally charming ancient stone villages down nearly any road in the area.

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