First off, thanks to the Fodorites who were so helpful in planning our trip to this wonderful area of France - shout outs to Stu Dudley, St Cirq and many others! My husband and I and our two kids (ages 6 & 8) had a fabulous time -- out of our month-long trip to France & Italy, I have to say that the week in the Perigord noir was the best one!
As recommended we took the train from Paris to Brive, which normally would be quite convenient. Unfortunately, our train was delayed because of a gas leak so I missed seeing Collonge la Rouge (next time!) as we needed to head straight to our lodging. We rented one of the gites ("Gageac") at the Domaine de Monrecour and would definitely recommend it. It is located in St Vincent de Cosse (2 km from Beynac) and very central to the sights we wanted to see:
The staff were uniformly lovely and it was great to have our own 2 bedroom cottage with kitchen (and laundry and pool!). The food in the restaurant was also very good and we opted for the continental breakfast a few times as well. We got groceries in St Cyprien 10 minutes away. The hotel is also the launch spot for one of the hot air balloon companies so it was quite exciting to see them taking off from our front yard!
As for the sights, we really enjoyed the various castles (Castelnaud, Milandes, Beynac) and had 2 nice lunches at Chateau des Milandes and les Jardins de Marqueyssac on their terraces (slight edge to the food at Milandes). The girls enjoyed the bird of prey show at Milandes and the homemade ice cream in the restaurant. Their favourite castle was probably Castelnaud with its exhibits on medieval warfare and they loved the catapult demo.
I enjoyed the gardens at Marqueyssac - amazing views of the river and surrounding castles. They also had a kids craft area and 2 small playgrounds which the girls enjoyed.
One day was spent in the Quercy area at the Gouffre de Padirac. It was truly spectactular and because it felt so "open" I had no problems (am a bit claustrophobic). The only negative was the looong drive. Even though it was not that far in distance it seemed longer because of the small, winding roads. Unfortunately my daughter was not feeling well that day so we did not stop to also see some of the quaint towns nearby (Loubressac, Carennac, etc). We managed a quick photo stop only of Rocamadour. If I had more time I think I would divide up the trip between staying near Beynac and also in the Quercy.
Another day was spent in the Vallee de la Vezere. We went early to Montignac to check out the market (fantastic!) and secured tickets for the first English tour at Lascaux II (first English tour was not until 10:40). I really enjoyed the visit to Lascaux II. After lunch in Montignac (La Roseraie was unfortunately closed so we went to Lou Bombereau nearby and it was not bad) we went to La Roque St Christophe which was my husband's favourite sight of the week! The kids also enjoyed it as well. It was not yet high season so they did not have the demos with the various lifts but that would have been neat to see.
One morning was spent visiting Domme. It happened to be market day so I got to visit another market (one of my favourite activties - St Cyprien was also a great one). We did the little "tourist train" and also visited the Grotte de Domme. The girls begged to eat at the "Pizza du templiers" restaurant (with suit of armour outside, naturellement!). Despite it being quite touristy the pizza and salads were quite good. Domme was one of my favourite towns - great shopping!
Our last morning was spent paddle boarding and we all had a fantastic time. Note that you must be a certain height so only our 8 year old could go out on her own board. The company arranged for me to take out a kayak with the 6 year old. The owner was terrific and also accompanied us on our 8 km excursion (from Cenac to Castelnaud):
It was wonderful to see all of the villages and castles (incl. La Roque Gageac) from the water. After our excursion we grabbed a quick but delicious lunch at L'Eole in St Cybranet where they specialize in summer truffle pizza (fresh shaved summer truffles on pizza and over the accompanying salad - yum!). After lunch we hopped in the car to Toulouse to catch our next flight.
I should also mention that we went to Sarlat twice and it was a lovely, lovely city. We enjoyed our dinner at a ham cellar called "Chez le Gaulois" where they specialize in charcuterie platters (it felt like something out of Asterix and Obelix comic book) and homemade ice cream!). I also tried the tartiflette.
Merci a tous! I really would love to return to this beautiful area again.
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