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Help me choose between two hotels in the Lot

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Jul 20th, 2017, 06:04 AM
  #1
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Help me choose between two hotels in the Lot

Hi to all,

We're planning a trip to the Lot for next year and I'm stuck between two hotels. Some quick background:
we've spent a pretty good amount of time in the Dordogne but would like to make a quick day trip to a couple of places--Sarlat, Beynac--so would like to keep drive time there to about an hour.

We've been to Rocamadour (hated it) and Padirac; want to visit the cluster of villages in the northeast and over into the Correze; Figeac; Saint Cirq Lapopie (if you don't go there they probably arrest you); and a certain amount of time for just wandering. So we're thinking that it makes sense to stay toward the north of the area. Hence these two hotels.

http://www.lepontdelouysse.com/en

http://www.3soleils.fr/

Has anybody stayed at either place? Do we have a better choice of restaurants in the area at Les Trois Soleils? Lacave is basically a hamlet. Given how touristy the area around St. Cere is, I'm assuming there are more restaurants.

Looked at the Chateau de Treyne, but it's a bit expensive for a 8- or 10-day stay and we have the same concern about restaurants. Neither our bank balance nor our cholesterol levels allow us to eat in their restaurant every night. The restaurants at both the hotels we're considering have Michelin stars, so that will be fun for a couple of nights, but we need other options as well.

Other ideas are welcome. We want a place with a modicum of charm, preferably toward the north of the region, and air conditioning. We just sweated through the June heat wave in Aix and in Paris, where it hit 100, and I know from experience how hot the SW can get. So lack of a/c is a deal breaker.

Thanks for your thoughts.
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Jul 20th, 2017, 06:20 AM
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Have you considered a gite instead of a hotel? we stayed in a lovely one in Banne near St cere several years ago i found it on a Dutch site but I know the owners speak good English.
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Jul 20th, 2017, 06:22 AM
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We stayed very close to Trois Soleils for 2 weeks last year. We also dined there, and also dined at Ch Treyne and Le Pont de l'Ouysse. We enjoyed our dinner at Trois Soleils more than the other two.

As far as location is concerned, you can't beat Trois Soleils if you want to be in the Lot area. Below is part of my Dordogne itinerary that describes this region.

Where to stay east of the A20

We stayed in a gite directly on the Dorodnge river in Carennac for 2 weeks in 2016. In Carennac, we dined twice (we really enjoyed it!) at Hostellerie Fenelon - which is also a hotel http://www.hotel-fenelon.com/ . The Hostellerie certainly won't break the bank. Carennac is perfectly located and is one of our favorite village in the region (more on Carennac later).

Also in the Carennac area just a few kilometers west of St Cere near Chateau Montal, is Les Trois Soleils de Montal. It is also a Michelin 1 star restaurant. On our 2016 trip, it was our favorite restaurant in the Dordogne area. We dined there in 2000 also. http://www.3soleils.fr/hotel-restaurant-lot-46/?lang= en/ .

If you have always wanted to stay in a castle (and splurge for the privilege) try Chateau de la Treyne in Lacave http://www.chateaudelatreyne.com/en/ . We had our anniversary dinner there in 2016 and it is also a Michelin 1 star restaurant. However, although the immediate area around Lacave is extremly scenic, it is not as centrally located in the east of the A20 area as Carennac/St Cere.


Visiting the sites east of the A20

My wife & I stayed in this region and rented a gite in Carennac for 2 weeks in early Sept 2016. As I mentioned earlier, if you are planning on visiting the Dordogne for 6 nights or more, spend some time in this area by either staying for 2-3 nights, or visiting it on the way from or to the Languedoc or Provence regions east of the Dordogne.

Someone recently asked me to name our favorite "cute little villages" in this "east of the A20" region. They are:
St Cirq Lapopie**
Carennac*+
Martel*
Collonges la Rouge**
Rocamadour does not fit my definition of a "cute little village"
As noted below, Figeac is one of our "top 5" small cities in France

To describe the sites to visit, I'll suggest two "day trips" from the Central/Sarlat Dordogne area, plus comments on "what's left?"

If you only have time for one day-trip in this area
I would recommend heading out early and drive to the St Cirq Lapopie and the Pech Merle Cave area. Pech Merle is a 1 1/2 hr scenic drive from Sarlat via Gourdon. Reserve ahead for Pech Merle*** http://en.pechmerle.com/ and try to get an early morning tour. The cave opens at either 9:15 or 9:30 in the tourist season. There is also a museum associated with the cave. Pech Merle is the only cave you can visit that has both stalactites & mites and pre-historic cave paintings. It's our favorite in the region. After visiting Pech Merle (or before, if you reserved later in the morning) visit St Cirq Lapopie** - one of the best "Plus Beaux Villages" in France https://www.francetoday.com/travel/t...llages-france/ . St Cirq would be a good choice for lunch. After Pech Merle/St Cirq, drive along the beautiful Cele River* (D41) to one of our "top 5" small cities in France - Figeac**. While driving along the Cele River to Figeac, admire the medieval houses built into the sides of the stone cliffs. Espagnac Ste Eulalie is an good village for a walk-around and St Sulpice has some interesting troglodyte buildings. Marcilhac sur Cele is only OK - walk by the Cele river next to the Abbey.



They have done a very good job of making Figeac** a tourist friendly town. There’s a walking itinerary in the Michelin Green Guide, and you can also obtain an excellent walking itinerary (in English) at the tourist office. The Tourist Office itinerary is much better than the Michelin one. The various sites are marked with placards along the way. Note the top floor “porches” around town which were used for drying laundry, storing wood, growing plants, etc. in medieval times. This is a beautiful town – we spent 1 ½ hrs walking around, following the itinerary we obtained from the tourist office. Almost every store in town was closed for lunch (not that great of a shopping town anyway), and most stores were closed on Monday (Sunday also). By contrast, we spent less than 30 minutes touring Cahors.

In '05, we drove from Cahors to Figeac following the Cele River, and back to Cahors following the Lot River. We thought that the Cele River was the more scenic of the two, although both are quite picturesque.

After visiting Figeac, head back to the Sarlat area. It should take you 2 hrs via the D802, and 2 1/4 hrs via the D80 which passes close to Rocamadour*** (no time for a visit at this point) and through Martel* (visit if you have the time - see below).

Another day trip from Sarlat
Get an early start from Sarlat and head to Collonges-la-Rouge**. It should take you 1 1/2 hrs to drive there from Sarlat. This "red" village is ultra touristy – in fact, I don’t think anybody lives there – it’s just a mecca for tourists. That's why you should visit it first on this day-trip - to avoid the hordes. Nevertheless, it is very lovely if you can ignore the many trinket shops. Get a walking itinerary from the tourist office and just wander around. We spent a couple of hours visiting Collonges la Rouge in '16 (third visit).

After Collonges la Rouge, drive the short distance to Turenne*. Park the car in the large lot at the entrance to the village and take a few pictures from the parking lot. Pick up a walking map at the Tourist Office and walk to the square in town, through the narrow streets, and up to the chateau. This town is on the cover of my “the Most Beautiful Villages of France” book.

From Turenne, take the scenic D8 north, then the D158 west to Noaillas. There is an interesting chateau in Noaillas that caught my wife's attention. Then take the D920 north into Brive La Gaillarde. When you drive under a train overcrossing, take a left on the first busy road, and then another left (maybe first left) onto Ave Jean Jaures and park the car on the street or the lot near the train station.

Next, visit the "big surprise" of our 2016 trip - Brive la Gaillarde++. This small city was not awarded any stars by the Michelin folks. We mentioned this "no stars" to the proprietor of our gite in Carennac & she said "don't tell anyone about Brive - we want to keep if for ourselves". See the map of Brive in the Green Guide and head into the old section of town by following Ave Jean Jauras. When you see some marvelous Belle Epoque buildings on the busy ring road around Brive, cross the ring road onto R. de l'Hotel de Ville and to the central square in town next to the St Martin Church. Then follow the walking itinerary in the Green Guide. Be sure to walk up & back on the pedestrian streets of both R. de la Republic and R. du Lt-Col Faro (which you might use to get back to your car). We visited Brive on a Saturday - which I think would be the best day to visit it (definitely not on a Sunday or Monday). Brive would be a good place for lunch. We had an ice cream sundae there.

If there is time left on the day, head west on the D1089 to Terrasson Lavilledieu*. This town is on the Vezere River and their weekly farmer's market actually extends out on a bridge over the river. Wander around the village a bit.


What's left to see east of the A20
The following can't be visited on a day-trip from Sarlat. There is just too much to do & see. Perhaps visit these sites in the order listed, and stop when you get tired or run out of time.

Rocamadour*** - how to avoid the kitsch
On a sunny Friday on Sept 9 in 2016, we headed out from our gite in Carennac and arrived in l'Hospitalet around 9:15 AM to take pictures of Rocamadour in the distance (views are only good in the morning sun). There is a huge dirt lot where you can park & walk through to get different view perspectives. Then we arrived in Rocamadour at 9:45 and got "lucky" & parked our car in the small lot directly in front of the Porte du Figuier (which is the easternmost entrance to the main medieval street in Rocamadour). We walked along the main medieval street, and there were virtually no tourists then. We had arrived before the shops opened and before they had the opportunity to pull the postcard stands, racks with toothbrushes (with every possible child's names on them), and other junk out onto the street. We walked down the medieval street and back, taking pictures without any people or postcard stands in them. We then took the elevator up to the cluster of churches and wandered around until around 11am when the bells started tolling to call people to mass. My wife & I are big architecture fans. My wife leads two "Victorian House" themed tours in San Francisco sponsored by the public library. If we find ourselves in a village with tacky/kitsch on the streets, we remind each other to "look at the upper floors of the building & don't look at the shops on the street level". That's why I advise people to visit Rocamadour very early in the morning or late in the afternoon - to avoid the kitsch. We departed around 11:30 - and Rocamadour was getting very crowded. We've visited Rocamadour three times, and this was our best trip (we did not visit the upper Chateau on this '16 trip). After visiting Rocamadour, we headed on the D32 south of Rocamadour to take pictures of this fantastic village clinging to a cliff from a distance (others were doing the same).

Next, drive the short distance to Gouffre de Padirac**. This is a large "wet" (still living) cavern/cave with an underground river, and stalactites & mites. You can take the elevator down the cavern (or walk on stairs), then walk a bit on a path, and get on a boat. When 10 or so people fill up the boat, it takes off along the underground river. The boat stops and you meet a guide for the stalactites & mites tour. Then back on the boat & up the escalator (avoiding the photograph pickup line). We've visited The Gouffre de Padirac three times - and find it to be fascinating. Many of the caves in the region were carved out by underground rivers which dried up thousands of years ago. The Gouffre de Padiriac still has the river flowing through it.

Small villages of Autoire* and Loubressac*
Driving to & from these villages is very picturesque. Follow the roads shaded in green on the 329 Michelin map to get to these villages. Autoire is the more interesting of these two. Much of Loubressac around the castle is "not accessible". In Autoire, park in the big lot just outside & below the town (pay the parking fee - which you may not notice), walk into town past the mushroom vender on the left, to the center of town with the fountain, cafe on the left, & wine merchant opposite the cafe. Then further along to the house with turrets. Then retrace your steps back past the cafe, uphill to the right - then just follow your nose back to the parking lot. Perhaps a 45 min visit. We had a very enjoyable Sunday lunch at the one cafe in Autoire - the Auberge de la Fountaine (also a hotel). Reserve ahead, or get there early (especially on Sunday).

Head towards St Cere, but first take the D940 south to Grotte de Presque*+. The is a interesting cave with stalactites & mites & well worth a visit. Pick up tickets at the small concession stand then follow the tour guide to the entrance of the grotte. This is a privately-owned grotte, and the owner (woman) may be the person who sold you the tickets.

Nearby Montal** is a lovely chateau with some interesting features, but the (only in French) tour can get a bit tedious. We've visited it twice.

Head into St Cere*. We stayed overnight in St Cere once, visited it three times, and had dinner at the very pleasant Hotel de la France. It is a tad difficult to drive into & out of this village - most of the streets are one-way. From Montal, just keep driving until you pass most of the town and arrive at a large intersection with lots of parking. If it is market day (Sat + 1st & 3rd Wed) this square will be filled with vendors. Park where you can (we parked near the Hotel de la France), and follow the walking itinerary in the Michelin Green Guide. The "biggie" here is the Place du Mercadial - there is a photo of one of the shops on the Place in the Green Guide.


As you drive into St Cere, you will probably notice the tall towers on a huge hill above St Cere. When you leave St Cere, circle clockwise around this hill until you find the entrance to chateau area. This chateau is where the artist Jean Lurcat lived & worked. It is now a museum about him. We were not interested in his work, but we walked around the chateau quite a bit - enjoying the views, and admiring the grounds.

From St Cere, drive north on the D940 (with a bit of commerce - we had our car repaired at a garage on this road) to the scenic D43 to Chateau Castlenau-Bretenoux**. You have likely viewed this chateau already - it can be seen from many, many different spots in the region. We've visited it three time (we're "chateau nuts"). The views are good, and the chateau is interesting. A few people have found it to be a bit boring, though we didn't.

Get back on the D940 heading north through some ugly commerce & grocery stores, to Beaulieu**--. We've visited this town twice - and we can't figure out why it gets two stars from Michelin. One of my "pet peeves" about the Michelin rating system is that they give stars to a site if there is a historic or nice church in the town. I didn't think the church was that great, nor the town very interesting. I suggest that you bypass Beaulieu and instead:

Take the very scenic D12 to Argentat*. It's best to visit Argentat in the morning - just before lunchtime. Look up Argentat in the Green Guide and notice the picture of the buildings along the Dordogne River. To get into Argentat, do not follow the D12 into town. Instead, when the D12 intersects the D1120, take the D1120 south & over the Dordogne River, then take an off-ramp from the D1120 north back towards Argentat. I think this route is well marked - because it is the "scenic" route into town. As soon as you spot "the bridge" over the Dordogne into Argentat - park the car. Grab the camera, walk towards this bridge into Argentat and take about 10-20 photos of the picturesque riverside promenade from the bridge that crosses over the Dordogne (beautiful). We walked around Argentat quite a bit (only a C+), and also visited the mildly interesting Maison du Patrimoine (skip it). The "thing" you do in Argentat is to have lunch at one of the cafes on the riverside promenade. We had a very enjoyable Sunday lunch at Auberge de Garabiers. As lunchtime approached 2:30 pm, the sun lit up the beautiful buildings on the "other" side of the Dordogne River - where you parked the car.

Get back on the scenic D12, to the un-scenic D940 heading south. Cross the Cere river into Brentenoux (an interesting "drive through"). Take the D14 heading west, the D43, and then follow the scenic D30 west into Carennac. Do not take the faster but non-scenic D803 on the north side of the Dordogne.

Carennac*+. This is a gem of a town. The best time to visit is in the afternoon when the sun lights up the view. Park anywhere you can (it's a small town). I think there is a parking lot outside of town a bit. Wander through town - the main street, castle area, and also the other streets away from the river. Pick up a village map at the tourist office inside a courtyard that also provides access to the church & chateau. Look up Carennac in the Green Guide and notice the picture. This view is at the west end of town on main street and across a bridge. Walk across the bridge to a small private parking pad on your right. Look back over the bridge for the view and take 5-10 pictures. Just past this "pad" take the paved road to the right - down towards the river. Just on your left across the street from the upper "pad" is a wood gate with a medieval house inside the gate. This is where we stayed for 2 weeks in 2016. Walk past our gite, and to a dirt path going down to the river. Continue on this path past an abandoned square tower, a vegetable garden to the left, to the path along the river. Look back at our house & see the balcony & tower of our gite (more photos?). Then walk along the river until you encounter a road that will get you back to the village.

Next, here is a very scenic drive to Martel*+. Depart Carennac heading west from the view on the D43 along the Dordogne river. Pass through Mezels and soon you will encounter a 1-car-wide bridge over the Dordogne River. Turn right & cross the Dordogne on this bridge, and proceed straight on the D80 (lots of orchards along the way) until you see a tunnel under a train crossing. Turn left before the tunnel and proceed west until this road hits the D32. At the D32 turn left (southwest) and follow this very scenic stretch of road along the Dordogne. The D32 will hit the D840 where you will head north to Martel. Do not stop at the Belvedere de Copeyre*--. Martel*+ is a very attractive Bastide town. It has some interesting shops to browse through and would be a good place for lunch around the central square with the 18C Covered Market. Follow the walking itinerary in the Green Guide. We've visited Martel 3-4 times.
Now - another scenic drive to Grottes Lacave**-. Retrace your route on the D840 heading south to the D23/D43 at Gluges. Turn right (west) on the D32 and proceed to Creysse. We wandered around in Creysse and really enjoyed this very small village. There was a charming outdoor cafe that we though might be a good place for lunch on an upcoming day - but we did not return. The church was undergoing roof repairs. We went inside the church and noticed the "Monument to the Morts" that exists in every hamlet, village, town, & city in France. We noticed one family named Lafon that lost three "sons" in WWI. We then walked outside the church to find that "Lafon & Co. Construction" was painted on the side of the truck belonging to the roof construction crew. Follow the D114 from Creysse counterclockwise around the Dordogne to St Sozy. We took some pictures from the road of the towers in tiny St Sozy. Then continue on the D15 to Meyronne. Then take the D23 past the beautiful Rochers de Monges (steep limestone cliffs) to Grottes Lacave**- (well marked). As I indicated earlier, this is not one of our favorite caves, but the drive there is worth it. When we went on the tour just after the lunch opening, it was quite crowded. We were the only people on the tour of Grotte de Presque. This was our 2nd visit to Lacave.

Proceed from Grotte Lacave on the D23 south, and take an abrupt right on the D43 to Chateau La Treyne (mentioned earlier in the "places to stay" section), and where we had our anniversary dinner. Drive past La Treyne & over the bridge, and then back over the bridge again to La Treyne to view the fantastic site of this Chateau high above the Dordogne River. Park the car at La Treyne, browse through the gardens, and then poke your nose into the chateau & wander around a bit.

Well - that's the end of the "east of the A20" suggestions. I did not fit Curemonte* into any driving itineraries. But you can visit it from the Collonges la Rouge itinerary or the Rocamadour one. Curemonte is a very small village with a picturesque chateau, a cafe, a covered wooden market, and one vendor selling dried onions and shallots out of his garage. There are not many tourists in Curemonte. We walked the streets thoroughly in '16.

Stu Dudley
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Jul 20th, 2017, 06:38 AM
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I stayed in Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne last week, which is actually in Corrèze. Quite nice -- I was at the Relais de Vellinus. Fantastic value for a 2-star hotel.
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Jul 20th, 2017, 06:50 AM
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Thanks for the replies. Hetismij, we usually rent houses when we travel, but we haven't found one with a/c that we like and that isn't too much in the middle of nowhere for us; we're city people, and we like to be in a place with a few services and cafes, rather than a hamlet. There's an a/c rental in Carennac, but it just didn't appeal.

Thanks, Stu, for your thoughts and the itinerary. They're always helpful as we map out our plans.

FWIW, we're also looking at the Domaine de la Rhue, a well-reviewed chambres d'hote.
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Jul 20th, 2017, 07:20 AM
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We were in our gite in Carennac in '16 during their massive Sept heatwave. We didn't have AC, but it was cooler so close to the Dordogne river, the gite was well insulated, and we were never too hot. This year, we were in Provence during their massive heatwave - without AC. We were either in the pool or in the air-conditioned car at mid-day when it was the hottest. Inside the gite was OK - but a little warmer than what we like.

Here is my wife's Shutterfly book from our trip to the Lot & Dordogne (11th weeks there) last year. Click "full screen" - but for the first time today, I noticed that "full screen" was missing on the first page. perhaps Shutterfly made some more "enhancements" and messed up. The Lot section starts on page 26 & goes through pg 77.
https://stududley.shutterfly.com/54

Stu Dudley
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Jul 20th, 2017, 07:21 AM
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Thanks for the suggestion, Kerouac. I took a look at the Relais de Vellinus, but it's clearly not a/c. I don't want to start that whole thing up again about Americans and their air conditioning, but I've had a bad reaction to heat since I was in my teens and for me it's simply not up for debate.
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Jul 20th, 2017, 11:17 AM
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I would choose Domaine de la Rhue in a heartbeat.

And if you hated Rocamadour (as I do), there's a decent chance you'll hate St-Cirq-Lapopie (as I do) as well.

FWIW, it's been a weird summer thusfar here in the SW of France, everything from scorching hot (38C) to cool as in today. If you need AC, you need AC.
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Jul 22nd, 2017, 09:10 AM
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In Figeac, Chambres d'hôtes Les Pratges. Perfect location, maybe 200' from the TI, but not smack in the middle of bustle.

Outside Sarlat, La Ferme des Genestes (http://mazet.roland.free.fr/)
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