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Loire Valley or Dordogne area after Bordeaux?

Loire Valley or Dordogne area after Bordeaux?

Old Apr 4th, 2019, 10:27 AM
  #1  
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Loire Valley or Dordogne area after Bordeaux?

We will be ending a river cruise in Bordeaux on May 9th and will have an additional 5+ nights (we will have spent time in Bordeaux prior to the cruise). We are planning on renting a car and exploring an area - having difficulty deciding between the Loire Valley area or the Dordogne area. Any advice out there? Have done research, and both interest us, so just wondering if one is better at that time of year .... if you have been to both and liked one better than another ...

Any tips or info would be greatly appreciated!
kelnlaura is offline  
Old Apr 4th, 2019, 11:01 AM
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Well, obviously I am partial, but the Dordogne IMO is far more interesting, and far more beautiful, than the Loire.
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Old Apr 4th, 2019, 11:23 AM
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Dordogne at that time will be better than Loire - in fact anytime but Dordogne gets super crowded in summer. StCirqi has lived in Dordogne for years and constantly gives really god insider info on not just Dordogne but all of southern France.
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Old Apr 4th, 2019, 11:29 AM
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Those areas are totally different from each other. The Loire is all about Chateaux. We've spent about 8 weeks there because we love chateaux. But there is little else to do other than the chateaux. The large cities are not really that great - none make my list of top 30 in France. And the smaller ones & the villages are not very interesting - except for Chinon.

The Dordogne is just the opposite. It is one of our 2 favorite regions in France. We've vacationed there for 11 weeks. A huge diversity of things to do & see. Below is the introduction to my 20+ page Dordogne itinerary. If you would like the complete itinerary - e-mail me at [email protected] & I'll attach one to the reply e-mail. I've sent my various itineraries to over 6,000 people on Fodors.

The Dordogne is the perfect mix of natural beauty, picturesque villages, astounding historic sites, prehistoric caves, 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 fairytale 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 technology 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 restaurant 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 25,000 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
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Old Apr 4th, 2019, 01:08 PM
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The Dordogne makes more sense from Bordeaux. Depending on the agency, you can rent the car in Bordeaux and return it in Brive-la-Gaillarde. The TGV from Bordeaux is faster, but Brive is closer and the train ride is only about 1 hour longer than from Bordeaux.

The alternative is to rent a car and drive to La Rochelle and then the Loire valley, visiting some of the very intereting Romanesque churches of the Charente (cognac country) and Saintonge. Stop by Saint Savin if doing that trip. You could drop off the car in Chartres and take the train to Paris.

https://flic.kr/s/aHsjoSHwbz

Last edited by Michael; Apr 4th, 2019 at 01:17 PM.
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Old Apr 4th, 2019, 01:15 PM
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I was thinking of Stu and StCirq and came upon this thread, so I just had to comment, my apologies to the OP. Stu, would love to have your Dordogne itinerary, Bordeaux too if you have one.

Once again, sorry to hijack the OP’s thread!
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Old Apr 4th, 2019, 01:46 PM
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Nothing on Bordeaux. E-mail me to get my Dorodgne itinerary.

Stu Dudley
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Old Apr 4th, 2019, 02:21 PM
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Thank you all!

Thank you all so much for the advice. We were leaning that way, but you have helped make up our minds! Dordogne it is!

Thank you Stu for the detailed information and I have emailed you to get your itinerary. I look forward to reading through it.

StCirq, I am going to get more in depth on all your responses on the forum here and try and make some decisions on what to see and do.

Michael, thanks for the idea about the rental car - we haven't planned anything yet, so can't decide if we will do a circle and go back to Bordeaux, or what yet. Glad to know that we don't necessarily have to go back to Bordeaux if we don't want to.

Once again, thanks to everyone for their input!
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Old Apr 4th, 2019, 02:30 PM
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Rental cars: Autoeurope.com is very reliable as a broker.
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Old Apr 4th, 2019, 02:41 PM
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Though technically across the Dordogne River in another department Rocamadour to me was so so special. (Some others here think the opposite! This very subjunctive.) One of medieval Europe's most thriving pilgrimage meccas, pilgrims still make journeys here to see the revered Black Madonna I think or some other icon. (It was years ago I was here - but probably not changed much - a city built climbing a rocky cliff with something special on each level - the river is at the bottom. I've heard it promote itself and 'the 2nd most-touristed site in France after Mont-Saint-Michel'- not sure on that but the place was very busy when I was there. A very unique place well worth a stop-by for few hours.

https://www.google.com/search?q=roca...w=1280&bih=625
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Old Apr 4th, 2019, 02:47 PM
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https://www.google.com/search?q=gouf...ih=625&dpr=1.5

And for the most popular cave in France (according to official site) hit the Gouffre de Padriac - where you descent down a lift or walk to the bottom level that take a boat thru most of the amazing of the caves and walk a little too. If in the area at early evening you'll see a ton of bats flying out of the large cave opening. The Gouffre is not far from Rocamadour, just inside the Lot departement.

Last edited by PalenQ; Apr 4th, 2019 at 02:51 PM.
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Old Apr 4th, 2019, 10:56 PM
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Thanks Stu, will email you.

PalenQ, DH and I visited Rocamadour some 30+ years back and I thought the whole place/location was magical. Another town I loved was Salat. Unfortunately we didn’t see any of the prehistoric caves, though I must have known about them. The first one I saw was Peche Merle last year, though am not sure if it is considered to be in the Dordogne.
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Old Apr 5th, 2019, 03:06 AM
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You're right, geetika, Pech (not Peche)-Merle is not in the Dordogne, but well worth a visit.

Don't count on getting to see the authentic chromatic caves of the Dordogne. The Grotte de Font-de-Gaume no longer offers advance tickets. If you're set on seeing it, you have to get up at 0'dark-thirty and stand in line and hope to get one of the very few seats available, and the tour is likely to be in French. Still, one of the finest prehistoric sites in the Vézère Valley. At the same time, I never cease to be amazed by the reproductions at Lascaux, especially the newest offering - Lascaux IV.

You don't have to go all the way to the Gouffre de Padirac to see a huge gouffre - there's one in Le Bugue, and it's arguably as hokey as the Gouffre de Padirac (not Padriac), maybe more interesting because they lower you into it in a basket (sigh) - the Gouffre de Proumeyssac.
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Old Apr 5th, 2019, 10:15 AM
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LOVE Dordogne!!! Don't miss it.
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Old Apr 5th, 2019, 10:35 AM
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So, for accommodations would you recommend staying in/near Sarlat for the entire time (6 nights) or dividing it up between somewhere near Rocamadour and Sarlat? We would like to see Pech Merle and just wondering if it would be too long of a day trip from Sarlat. I realize that there is so much to see around Sarlat, but many have mentioned Rocamadour as well so don't know if we should add that or not. At this point we are planning on returning the rental car to Brive-la-Gaillarde and taking the train back to Paris for our flight home.

Was looking at a B&B outside of Domme, or perhaps the Esplanade hotel, but wondering if we should stay in Sarlat itself for more dining options, etc. Our 30th anniversary is while we are there so are considering eating at Esplanade and staying there at least that one night. However, I can not find the restaurants hours - our anniversary is on a Monday and I know that many things are closed. Or if anyone has another recommendation for a great meal

Thanks for the information about the caves StCirq. Not sure if getting up early to try and see the Grotte de Font-de-Gaume is worth it or not. I suppose since we have never seen any of them that Lascaux IV would suffice? I know some reviewers do not like it since it is a reproduction... but not sure that is a problem for us

I will definitely look up the Gouffre de Proumeyssac - sounds intriguing to say the least
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Old Apr 5th, 2019, 11:21 AM
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Pech Merle ( thanks for correcting me StCirq, I knew from last year but...) is one of the few caves where you actually get to see the original artwork, an immensely thrilling experience I must say.

If you plan in staying overnight near Pech Merle I strongly recommend Hotel des Grottes in the little village of Cabrerets. Their restaurant is well known in the area, so don’t miss dinner on the terrace by the river, an idyllic setting.
https://www.hoteldesgrottes.com/

We also returned our rental car at Brive la Gaillarde and took the train back to Paris, very convenient.
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Old Apr 5th, 2019, 11:49 AM
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Rocamadour does absolutely nothing for me, except that I can well appreciate the geography surrounding it. I suppose those interested in the handful of Black Virgins around Europe take something away from it, and those interested in pilgrimage sites, but for me it's just a steep cascade of T-shirt and trinket shops and cheap restaurants (OK, there are a couple of good ones), and selfie-taking crowds. Others' opinions will vary of course.

L'Esplanade is a wonderful restaurant, but best as I can tell it's closed Mondays "from February to May." Whether that includes May or not, I'm not sure. I'd email them and ask. Hours are: Déjeuner 12h15-14h Diner de 19h15 à 21h. There are many, many other fine restaurants in the vicinity - depends on how far you want to go (and from where). Sarlat has plenty of dining options and a great Wednesday market (small market, Saturday).

You could certainly spend all 6 nights in or around Sarlat without sacrificing any opportunities to see myriad incredible sights. OTOH, the Périgord has four parts: black, purple, green, and white, and they all have their charms, though the Périgord Noir outshines them all. It really depends on whether you want a change of venue or not, but there''s no need - there are SO many things to see within an hour or less of Sarlat.

BTW, you can certainly do a daytrip from Salat to Rocamadour if you wish. In fact, if you're willing to get up early and make a long day of it (and it will be light until 9:30 pm or so in May, you can do Martel, Collonges-la-Rouges, the Gouffre de Padirac, and Rocamadour in one day (plus more, actually).

Pech-Merle, OTOH, I would probably do as an overnight trip so you could see St-Cirq-la-Popie as well as the cave. Stay in Cabrerets - yup, in Hôtel des Grottes..

Last edited by StCirq; Apr 5th, 2019 at 11:52 AM.
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Old Apr 5th, 2019, 12:17 PM
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Rocamadour has its mysteries. I am still trying to find a logical explanation for the following two pictures, taken about ten minutes apart:

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Old Apr 5th, 2019, 12:17 PM
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This description of Rocamadour is in my Dordogne itinerary.

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).

Stu Dudley
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Old Apr 5th, 2019, 12:27 PM
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In keeping with medieval pilgrim meccas rocomadour's street are filled with ways to fleece tourists - very much in keeping with the history.
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