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Moolyn's Excellent Adventures in the Dordogne: June 2006

Moolyn's Excellent Adventures in the Dordogne: June 2006

Old Jul 22nd, 2006, 09:59 AM
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>>Perhaps this would be the place to mention that the vast majority of tourists we saw were French. Or perhaps heard would be the better word. Brits formed the second largest group and many were residents or had second homes there. Germans and Dutch came next with North Americans last.<<

When we were there for 2 weeks in early Sept, we only encountered 1 American couple.

>>We were never quite able to figure our why some roads are marked scenic on the Michelin maps while others, every bit as scenic, are not. M. Michelin seems to prefer windy roads with a view or roads through wooded areas. Our version of a Michelin map would for sure have many more green lines!<<

My wife & I joke about the green roads all the time. If we are driving down a road and it is solid forest on both sides of the road & all you can see is tree trunks, one of us will say "this must be a Michelin Green road". You are correct in your assessment - Michelin loves roads with expansive views (often too hazy to see anything in the summer), and also through forests - which naturally would not impress a Canadian. Beautiful open countryside (like in the Cantel) never gets a "green road" designation.

We use the "clock" system for the round-abouts also.

How did you like the twisted steeple at St Come???. BTW, you stopped at the two best villages on the Lot - Estaing & St Eulalie. Did you sit on the bench on the opposite side of the Lot from St Eulalie & admire the view from there? If anyone needs a place to stay in that area that won't break the bank, consider staying at Auberge St Fleuret in Estaing. We did not stay there (we were in a Gite close by for 2 weeks) but we dined there & it was our second best meal in the area - the best was in Rodez at Gouts et Couleurs.

Stu Dudley

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Old Jul 22nd, 2006, 10:10 AM
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>>looked for the Stuís bench overlooking the village. We never found it <<

You found it!! It was the bench where you had the Pique-Nique. We have the same photos from the bench - I recognize the tree!!!

Loved the pics of Estaing. We passed by there probably 15 times & wanted to stop & take more photos each time. That village can gobble up a ot of photos. On one of the weekends we were there, they had a medieval festival & all the locals were dressed in costome - more photos.

Stu Dudley
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Old Jul 22nd, 2006, 10:21 AM
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Hi again moolyn,

I finally got a chance to catch up and see all your photographs - wonderful! I can tell you are an artist... just love the way you frame all your pictures. The cheese plate looks absolutely divine.

And I must say I'm now convinced... it will definitely be the Dordogne before Provence
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Old Jul 22nd, 2006, 12:51 PM
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Thanks, Murphy! I like it too when I can picture the person writing the report. Seriously, you have to go to the Dordogne. Just be prepared to be happy the whole time youíre there!

Jill, thanks! Iím glad youíre already convinced. Just wait until we actually get to the Dordogne! Thereís so much there to see and do. We left a lot for next time.

Stu, welcome home from Burgandy! I look forward to reading your report.

I think the twisted steeple at St Come is in one of my photos. I emailed Auberge St Fleuret when Cabelong cancelled but..... desole, complet. Robjame stayed there, however, and liked it. He sent me photos of his meal and it looked great.

So glad we found your bench in Conques. It was a most memorable spot. We missed the first one because I reread your itinerary in a hurry that morning. You had written St. Come instead of St. Geniez. I would have realized what you meant if Iíd taken more time.

And of course we hit the villages you like best because you were our guide! But we thoroughly agreed with your choices..
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Old Jul 22nd, 2006, 12:57 PM
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Upper Dordogne

After a pleasant buffet breakfast with lots of choices we set out for the Dordogne, later than weíd planned because breakfast wasnít offered until 9:00. Our goal was Chateau Bretanou-Castelnau and we drove merrily past signs for Chateau Castelnau not realizing that it was the same place. By the time we figured this out and arrived at the gate it was 11:30 and it had just closed for lunch, one hour ahead so that the last tour would finish by 12:30. So we wandered around the castle village and the chapel and then drove off in search of more MBVFs. First Autoire (cute) then Loubressac (cuter) and finally Carennac, the cutest. In Loubressac we met up with an older British couple who had been locked out of Castelnau just like us; weíd actually related the bad news to them. They were returning after lunch for the 2:00 reopening but we had to press onward.

By this time it was almost 2:00 and we were more than ready for lunch. Right in the middle of Carennac, near the chateau, was a creperie/café that offered omelettes and salads as well as galettes and crepes. The outside tables were full so we ate inside along with a large group of tough-looking but friendly bikers. The chef showed us the two large, separate bags of flour, one with wheat and one with buckwheat, but they were in the same bin and he couldnít be positive that the buckwheat flour hadnít been contaminated. I decided against ordering a galette even though it was probably safe. I ended up buying a crepe pan instead later on to make my own. We highly recommend finding this place for a great lunch.

Lots of Upper Dordogne photos: http://tinyurl.com/s5shn

Carlux

After wandering around Carennac some more we followed the Dordogne through Martel and Soilllac to Rouffillac then north to Carlux, the village, to meet Carlux, the woman, who manages the Sarlat house we rented as well as being a Fodorís regular. I originally contacted her when I was looking for a February gite and her website caught my attention. When she responded to a question I asked about gluten free crepes on Fodorís, giving her real name as well as her screen nam, I realized that weíd ďmetĒ before. It turned out that Carlux is originally Canadian, from Toronto in fact, and that her sister is a celiac like me so itís a small world. Carlux escorted us to Sarlat to show us our home for the next two weeks and we had a chance to visit before her husband picked her up.

That first time in Carlux I was so intent on finding Le Fournil where Carlux lives that I didnít notice what a lovely village it is. It would be a great place to live as itís only about 15 minutes away from Sarlat, right in the middle of the most interesting part of the Dordogne. We returned another day for a drink with Carlux and her husband, Harry, on their shady terrace. We envy and admire them for having the courage to relocate to the Dordogne twelve years ago after falling in love with the area, overcoming many obstacles in order to live out their dream.

Photos of Carlux: http://tinyurl.com/z4fjd

La Bouquerie

Our home for the next two weeks was a tastefully renovated, medieval house hidden away in the northeast corner of Sarlat, just outside the town walls near Place de La Bouquerie from which it takes its name. To get to La Bouquerie we walked up a narrow laneway beside the boulangerie where DH bought his daily baguette then around a corner. It was nicer and more spacious than it looked in the website photos, plenty of room for the two of us to spread out and do our own stuff. It was described as sleeping three but probably another friendly couple could fit on the sofa bed in the second bedroom. DH used that room for reading late at night. Because the owners occupy it for part of the year it was extremely comfortable and well-equipped. It was almost too nice; if there wasnít so much to see and do in the area I would have been quite content to just lounge around and read my way through the many books lined up along the top of the staircase. Before long we came to regard La Bouquerie as our house.

We arrived at the beginning of a heat wave more typical of July and August than June and were a little concerned at first because there was no air conditioning. It was not a problem. We closed all the windows and shutters before we set out each and every morning and returned to an invitingly cool house in the late afternoon. The upstairs was warm until we opened the windows after dusk but then it was cool and comfortable for sleeping.

Very conveniently the owners had left their local tour books and maps and Carlux provided binders with information and recommendations as well as local walks. We love walking but it was just too hot while we were there. Next time.

Across the laneway was another lovely stone house, La Vigne, also managed by Carlux and also very pleasant. Carlux gave us a tour before it was occupied but I didnít have my camera with me then, darn. I took some rooftop photos from the balcony later on after we got to know the American couple from Denver staying there. We bonded immediately because he grew up in Buffalo in the same era as we grew up just across the river in Canada. Back in those days Buffalo had the coolest clothes, the best radio stations and a lower drinking age so Canadian teenagers were always shuffling over there. Now it amuses us that the current has changed and people from the Buffalo area like to visit Toronto and Niagara. People from farther away probably arenít aware of this long time Toronto/Buffalo connection but we even support each others sports teams.

Website for La Bouquerie: http://www.gite.com/la-bouquerie
Website for La Vigne: http://www.gite.com/la-vigne
Photos of La Bouquerie and La Vigne:

Next: Sarlat and the Bistro de líOctroi
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Old Jul 22nd, 2006, 01:19 PM
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Moolyn,

I have rented Le Fournil for a month in the fall of 2007...mid Sept to mid Oct. I will also be seeing Carlux in Sept. when I am in the area for 6 days......

Joan
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Old Jul 22nd, 2006, 03:28 PM
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>>arrived at the gate it was 11:30 and it had just closed for lunch, one hour ahead so that the last tour would finish by 12:30.<<

This is why I often tell people that they can't pack as much into a day in Europe as they can in the US (or Canada) - you have to schedule everythihng around the lunch closings. Too bad you missed a lovely chateau.

Stu Dudley
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Old Jul 23rd, 2006, 05:08 AM
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Joan, you will love Carlux and Le Fournil. Have you been to the Dordogne before? Lucky you to be going this year and again next!

Stu, those lunch closings sure wreak havoc but you learn to work around them. Fortunately the scenery is always open.

Chateau Bretanou-Castelnau was the only thing we totally missed out on because of the lunch closing and it was our own fault because we knew we had to get there early. It was frustrating because we just missed by seconds. If only we had realized we should follow the Castelnau signs! If only DH hadn't stopped to use the facilities on the way uphill!
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Old Jul 23rd, 2006, 06:14 AM
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I'm really enjoying your report and photos. Having just returned from a European vacation which did not include any time in France, I am feeling the need for a French fix, and this is just what the doctor ordered.
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Old Jul 23rd, 2006, 06:14 AM
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Moolyn,

Yes, I have been in the area before. It has been awhile, though.

This fallI will first be east of Carcassonne and then down close to Spanish border in Llo and then up to the Dordogne and then on down to Sare (SE of Biarritz)) and Basque country. I'm checking out some areas to see if I would like to make arrangements for longer stays.

I already knew that I wanted a longer stay in the Dordogne, so I rented in Carlux for the month for 2008.

I'm beginning to gather info on Brittany for a month's stay. Probably have to split that up into more than one area to see and do all that I would want to do.

Enjoying your report.......
Joan


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Old Jul 23rd, 2006, 07:02 AM
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Moolyn, I am definately taking notes! You saw some amazing places. I really enjoy looking at your photographs - they stir the imagination.

Lovely shots of Carennac and the one of the Castelnau roof tops is a stunner.

Looking forward to more ~o)

Cheers,

Murphy
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Old Jul 23rd, 2006, 08:29 AM
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I was so excited to see the photos of your last installment. We are spending 3 nights in the Lot and specifically Carennac. It looks like a lovely town. I wish we had more time to linger but my vacation time is limited. We are staying in a gite outside of Domme in Cenac et Julien for a week so your report will be extremely helpful for us.

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Old Jul 23rd, 2006, 09:32 AM
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>>We are staying in a gite outside of Domme in Cenac et Julien for a week <<

Crazy - I may have already asked you this - but who is the proprietor of your Gite. We've stayed in a Gite in Cenac for 8 weeks. perhaps it's the same one.

Stu Dudley
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Old Jul 23rd, 2006, 11:00 AM
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A quick note from 'Carlux the person' to say that I dont think you miss much by not seeing the inside of Caselnau Bretenoux, which was one of the least interesting chateaux we've seen. Great from outside, not so much from inside. And a comment - the first time we came to the Dordogne we wandered around the Chateau at Castelnaud while I read the Green guide to my husband - only to discover that I had confused the two chateaux. "Forget all I just said, and I'll start again!'
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Old Jul 23rd, 2006, 03:11 PM
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Hi Stu,

If I was a better investigator, I would have figured out exactly where you stayed but I couldn't quite pin it down.

We are renting from Jean LaRoche but I'm fairly certain it's not the same one. It is called Gite Laurier and is actually a manor house made up of two separate properties. Gite Laurier is a 3 bedroom and Gite Glycine which is a 5 bedroom. They have their own gardens but share a common pool.

I looked on the Gites of France website and did not see any right in Cenac that looked like they had a nice outdoor sitting area. The one you rent from what information I could gather is a two bedroom closer to the river. Gite Laurier is located just outside of Cenac in La Burague. I had my choice of that or a 5 bedroom/5 bath manor in Le Capiol. The house in Capiol seemed so large. You were away at the time we were booking so I couldn't quite find anyone to consult about the location. Hopefully we made the right choice.

I thank you again for sending me your notes on the Dordogne. The information will be a valuable tool I'm sure. I know it was for Tuscany.

Regards...Kelly
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Old Jul 24th, 2006, 05:12 AM
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Nikki, thanks! You are one of the people whose reports of the Dordogne inspired me so Iím pleased to return the favour. You probably donít remember but you also advised me on how to share photos.

Joan, you think like me. We too wanted to spend some time in areas other than the Dordogne to see if weíd like to stay there longer next time. As you discovered, you can easily spend a month in the Dordogne. Brittany appeals to me too, especially since I can eat the galettes!

Murphy, I just love rooftops and chimney pots. I have woodblock prints of some Japanese rooftops hanging in my living room from a trip there. We have such boring roofs in Canada, donít we?

Crazy, Carennac is truly lovely but itís actually on the Dordogne and not the Lot. As for Cenac, thatís the very best place to rent a canoe to paddle down the Dordogne, one of the highlights of our trip. Iíll get to that section in a few days. When do you leave? I want to make sure I post it before you go.

Stu, Cenac would be a perfect spot to stay in the Dordogne. I can understand why you return year after year.

Carlux, the person, great to know youíre reading this report. I mention you and your mentoring often. Your advice was very helpful and greatly appreciated.

It was that Castelnau/Castelnaud similarity that made us drive by the signs. We knew that there was a Chateau Caslelnaud as well as Bretenoux Castelnau from reading our Michelin Green Guide at breakfast that morning and that Castelnaud wasnít the one we wanted. Glad to know we arenít the only ones who have been bamboozled by the similar names! We had a wonderful day in any case.

Crazy/Kelly, Stu et al, I was feeling badly yesterday that family responsibilities kept me from my hostessing duties but you guys are amazing. You entertained yourselves!

Next section in a few minutes I promise!
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Old Jul 24th, 2006, 05:36 AM
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I don't like to wish my life away...but I don't leave until next May!! I had to book early because I'm using bonus points. Also, it was mentioned on this site that the gites get booked far in advance so I didn't want to take a chance at waiting too long.

Loving your report and photos. I have to say that this board was invaluable for my trip to Tuscany and the willingness for people to share is wonderful.
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Old Jul 24th, 2006, 05:47 AM
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Bistro de líOctroi

After settling in we crossed the main road to explore the beautiful, old town of Sarlat and find a place to eat that evening. Armed with a few recommendations we strolled around town, checking menus, all the way across to the Place de la Grande Regaudie where a fun festival of ancient games was being held. We lingered there for a while then walked northward along the Rue de la Republique, past the Hotel Madelaine for about a hundred yards to a fork in the road wherein nestles Bisto de líOctroi. Octroi is the old name for a tollbooth, the function of the building in ancient times. Although we sat in the courtyard between two roads, as you can see in the photo, there was little noise from traffic.

LíOctroi is owned by the same people who own la Meynardie. The food is very good and very reasonable so we ate there on the terrace three more times, once with the couple staying in La Vigne. I would have been embarrassed to admit that we ate at the same place so often if Carlux hadnít stated in a recent thread that it is currently recognized as the best restaurant in town. Wow, we were more astute than I realized. We donít care whether food is traditional or innovative as long as it tastes good and I can eat safely; LíOctroi more than met our requirements. Itís very popular with locals who tend to come in groups. One evening we sat beside a French couple with a two-year-old daughter whose eyes lit up when she was served the bouquet de crevettes. Mom and dad had a hard time pealing the prawns fast enough to keep up to her demand! We left at that point so I didnít find out whether this junior gourmand ate a full three-course meal.

The menu was set up in an interesting way. On the 17 euro page, for example, the starter was five euros, the main nine euros and the dessert only three but you could mix and match with other menus, selecting a more expensive dessert or main or whatever. From the 17 euro menu we especially enjoyed the bouquet de crevettes and the salad with chevre for entrees, the pork tenderloin main course and both the ils flottante and the brownie with ice cream for dessert. Iím quite a connoisseur of ils flottante and this version was the very best Iíve ever had anywhere. I even considered asking if I could order an extra one to take home, perhaps for breakfast. Itís mostly egg, after all. LíOctroi offers a Bergerac rose that we really liked and could never find in a wine store, Chateau Rez.

Bistro de lOctroi photos: http://tinyurl.com/h6sqo

Sarlat

Before deciding to rent La Bouquerie I considered many arguments here for and against staying right in Sarlat. The main criticisms were the traffic getting in and out of town and the difficulty of finding parking, especially on market days. Well, at the beginning of June traffic was not an issue. Since La Bouquerie came with a garage we had no parking concerns either and we were already in town for the market. As it turned out, we always found a spot in the free public parking lot nearby so we never even used the garage.

In its favour, Sarlat is in the centre of all of the main attractions of the Dordogne area and itís an unbelievably charming town. Itís not just a tourist attraction either; itís a real town with real people as Robjame told me. Although it doesnít possess any of the most highly rated restaurants of the Dordogne, there are many very good restaurants and we were pleased to be able to wine and dine well then stroll indirectly home afterwards. Especially romantic in the evening, Sarlat is beautiful at any time of day. We got to experience them all.

We discovered that weíd arrived on a long weekend so the town was a little more crowded than usual for early June. My plan for our first full day was to get to know the lay of the land and to shop for basic provisions. Fortunately we found a grocery store that was open on the holiday and spent a couple of happy hours examining all the different foods and non-foods and choosing our staples. There was a whole rack of sudoko and I bought a book of samurai sudoko that arenít readily available in North America. After lunch we wandered around town some more, happy simply to be there, and picked up information at the tourist office. We decided to eat at home that evening, just because we could. We ate outside in the small private courtyard between the house and a cliff. It amazed us that plants could grow out of solid rock.

Sarlat photos: http://tinyurl.com/j2sum

Traveling With a Dietary Restriction

1. Carry some safe food for emergencies like flight delays
2. Rent a house or apartment so you can prepare at least some of your meals.
3. Carry a card with your restrictions to show to waiter/chef when you eat out.
4. Research typical meals so you are aware of possible dangers.
5. Go to France where food is taken seriously and your restriction will be regarded as a challenge rather than a nuisance.

Renting a house rather than staying in a hotel gave me the opportunity to control many of my own meals. Breakfasts in France are bread based so it was very helpful to be able to make my own. Lunches and dinners arenít such a problem but we often brought a picque-nicque along to be safe and to save time. Our house came with a cooler but we wished we had brought one of our collapsible cooler bags for the first and last days. We froze bottles of Evian to keep our lunch cool and provide ice water later in the day. I ate tons of cheese and checked off over half of the cheeses on Robjameís list plus a couple more that werenít listed. When we dined out I always showed a card explaining my gluten-free restriction and it was always taken seriously. Sometimes I read through the menu quickly and had an idea of what was possible. Other times, if the menu was more complicated, I left it up to the chef to tell me what I could eat.
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Old Jul 24th, 2006, 06:34 AM
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We were originally looking at Sarlat as a base but changed our minds because of the negative comments about the traffic. It sounds like it would have likely been just fine in May. It looks like a lovely town.

The meal at Bistro de l'Octroi looks like it was fit for royalty. That must have been several meals from what I gather. I can't wait to experience the cuisine there for myself. I had heard that Sarlat was not renounded for their cuisine but I have seen several recommendation on the board which sound good.

Not that I am trying to correct you...Carennac, although located on the Dordogne River is considered to be part of the Lot Department. I think it's difficult to tell where one region starts or ends as the Dordogne River carries through both.
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Old Jul 24th, 2006, 07:07 AM
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Moolyn: I have been enjoying tremendously your travel report and wonderful photos. They bring back fond memories of our two weeks in the Dordogne a couple of years ago. I'm sure that they will whet the interest of anyone who hasn't yet travelled in that part of France.

I am curious to know, however, (from looking at your latest photos) whether you or your husband caught a cold from the delicious looking "Baba Rhume".
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