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preliminary questions for Dordogne planning

preliminary questions for Dordogne planning

Old Aug 28th, 2009, 01:25 PM
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preliminary questions for Dordogne planning

Lots of preliminary questions before I get down to real details for you experts.

1. There is a chance for us to go in August of 2010 with a group. I would want to extend to be on our own so I can do what I want to as well. August was not my first choice for the time as I as afraid it will be way too crowded. We do not speak French (well, bon jour, etc.) and will of course have to drive. Is August really that crowded? Michelin offers alternate routes because of the crowds. Maybe we will just forget this idea but it would be what my husband would probably like.

2. Really wanted to base from Sarlat, but the "group" part will stay just south of Ste Foy la Grande at Chateau des Vigiers. Is this still an o.k. location? We can move after the first part of the trip if necessary.

3. Would like to see a few things in Bordeaux - Cathedral St. Andre, Grand Theatre, Place des Quincongues, Quartier Saint Pierre, Chapon Rouge. So this would mean probably arrival there and just go to sleep and tour the next day, then on to the group part of the trip. Is one day enough here?

4. There are so many places that are *'d in Michelin and others have recommendations, too. Are these places far apart and is the driving distance far? I'm from Texas and everything is far from me.

5. Some things I reallly want to do - canoe or boat trip on the Dordogne, caves -Lasaux and Pech Merle, Castelnaud, Beynac, Domme and more. Maybe St. Emillon for a wine tasting.

6. Now here's where some of you may tell me to leave this out. I would like to go to Carcassone "on the way" home. I did not get to do this when we went to Provence and this may be my chance. If we can include this, what is the most expedient way to depart? Marseille I know will include Paris or London before a US city. Not sure if you can fly direct to Bordeaux from USA - say from Dallas or Atlanta or Houston, but that is what I am hoping for.

Sorry to be so long - total trip cannot be over 14 days including travel and the group part is at least 7 days.

Thanks.
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Old Aug 28th, 2009, 01:35 PM
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Yes, there will be throngs in August, although tourism is down a bit in general. It will be hot. It will be humid. The roads will be packed, including the "alternate routes," because that's what all the locals will be using. You'll need to reserve in advance for everything.

St.-Foy is an OK town, but far from an ideal location. You'll be on that hideous road toward Sarlat a lot.

A day is sufficient in Bordeaux, but you might want to head to Arcachon and Cap Ferret and the Dune du Pylat for a day as well.

No, once you get into the Périgord Noir, none of the main sties are far from each other. Certainly they're all a lot closer to each other than you'll be, staying in St-Foy.

Peche-Merle isn't in the Dordogne - it's two hours away. Perhaps you meant Font-de-Gaume. St-Emilion is closer to Bordeaux than Sarlat. You could easily go there from St-Foy. No need to make a base in the Sarlat region and then backtrack to St-Emilion.

I don't think there are any direct flights to Bordeaux from where you are (maybe not from anywhere), but you can go through Paris or London or even Barcelona. If you want to see Carcassonne and then fly home, you might look for flights out of Toulouse, or Nice or Marseille.
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Old Aug 28th, 2009, 01:41 PM
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Thank you StCirq. I was hoping to hear from you. So, what month would you suggest as the best?
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Old Aug 28th, 2009, 01:45 PM
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I am a frequent traveler in Dordogne, so here goes:

1. I don't visit in August (too hot) but my sense is that it will be crowded but not unbearably so. French families will go to the beach more often than to the interior. If you have a choice, tack your independent exploration onto the end of the 7-day tour to push the date back as much as possible.

2. You must visit Sarlat and if possible stay there, as it is much more centrally located for everything you want to see than is Ste. Foy la Grande, which would never be my choice of where to stay. In Sarlat, stay if you can at the Villa des Consuls, amazingly located on a pedestrian street in the renaissance portion of the town. (You cannot, however, drive directly to the hotel.) For me, Ste. Foy is very distant from the main sights you describe.

3. Personally I have never warmed up to Bordeaux and, for me, one day is plenty. (Or two nights if you visit St. Emilion -- see below.)

4. The sights in the heart of Dordogne (with a base at Sarlat) are amazingly close to one another. Email me at [email protected] and I can share with you my own schedule when I am in Dordogne, which includes driving distances and times.

5. St. Emilion is near Bordeaux and you could extend your pre-tour stay in Bordeaux by one day and do a day trip to St. Emilion easily. I am sure there are buses that go there but I don't have that info at hand. Of the other places you mention, Peche Merle is a bit distant from the heart of Dordogne so you may want to skip that, or go there en route from the end of your tour to Carcassonne, if you end up going there. Lascaux II (the replica) is great, as is Font-de-Gaume near Les Eyzies (only 35 minutes from Sarlat).

6. I do not think you can fly to Bordeaux from the US without changing planes. You could go US-London-Bordeaux, or via Amsterdam. Avoid de Gaulle in Paris if you can (or, if not, allow plenty of time to catch your ongoing flight to Bordeaux). Lufthansa used to serve Bordeaux from Frankfurt but has dropped that route. My suggestion would be an open jaws ticket, US-Bordeaux, do your tour and visit St. Emilion, then maybe a train to Carcassonne and rent a car for a few days, ending up in Toulouse (the nearest big airport to Carcassonne) or Montpellier, then fly from that city home via London or Amsterdam (or Paris). Alternately, you could finish your tour in Bordeaux, then rent a car and see some gorgeous countryside between there and Carcassonne (Conques comes to mind), and finally fly home from Toulouse or Montpellier.

You really can't go wrong in the Dordogne, so a good time is assured.
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Old Aug 28th, 2009, 02:02 PM
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For me the best months are May and September.

Hi, George. I was in the Dordogne last August and it was packed. It took us about an hour and a half to drive from St-Cirq to Beynac one day, and another day we missed a canoeing trip because we were in a traffic jam outside La Roque-Gageac for 50 minutes. The river was so full of people and boats it was almost impossible to maneuver. Lines at the supermarkets wound all around the stores. Parking, a nightmare. Markets so jammed you could barely move. Now, I've heard that it's not so bad this year, but I would definitely not go in August if I had a choice.
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Old Aug 28th, 2009, 02:17 PM
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Personally, as someone who lives here, I would never come in August if there is any other choice. It WILL be crowded, at least from mid-July to mid-August.

There is no way you want to be in Ste Foy la Grande if you are interested in the Dordogne.

I agree that Bordeaux, while a nice city, doesn't really need more than a day or two. I would head out fairly quickly.

And I'm one of those who think that Carcassonne is too touristy, and so I wouldn't tie myself in knots to get there. There's a great view of the 'cite', the old part, from the autoroute, which is what we like best. And certainly if you do have to come in August, the roads and the town will be very busy. French news reports on weekends in July and August total up the lengths of the traffic jams across the county - usually hundreds of kilometres, people going south at the beginning of the weekend, north at the end.

Finally, driving here will not be like driving in Texas! The distances are shorter, but the roads sure are different. We often have people assure us that they can get to somewhere in an hour, because it's only x kilometres. But they're on narrow twisting roads - lovely, and often great to drive, but not fast. So don't get too carried away, just slow down a little and enjoy the drive as much as the destination.

I hope I don't seem negative, but this is such a beautiful region that it would be a shame not to take advantage of it when it's at its best.
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Old Aug 28th, 2009, 03:29 PM
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hi mimipam,

a few years ago we rented a gite in the dordogne in early may and it was great - there were still things open [though the hours aren't quite as long as in high season] and people around, but no crowds.

and the weather was reasonably good - certainly warm enough for sightseeing. I can't imagine what august would be like - and i have no intention of finding out. we went to toulouse two years ago in early September and it was fiercely hot - as hot as i suppose august must be. I know that you come from Texas, but remember that A/C isn't as commonplace in Europe as it is in the US, and you may find it very uncomfortable, particularly if you're stuck in traffic jams.

if you can, I would try to arrange this for a different month.

regards, ann
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Old Aug 28th, 2009, 06:17 PM
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We were in the Dordogne in late June this year, and the weather was quite nice, no large crowds (lots of pictures of the Dordogne river with no canoes), and restaurants were easy to get into with 1 to 2 days advanced reservations. We had a small Fodors get-together, and a B&B owner who attended said that in August you could almost walk across the Dordogne River by stepping on all the canoes.

Twice we've visited the Dordogne for anywhere from 2 to 4 week visits that started in the last week in August, and it was not nearly as crowded as others have mentioned for the other weeks in August. There were crowds leaving on Saturday, but by Sat afternoon when we checked into our Gite near Dome we drove through Beynac & Roque Gageac with no delaying automobile congestion at all - and few pedestrians.

Where is Ste Foy le Grande? It is not in the index of Dordogne cities on my 329 Michelin map.

Stu Dudley
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Old Aug 28th, 2009, 09:30 PM
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Hi Stu,
Thanks for the updated Dordogne notes you sent. Ste Foy le Grande is between Bordeaux and Bergerac. Today I am about to decide not to stay there and not to go in August if my husband is agreeable to this. He seems to be thinking like I am since I told him about the crowds and heat. Maybe the end of August would be o.k. as you have said.
Thanks to Ann and Carlux for replies as well. I assume the roads in Dordogne area are similar to Provence.
I thought Pech Merle was not that far away as I thought Ira included that on his trip when he was in Dordogne but maybe he went even if it was that far away.

If we try to stay in a gite, do I need to decide really soon and work on that first?
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Old Aug 29th, 2009, 04:59 AM
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Hi MP,
Ste Foy la Grande is almost 2 hr from Sarlat. I don't think that that is in the Dordogne.

3. My Lady Wife and I think that a day in Bordeaux is plenty. Arcachon, on the Bay, is worth a visit.

6. Carcassone is worth an overnight. I think that you have to go to Bordeaux via Paris. No, the distances are not great. France is 0.8 the size of Texas.

>I thought Pech Merle was not that far away as I thought Ira included that on his trip when he was in Dordogne but maybe he went even if it was that far away.<

www.viamichelin.com says PM is 1:20 hr (72 km) from Sarlat. It is well worth the visit.

Glad you are not going in August.

Enjoy your visit, when you do go.
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Old Aug 29th, 2009, 08:08 AM
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We've visited Peche Merle as day trips twice from the Sarlat area. We've also visited Cahors several times - to visit the town and to also purchase stuff at the twice-weekly market. We've also visited Figeac several times. So - I think Peche Merle & St Cirq Lapopie is easily done as a day trip. The drive there is quite nice too. However, I would not do it from Ste Foy - which I think is an un-acceptable location for visiting the Dordogne. I don't thing the Bordeaux to Bergerac region is very scenic at all - compared to the Sarlat area. If you're going to visit the lovely & interesting Dordogne - do it right. Stay near Sarlat, and visit it in June or Sept.

Stu Dudley
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Old Aug 29th, 2009, 08:23 AM
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If you really want to visit Carcassonne, consider what else you would do in the area. We visited as part of a trip through the Languedoc (someday we'll go and spend more time there), and it was nice, but compared to everything else we saw in the Languedoc and the Dordogne, way down on the list.

As you may already know, Carcassonne has been heavily restored, in some instances in a historically inaccurate way. The good side to that is that those restorations, I believe, promoted interest in restoration generally, and that's a good thing. And it is a scenic little city.

In the area of Carcassonne, there are a number of castle ruins from Cathar times that we much preferred, partly because they were much less restored. The closest to Carcassonne, as I recall, is the castles in Lastours.

On our trip, we spent one night in a tiny town south of Carcassonne, then the next night further north in another tiny town at a Michelin-rated restaurant with rooms. From there, we drove north to Pech Merle, which was well worth the drive. From there, on to Sarlat for four nights. That route worked well for us.
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Old Aug 29th, 2009, 10:04 AM
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>

Not really. I would say overall they tend to be much more winding and slow than in Provence, where you get lots of flat stretches except when you're up in the mountains. At any rate, you can't expect to make particularly good time on the roads in the Dordogne at any time of year, and certainly not in August.

Yes, you can do a daytrip to Peche-Merle and St-Cirq-Lapopie (which I am no fan of, but many people find it worthwhile) from the Dordogne. It's a scenic outing for sure. You can also do a nice daytrip if you get up early to Souillac, Martel, Collonges-la-Rouge, the Gouffre de Padirac, and Rocamadour.

And as mentioned, there is lots to see on the way to Carcassonne that is actually more interesting than Carcassonne itself - Castelnau-le-Montmiral, Castelnaudary, and all the towns like Revel and Graulhet and St-Férriol north of Carcassonne.
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Old Aug 29th, 2009, 03:42 PM
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I think driving in Provence vs the Dordogne really depends on where in Provence you've driven. If you've visited Arles, Nimes, St Remy, Avignon, Luberon, Pont du Gard, Uzes, Vaison, Rhone wine country, looped around the Dentelles - then I agree with St Cirq that the Dordogne has a few more winding & slower roads. However, if you've driven through the Gorges de la Nesque, Gorges de l'Ardeche, through the Alpillies, around Sault, the Baronnais, Bonnieux to Lourmarin - then I think Provence offers more driving challanges.

There is a lot more ugly urban sprawl in Provence than there is in the Dordogne, which I don't like driving through.

Stu Dudley
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Old Aug 29th, 2009, 08:08 PM
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Thanks for all the driving tips. Of course, I was NOT the driver in Provence. My husband drove and my son was with us to read signs and help navigate even though I was the planner and map provider. Sooo, I will inform my driver for the Dordogne to be prepared for what he did around Sault, Bonnieux, etc.

I am about to get serious with the real planning now. At this point, we have decided to try for the end of May, early June of next year. When I get an itinerary together, I will surely want input for that. Also, Ste Foy la Grande is out.
You have all been so helpful. Thanks again.

Happy travels.
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Old Aug 30th, 2009, 03:20 AM
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Will be in the Dordogne staying in Sarlat in 7 weeks. Can't wait!! Soaking up all this wonderful information haven't planned our itinery yet.
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Old Aug 31st, 2009, 12:46 PM
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I have a few more questions for now. I know some of you will have THE answers.

1. Cannot stay with CARLUX--boo! so I am trying villaconsuls for availability and will see what else I come up with. What about parking at this property--is there a car park closeby and will it be full in the evening? Really think I do want in Sarlat.

2. My initial plan is to fly into Bordeaux and spend two nights there or close by. One day I want to see the city and the other day go to St Emilion. A rental car will probably be an issue in Bordeaux. Where to park and how is the traffic??? Would it be better to stay in St Emilion and take the train into Bordeaux as Ira did? I read somewhere (on this site?) that the area of the train station is not too good. How far a walk from there to the old town? Doesn't seem to be a car rental option in St Emilion on Europcar. Guess you have to get it in Bordeaux.

3. If I stay in St Emilion where to stay. I know where Ira stayed and have not asked about availability yet. Is there a/c there? Where did you stay STU and others? Don't want to spend as much as de Plaisance or Barrail unless absolutely no other way.

Thanks again for all your help.

George, I hope your computer is fixed!
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Old Aug 31st, 2009, 12:55 PM
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This year we landed at Bordeaux and stayed in the old section of town at the Continental. We took a taxi to get there. The Continental was reasonably priced. Next day we took a taxi to the train station, picked up a car, & drove to the Dordogne.

We stayed at the Au Logis des Remparts in St Emilion.

Stu Dudley
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Old Aug 31st, 2009, 02:24 PM
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There is not a car park for Villa des Consuls. You have to park on the street. We usually had no problem (end of October) finding parking on the steet in the evening. You do have to walk (with luggage as well) a short distance to the hotel. The hotel website gives directions for finding the hotel. Be sure to print them out as you will need them if you stay there.
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Old Aug 31st, 2009, 02:47 PM
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If this was my trip and I had 3-10 days before I wanted to arrive in the Dordogne, I would fly to Toulouse instead of Bordeaux. Reasons:

1. I think Toulouse is a more interesting city than Bordeaux

2. There are scads more stuff to see between Toulouse and the Sarlat area
a. Albi - one of our favorites
b. Castelnau de Montmiral - one of our favorite Bastide towns
c. Cordes
d. Gorges de l'Aveyron
e. Bruniquel
f. St Antonin Noble Val
g. Quercy Blanc
h. Bastide towns in Quercy Blanc - Lauzeret is a gem
i. St Cirq Lapopie
j. Pech Merle
k. Beautiful Cele & Lot Rivers
l. Figeac
m. Cahors (others like it more than I do)
n Luzech
o Bonaguil Chateau
p Villefranche du Perigord
q Monpazier
sites east of Souillac
r. Rocamadour
s. Gouffre de Padirac
t. Castelnau Brentoux
u. Autoire, Loubressac, Carennac, Martel
v. Grottes de Lacave


From Bordeaux, we only found St Emillion, and a few very small villages worthy of a stop. Not a fan of Bergerac.

Stu Dudley
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