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Trip Report: France 2011, Dordogne, based in Sarlat

Trip Report: France 2011, Dordogne, based in Sarlat

Oct 17th, 2011, 04:58 AM
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 1,703
We always tell people that 'a week is not enough' and hardly ever have anyone disagree. Of course we've been here 17 years, and still haven't seen all we want to. (There was a television program on the area last week, which talked about Chateau des Milandes, which we tended to avoid, as at one time it was quite tacky. Since 2001 it's been run by a member of the -very large- St Exupery family, and has obviously improved a lot, so it's now on our list.)

You did indeed have unusually warm weather. We're still having it, and desperately in need of rain. Ninety percent of the water table is below normal. It's been great for the tourists - last week we were still over 30 some days. And there is in fact lots of bamboo almost everywhere here. Even bananiers in many places. I haven't seen them bearing fruit however.

Glad you enjoyed the Journees du Patrimoine, which are always special in Sarlat, especially Saturday night, with 10 000 candles. I think, though that what you saw from your window was the Lanterne des Morts, next to the Cathedral. The Abbaye St Clair is the other side of the Rue de la Republique, and it's unlikely that you would be able to see it. We did though spend a wonderful evening ourselves on a Journee du Patrimoine listening to a concert in the garden of the abbaye, with the moon shining over the cathedral. One of the many magical Sarlat moments.

Finally, I have to say that I agree with you about GPS. I think what happens is that the system assumes that you will be able to follow the speed recommendations for each road. So, if you really could go 90km an hour down very twisty narrow roads, it might be faster. Ours keeps trying to make me turn off nice straight roads that I know are faster than the back road. Not that any road is really straight here, but there is no need to go out of your way to take the tiniest back roads possible. They are often interesting, of course, but sometimes you just want to get where you are going. That said, I take the road from Carlux to Sarlat several times a week, dealing with our rental properties, and am almost always amazed by how beautiful and interesting it is. The GPS wants me to go off through the woods, but I resist.
Carlux is offline  
Oct 17th, 2011, 06:46 AM
Join Date: Jun 2008
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Very enjoyable many good tips and sites to explore. Hub and I were also given a second pat down on an Air France trip going to London from Lyon.

I hope you got some satisfaction from Delta about the seats. In this day and age, there's no reason why 2 airlines can't communicate better.

Where to next?
TDudette is offline  
Oct 17th, 2011, 07:19 AM
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I really loved this informative report and I appreciate your thoughts on the parking in Sarlat(also from StuDudley.) I wasn't so concerned about the price as the distance to walk with luggage, etc. I also do have to agree about walking to dinner. After being in the car touring during the day, it's nice to be able to stoll through the town in the evening.

Stu-----which gite did you stay in?

We've spent time in Provence and The Riviera. This looks like a good spot to continue our France travels. Since we tend to go in Sept.we have plenty of time to research and ask lots of questions of the Fodorites.
TPAYT is offline  
Oct 17th, 2011, 07:50 AM
Join Date: Nov 2004
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>>Stu-----which gite did you stay in?<<

Sorry - I don't divulge that info. We've stayed there 5 times - and we want to make sure it is available for the 6th & 7th time.

Comment on "repetative" food:
We love Magret de Canard - but we almost never order it in a restaurant because it is one of our "standards" that I cook at the gite. For our normal 4-5 week visits to France, we will normally cook it twice (prepared 2 different ways). I usually get foie gras mi-cuit at the St Cyprien market and have that also. I order pigeon or some other type of "different" food (not chicken, beef, or pork) at a restaurant and my wife almost always has fish. I think both TPAYT and justretired have my itinerary with my list of "recommended" restaurants. This list has been whittled down from perhaps 30 restaurants in the region that we "checked out" but didn't choose to dine at for various reasons - or restaurants that we dined at but would not return to. Notice that there are only 3 restaurants on the list that are in Sarlat - and one of them is relatively new & away from the center of town and the other I gave "mixed" reviews to and has since been dropped from the Michelin red guide. IMO, magret/confit de canard & foi gras are very simple/easy to prepare - so that is why you see it frequently on restaurant menus in the Dordogne & elsewhere in France. In Sarlat, they get a high concentration of tourists who are only there for a day or two - so the restaurants tend to offer something "quick & easy". This is just my opinion based on observations - nothing based on "data". Restauraants outside of Sarlat seem to offer a more varied menu - Plume d'Oie & Belle Etoile in little Roque Gageac are just two examples of this.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Oct 17th, 2011, 08:40 AM
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Thanks for all the replies.

The Chateau des Milandes, of course, is all about Josephine Baker. Here’s an interview with Angelique de Saint Exupery on YouTube, with an English voice-over to translate her comments in French:


carlux, our apartment was in fact on the “other side” of the Rue de la République – our address was 2, rue de la Boétie. So it was indeed the Abbaye Ste-Claire that we saw from our apartment window.

The next day, most of the candles along the sides of the streets had been picked up. But there were still many candles left all over the place, mostly in high spots. The building next door to us has a statue of Sainte Claire in a little niche on the outside wall. For the rest of the week, she had two candle jars at her feet, and was holding one up in the air. The candles, of course, had long since gone out. I suppose the town has to gradually hit all the streets with ladders and cherry-picker cranes to retrieve all the candles they scattered around.

I think your analysis of the GPS’s problem is probably accurate – there are a lot of narrow two-lane roads with no shoulders which still, technically, have a speed limit of 90 Km/hr, and the GPS takes that as the speed you can actually drive.

StuDudley, interesting thoughts on the food preparation.

- Larry
justretired is offline  
Oct 17th, 2011, 06:51 PM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 261
Hi Larry,

I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your report. I really appreciate you including all the detail and your personal observations!

(Re the GPS... I don't want to use one in France. I've always been the navigator in our car, so maybe I feel threatened! I like working with a map and using the road signs. I think I learn much more about the area by doing it myself! And the voice irritates me!)

KathyWood is offline  
Oct 17th, 2011, 07:19 PM
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Great report, Larry. takes me back! You've given a lot of really good information,and I agree with a lot of your conclusions.
I had to laugh at the care and feeding of all your devices! I could only manage one iPhone, one iPad and one European phone.
taconictraveler is offline  
Oct 19th, 2011, 06:39 AM
Join Date: May 2005
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P and I loved your report, Larry. We wish we had been in Sarlat for "Un Patrimoine sous les Etoiles". It surely must have been beautiful.

One of our group has a bad knee, so I can truly sympathize with Margie. The walking and climbing can take its toll on the body in the Dordogne. That is one reason why I am determined to go back to the area sooner rather than later.

You stated that you drove back to the car rental return without your GPS. That reminded me that P and I almost left our GPS attached to the windshield. It was only after one last "sweep" of the car interior that we remembered to grab "Nigel"!

Thanks again, Larry and Margie, for sharing one of your evenings in Sarlat with us.
kansas is offline  
Oct 19th, 2011, 04:14 PM
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Hi, kansas! We were delighted to have dinner with you in Sarlat, and as you can see, we went back to Le Présidial.

Margie's back pain did slow us down, but fortunately never completely laid her up.

The reason I drove to the car rental return without the GPS was precisely because I was afraid I might leave it. I once left a nice pair of binoculars in a rental car, and of course when I called later (from the US), they hadn't found them.

I think I had left them in a fairly obscure compartment in the back of the car, so they wouldn't be seen and get stolen, of course. I obviously succeeded magnificently at putting them out of sight, since I didn't see them myself on our final check of the car. It's possible they rented the car multiple times before anyone came across them.

Talking about missing things on a check: decades ago, when I was taking flying lessons, a pilot skipped his pre-flight walk-around of the Cessna 150 (a high-wing aircraft). As he waited for clearance to the runway, he checked his ailerons as usual, and something looked funny out at the end of the wing (although he couldn't see exactly what it was). He told Hanscom ground control he wanted to go back to his tie down, where he got out to take a closer look (which, of course, he should have done in the first place). There was a substantial gash in the bottom of the wing, and a bit of sheet metal hanging down.

In reconstructing events later on, it was determined that the pilot TWO BEFORE him had run over a gas pump. The next pilot had also not bothered with his pre-flight check, and had flown the plane with the gash in the wing.
justretired is offline  
Oct 19th, 2011, 06:31 PM
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Just noticed your comment. I will try to email re: Sicily, but I wanted to say don't let my experience in any way put you off! I loved Sicily and we had no real problems. The roads were not difficult but I was the sole driver on my trip and was unprepared for the distances between sites (even though I had checked google and viamichelin).

Thanks again for taking me back to the Dordogne! Such a pleasurable area. We referred to the menus as playing Duck Duck Goose.
Leely2 is offline  
Oct 19th, 2011, 07:34 PM
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Duck Duck Goose! Hah! I reported this to Margie, who also cracked up.

With all the foie gras on the menu, I wondered why we never saw goose. I mean, after taking out the liver, there's a lot of goose left over. There were lots of duck dishes, but no goose. What happened to the rest of the goose?

I was told that after being fattened up for foie gras, the rest of the goose is not suitable for roasting - the meat is too fatty. It's used for assorted patés and other such things, but it can't be just cooked and served.

We had considered Sicily for this trip, but we wanted to stay two weeks in one place. I know lots of people (from my Italian discussion group) who have been to Sicily, and loved it, but it was generally agreed that you need to stay in at least two places, essentially on the east side of the island and on the west. There's no single spot that can be used as a base, and it's hard to get more than a week of activities on each side. Fodorites seemed to agree.

- Larry
justretired is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2011, 10:54 PM
Join Date: Jan 2011
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I really enjoyed your trip reprt - thank you for sharing. It was a great read with lots of useful information. I also spent about 2 weeks in Dordogne in June/July this year as part of a 3-month european vacation to celebrate a milestone birthday. It was great to reminisce about the places I had seen in my own travels while reading your report.

I'm sure future visitors to the Dordogne area will find your report very useful. My dordogne trip was planned based on all the wonderful advice I had gotten from fellow fodorites. My trip wouldn't have been the same without all the help I had gotten from this website. You know who you are and I'm very much appreciated all your help

I've been wanting to write a trip report to "give back" to the fodor commmunity...but my procrastination is winning at the moment...
Piccolina is offline  
Mar 15th, 2012, 04:54 PM
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 128
Just came upon your report and we appreciate all the detailed info for our upcoming trip in late September/early October. We're also in mid-sixties, want to stay in city center and not drive for dinner, and love many day trips. We'll do our homework with maps. We used a GPS on day trips from St Remy a couple of years ago and learned to hate the word "recalculating."
gladtotravel is offline  
Mar 15th, 2012, 05:09 PM
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Marking for later too.
Sounds great so far, just retired!!!!!!
It will be in my faves.
Judyrem is offline  
Mar 16th, 2012, 06:08 AM
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Gladtotravel and Judyrem, I'm happy to see you found the report useful. That's what keeps me writing. Feel free to ask questions, and I'll try to answer (although I don't necessarily check daily).

Well, Gladtotravel, sorry to say I've passed beyond my "mid sixties", having turned 70 in January. Time sure flies when you're having fun.

- Larry
( Blog: http://ljkrakauer.com/LJK/ )
justretired is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2012, 04:50 AM
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Marking for my trip next year. Late June is the only time I am going to be able to make Dordogne, or in fact possibly the first week in July, is this going to be too hot and too busy? I was there in July a few years ago and can't remember it being a real problem, has it become busier over the past 12 years?

schnauzer is offline  
Aug 23rd, 2012, 07:30 AM
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We were in the Dordogne the last week in June this week. It was very hot but I am not sure if that was usual. It wasn't too busy. Even managed to find a park space for the Wed market in Sarlat but am not sure we would for the larger Saturday market. That was the only place we noticed crowds.
AGM_Cape_Cod is online now  
Aug 23rd, 2012, 08:20 AM
Join Date: Nov 2004
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We were in the Dordogne the last week of June '94 and it was cold, overcast, & partially raining for almost all of the 7 days we were there. Obviously, no outside dining. We stayed in a Gite, and had the heater on almost all the time we were there.

In '09, we were there the last 2 weeks of June & it was moderate - not too hot & not too cold. We were able to dine outside at our gite about half the times we wanted to. At most restaurants, it was too chilly to dine outside - including a Fodors GTG.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Aug 24th, 2012, 12:15 PM
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For anyone wanting to check the weather here, which is variable from one year to the next - or from one week to the next (last weekend over 40, this weekend 22) check Weather Underground/Travel planner/Bergerac


You can input the time period that interests you, and it will give you ACTUAL temperatures for that period over a number of years.
Carlux is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2012, 11:17 AM
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Saraho is online now  

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