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Trip Report Trip Report: Paris to the Dordogne and back

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This is a report of our trip from Paris to the Dordogne and back. We purchased PREM tickets at 25€ each way. We were staying the the 15ième arrondissement in Paris and were advised that it is better to get off at the Pasteur métro than at Montparnasse because the walk along that boulevard to the TGV annex has fewer stairs than the walk from the main train station to the annex. We could also have walked two blocks from our apartment to catch a bus that would have deposited us directly in front of the TGV annex. In Bordeaux we picked up a car at the train station from National--we used CRX (Casual Car Rental) to arrange for the pre-paid rental which cost us 494€ ($634) for 19 days of rental of a Ford Fiesta with manual shift and a diesel engine--the car had more than enough pickup. AutoEurope would at best meet the price, so why not stay with the one giving the original offer?

We left and drove about 2 hours to our destination in the Dordogne, using the N89 rather than the autoroute. It was hot when we arrived, and our entire stay, except for a couple of days, took place during a heat wave. We return to the Dordogne regularly, so this is not a blow-by-blow description. Here are some of the places we visited:

La Roque St-Christophe. Very much worth a visit, not for the cave man element that is prominently featured in their brochure, but for the elements of Medieval life that were unearthed and those that have been reconstructed.

St. Léon-sur-Vézère is a lovely village.

Puymartin and Losse are two interesting chateaux, the former can be seen on the same day as the Cabanes de Breuil which has a collection of large bories on a working farm.

We again compared the Sarlat and Périgueux market. Sarlat is much more oriented towards the tourist trade both in the market as well as the shops in that part of town. Périgueux has a much better market for the regular shoppers, although it also has its sellers of goose and duck products and other specialties of the region.

If driving from Montignac to Sarlat on D709, a tourist might want to make a slight detour to La Filolie. The right turn off is at the base of the first long hill upon leaving Montignac. Park at the intersection where you first see the chateau and do the circular walk along the private road (walking is allowed, driving isn't) that will take you around the chateau's property. The chateau cannot be visited, but it is pleasantly located, worth seeing from different view points.

We were very impressed by the new Musée National de la Pré-histoire in Les Eyzies and Vésunna in Périgueux sheltered under a Jean Nouvel building. In the former, the tool making videos attracted us the most, and in the latter the way the Jean Nouvel building allows the visitor to see the maximum within an open space--note the yellow and orange graphics on the ceiling denoting the two stages of the Roman villa.

Three meals in public restaurants are worth noting. The Auberge de la Truffe in Sorge offers good meals in a pleasant air-conditioned room (119€ or $145.46). It should be considered by anyone who happens to be in the northern part of the Périgord. We splurged and had a birthday meal at Le Centennaire in Les Eyzies. We had previously eaten at the Chateau de Puy Robert and at the Moulin de L'Abbaye in Brantôme. While we preferred the latter to the former, neither compared to Le Centennaire which does have two Michelin stars. I would go back to Le Centennaire at the drop of a hat, although perhaps for the less expensive by about two-thirds lunches. Our meal came to 253€ ($304.12), and by the time we got home we figured out that they made a 50+€ in our favor. They offer two prix fixe menus, one at 62€ and one at 98€, we took the lower priced menu but added an entrée that pushed the price to the higher menu. I wore a sports jacket for the evening, but it turns out that it was not de rigueur. We went back to La Tupinade in Bordeaux (near the Porte de la Monnaie) on our way back to Paris. We dropped off the car at the train station, left our luggage with the rental agency and walked to the restaurant. The food is very good, its type and quality can best be compared to Zuni (for those who are from the SF area), but with a Southwest French flavor. It also has a large array of vintage Armagnacs for anyone who might be interested, lined up on shelves in various parts of the dining room. Lunch came to 48€ ($57.70), which included a glass of white wine and three glasses of red (half a bottle); the prix fixe lunch comes with three glasses of red, and the waitress simply left half a bottle on the table.

During our short stay in Paris we saw the Matisse exhibit in the Palais du Luxembourg and went to see, faute de mieux, the Musée National des Arts et Traditions Populaires located in the northern part of the Bois de Boulogne (Métro Les Sablons). It turned out to be very interesting, and because of time constraints, we only glanced at the best part on the way out. We also saw the Robert Mallet-Stevens exhibit in the Pompidou, which filled in the spaces in our mind that were left when we fell upon a Mallet-Stevens building in the 15ième. We also discovered some very nice 1920's murals in the salle des fêtes of the mairie of the same arrondissement; it happened to have a free exhibit of local photographers.

We left Paris via RER. Anyone staying on the Left Bank should consider using the Denfert-Rochereau, Luxembourg or Port-Royal RER B stops. All of these require only one set of stairs from the street to access the platform. The Denfert-Rochereau station even has an elevator, but it was out of order. The problem with the RER is that the CDG arrival is not the greatest. We took the terminal 2 stop and the exit gates were not working, refusing to accept tickets, so that we had to either jump over, crawl under, or find a gate that was permanently open. From there it is two flights up to the bus to take you to the correct building. The elevators crawl, so that we hauled the luggage up the stairs (we were bringing back eight bottles of alcohol, to give an idea of weight). The sidewalk at the bus stop is on the wrong side of the bus (the bus comes from the right), and there is no sidewalk on the other side. Passengers must rush and push across the driveway to be able to climb on the bus. Orly, with its train connection, is much more pleasant. In Paris, I would avoid the Gare du Nord connection at all costs. The day we were trying to use it to go to the southern suburbs, all the ticket booths by the entrance to the RER were closed. One single métro booth farther down the hall was open (RER tickets can be purchased at any métro booth) with an enormous line because of people arriving from elsewhere wanting to take the métro and others, like us, wanting to take the RER. We finally used a métro ticket to get into the RER and, because the ticket was no longer valid and cannot be upgraded at the arrival point, had someone hold the automatic gate for us at the end of the line (this is not a recommended procedure).

For photos, here are some of the relevant albums, but of previously taken photographs (the present ones are not developed yet--July 2005):

Bordeaux Album

Paris Album

Dordogne pictures

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