Here we are – part two of my adventures in the Dordogne Valley. Don’t forget to catch up on part I in case you missed.
The entire area is brimming with caves, many filled with the original street art – prehistoric cave paintings. The Padirac cave is a must-visit, and these wonders keep reminding me at how incredible nature and history really is. You get to be the captain of a gondola-style boat that whisks you through part of the cave, from where you head on venturing on foot.
You might remember from part one of journey that I wouldn’t stop going on about few cute and beautiful villages. If you don’t take my word for it, they’re actually officially dubbed the ‘Most Beautiful Villages of France’ which obviously knows there stuff. Loubressac is one of them, located on top of the mountain. Besides its stunning panoramic views the village you offers a journey back in time as you wander the cobbled streets.
Continuing our small villages fix, we headed to Autoire. Though the name reminded me a bit of Stella Artois, it was nothing like the beer – it was quiet and sleepy though not as grand as some of the others we visited, but because it has far fewer tourists it had more old-time charm and as they say: still waters have deep grounds.
If your legs are up for 30-minute walk you will find a waterfall, yes, a waterfall, not something that first comes to mind when thinking of France. Great place to catch a breath and sit down for a little cool down after the hike, and watch the waters flow on by.
Just when you think the next village can get any cuter there’s Collonges-la-Roug, a charming historical town famous for its red sandstone houses, little towers and narrow streets. It’s really as picturesque as it gets, there’s not skill requirement for taking a good photo here.
Dibs on this house! But you’re all invited to come by and sample my wine collection (yet to be collected!).
For the last evening we were at Brive Festival, an annual music event held at the end of July, part of a season with lots to do across the city. Although we didn’t know any of the artists, it was a great evening and it proves that not matter where you are and the language you speak, music connects and the festival vibe is the same everywhere.
Check out the puddle pool at the backstage area. And yes, that’s an Airstream dressing room/trailer in the background.
We went on to a little tasting of chocolate and other delicious sweets at Chocolaterie Lamy. This diabetes-inducing wonder is not only a great coffee and sweets hotspot, but also the place to be for chocolate related presents for the home front – or just yourself, I really didn’t want to ever leave.
No trip would be complete without investigating the weekly market with on one side fresh fruit, vegetables and meat. I was so surprised about the cheap prices they offer, they put city farmers markets to shame, on quality, price and atmosphere. On the other side you can find clothes, bags, belts, shoes, toys, and basically everything that you need for your home.
Before we explored Turenne, we got our castle groove on the hill, which included a surprise charming garden. The owner took us around, explaining that his grandfather started the garden, he’s been maintaining it, and he likes to keep it on the down low as he loves to see the look on the people’s faces. And, they are not looking for a princess and no the owner does wear the armour. I asked (just once I swear!).
In the words of Chanler Bing: ‘ Can these villages get ANY cuter? Well, I can tell you that Turenne stole everyone’s hearts. The tiny, pretty pretty village has to be the region’s best-kept secret and from what I heard it’s often bypassed for the larger and more famous spots. Which is a no doubt a good thing as you’ll almost always have its snoozy, old-time charm and castle all to yourself.
Sadly all trips have an end, and with ours in sight we headed back to Brive Airport for our flight home
Along three other bloggers, I’ve been out and about in South West France and exploring the Dordogne Valley across its many charming towns and villages.
It was a little bit of a trip down memory lane as I had been there on a school trip many moons ago and I was curious how 2016 Tea compares the trip with 2002 Tea.
After flying in to Berignac Aiport with Hannah from Adventure Han and Tun from T S Chang we were met by Karen from Lavender and Lovage and the lovely folks who organised the trip. From here, we headed to Monbazillac Chateux that’s known for its sweet white wines.
That went well with the foie gras, magret de canard, French style duck pate and onion relish we had as well as Casse Croûte, which is from what I understood what the French call an afternoon snack – everything does sound better in French.
The Chauteau itself is a museum where you can sneak a peak of how the owners throughout the centuries lived as well as a history of the wine and how it’s made. My favourite bit was the cellar where you can see how the original kitchens looked – a different world, and one that I bet would have loved a microwave.
Next stop was the town of Bergerac, which is known for its cobblestone streets and half timber stone houses.
You may have heard of the historical hero of the 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand, though he has nothing to do with the city, they have adopted the fictional hero as their own.
Then we had a wonderful time exploring the streets of Sarlat, another of those real life fairytale villages where you imagine characters from a Charles Perrault fairy tale would be wandering around, casting spells, curses, and all that jazz.
We got treated to duck – which is, along with everything walnut related the local speciality – with a balcony table at Le Presidial.
The next day we took inspiration from the duck and floated down the Dordogne River on a canoe. It was a great way to see the area from the riverside. Growing up I canoed a lot and forgot how much fun it is to paddle to nowhere (figuratively speaking), and get lost in the simplicity of focusing on making sure you don’t fall in or capsize.
After that it was time to wander around in the Les Jardins de Marqueyssac, a huge garden on top of a cliff with amazing views over the beautiful Dordogne River Valley. You can easily spend hours taking in the lush alleys, exploring the quirky little places and getting lost in a labyrinth.
If managed to keep your eyes off Johnny Depp in the 2000 film Chocolat then you might recognise a few locations from that film gem, as it was actually filmed in the city of Beynac.
Brassee 24 is new craft brewer focusing on authentic style beers. We got a tour, saw where all the magic happens and tried their tipples. I sadly can’t pass for a connoisseur, but I can say that as soon as I hear they sell it in London I will be first in the queue!
Next was a tasting at Distillerie Louis Roque, this one at more traditional distillery where we got to taste plum, walnut and chestnut aperitifs. Seeing as plum rakija is the self proclaimed national drink of my home country it was a favourite. There is also a room that’s a little museum where you can see the old stills, presses and pots. A similar wagon was used in my hometown and went from house to house during rakija season bringing its plummy goodness to all – we would even coat our socks in rakija before bed in Bosnia to stave off sickness.
Souillac’s streets are picture postcard and I’d recommend taking some time to relax and explore every nook and cranny as it’ll transport you back to the past.
Look at the beaut! Rocamadour is a medieval town built into the side of a cliff. Around 900 years ago it was the place to be for worshipping and pilgrimaging – mainly due to the special relics it housed, and people travelled from all across Europe to get up close with those holy objects. Today, pilgrims have been swapped for tourists, who want to soak up the history and snap that ‘perfect French castle town’ shot to make everyone’s eyeballs jealous back home.
Do you have any top tips or suggestions for visiting the Dordogne area?