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Visit France's Dordogne
by

Professor Arnie Greenberg

The central part of France is a Mecca for gourmands. It is visual, inexpensive and a feast for the eye. Too few seasoned travelers take the time to enjoy it slowly. There are rewards if you want a perfect holiday, great food and wine, peaceful rivers, cycling, kayaking or even hiking. There are ancient villages revitalized when the roads and railway opened the area.

Just the sound of the places from Toulouse to Limoges conjures up memories of a rich history and a graceful place for a holiday.

Take a map of France. Lay it out on the table and, with a yellow marker, follow the following article. You will end up having one of the most visual, gastronomic and historical holidays ever, The area will go from Talouse, which you can reach by plane or train, to Limoges which also has an airport with flights to and from Paris.

Its 83 K to Cahors (about 50 miles) and about 199K (62 miles to Sarlat)

There are stops along the way that are memorable and between Sarlat & Limoges there are villages every few miles to see and experience.

Don’t miss the bridge at Cahors. Ask at the souvenir shop at one end of the bridge for a booklet on the legend of the bridge. It’s a wonderful story.

Take my suggestions seriously. If you miss anything, you’ll regret it later. It is geared for visitors with small hotels, chateaus, hill villages, medieval towns, caves, bridges and scenic beauty. Trust me. I know the area will enchant you.

From Toulouse, the airplane capital of France’s Airbus, you follow the main highway north to Cahors. Here you will find the famous Volontre Bridge, spanning the Lot River.  It is one of the most photographed places in France. It is a wonder of fourteenth century architecture and a reminder of the Hundred Years War. I’d suggest you buy a guide book to learn of the legend of the bridge’s construction. It will startle you and you’ll feel the ghosts of history as you walk across it.

From there its about 100 K to Sarlat-Le-Caneda... You may want to stay here for a few days and arrive on Friday since Saturday is market day. The wares are distributed over the entire core of this ancient city and the reconstruction of the old center enables you to see what villages were like hundreds of years ago.

I suggest the forty room Hotel de Selves 3* (93, Ave de Selves, Fax 05 53 31 23 52, E mail hotel.sarlat@magic.fr) but I’d reserve in advance. It is at the north end of town in a quiet haven and within walking distance to the center of the medieval city where the best restaurants are found or the congress center.

The hotel can recommend the best restaurant choices and reserve space for you. They have a garden and pool but serve breakfast only. It’s my favorite in Sarlat.

I had dinner at Criquettamu’s at 5, rue des Armes only 5 minutes from the hotel.  The building alone is worth the visit. Anther farther along is Au Delices de Lauralice. Wonderful confit du canard in old world elegance or pate de foie gras and local wine should not be missed.

The city itself is a wonder of architecture, dating back to the 8th century. Many buildings are classified as historical and the town was hardly known until the railroad and highway brought them onto the tourist map. It is classified as three stars by Michelin and is guaranteed to charm you at first sight. You will be walking through narrow streets and nearly a thousand years of history. It is one of my favorite places.

Besides the market there are narrow streets to examine and truffles to buy. This is the Perigord Noir and famous for pate, walnut oil and truffles which you can order with your breakfast eggs. Whatever you do in the region, do not miss Sarlat. It’s an eye-pleasing masterpiece.

Nearby there’s the hilltop village of Domme with a superb view of the river. You can also see the gardens at d’Eyrignac Manor to the north, considered one of the most beautiful in France, magnificent in every season. Or the Grand Roc at Les Eyzies if you like caves with stalactites. Children will enjoy the grand and beautiful Chateau des Milandes to the south west where Josehine Baker and her international family once lived. Today you can see an exhibit of her costumes and life or visit the Center of Falconry that is open there every summer.

But if you missed it on the way north, take a day to visit France’s second most visited site; Rocamadour. This cliff village that seems to dangle menacingly above is a must for photographers and those interested in the route of ancient pilgrimages. Below the church and museum, a single road bisects the cliff where one can but souvenirs, or mouth watering delicacies known in the area. Here the ‘produits de terroire’ such as wines, fresh walnut oils, salads, goose pates, goat cheese or lamb cooked with garlic, rosemary and shallots offer delights for the palate.

If you choose to stay overnight there are small 2 and 3 star hotels in the area and B&Bs or campgrounds. It is also recommended that you visit the Gouffre de Padirac, a nearby cave that’s memorable.

Back in Sarlat there are decisions to be made. You can stay and do other day trips or move on. I would include the village of Les Eyzies to the west about 17 miles away. Here too there are caves, grottos and wonderful food. Accommodations are not a problem. Selecting the right restaurant may need help.

From here or Sarlat you should head to Montignac. This s a friendly town within a stone’s throw from Lascaux II, the 17,000 year old caves that were discovered in the 1940’s and recreated with painstaking precision two hundred meters from the original site for tourist by the thousands who want to see the cave drawings but are not allowed in the original site as people’s breath do damage to the ancient drawings. It is one of the most moving sites in France and there are guides who speak many languages. The visit takes forty minutes and the site is open year round. For information go to www.perigord.tm.fr

In Montignac, my choice of dining and hotel is Le Relais Du Soleil d”or on the main street at 16, rue du IV Septembre. Fax 05 53 50 27 54

Nearby there’s the Cro-Magnon site called THOT which is a wonderland for children interested in reindeer, ancient Przewalsi horses, European bisons and replicas of extinct mammoth and wooly rhinoceros. Use the same web sight for information.

You are now only 23 miles north of Sarlat. There is much more to see at Perigueux, Brantome, Bourdeilles, Hautfort, Limoges and Oradour Sur Glane. Ask at the tourist office in Sarlat for directions to Josephene Baker’s chateau. It’s a must.

You can also head west to Brantome or St Emilion which is the center of the Bordeaux wine country. It looks like you’d expect an old French village to look. Lunch in the main square is magical on a sunny day. But it’s time to rest and gather your thoughts. Sit at the waterside restaurant on the Veyzere riverbank in Montignac. It’s called Les Pilotis with great Italian food at popular process. Tell them I sent you.

I take my groups to lunch there whenever I can.

Bon appetit!

#   #   #

You can Contact Professor Arnie Greenberg at

Email:  Ultours1@gmail.com

Over the past few years, Professor Greenberg has traveled with groups to France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague and both Sorrento and the Bay of Naples plus most of Sicily. His tours traveled to the far reaches of the globe including Italy and most of China (Beijing -Hong Kong) and to Russia where his group cruised the waters from St.Petersburg to Moscow. 

"He took a group to Greece and another to northern Russia. In Nov 07 he took a tour group to much of India and ended his tour groups by revisiting France. He now travels with his wife and friends. They winter in Argentina or San Miguel Mexico.  His newly found spare time is taken up with his painting and writing. "I must write every day." His current work is a cautionary manual for would-be tour leaders..  "So You Want To Be A Tour Leader." 

Arnie now travels with friends. He continues writing Travel articles about unusual places but often concentrates on novel writing. Two books based on French Art will be published this year.  Keep reading his web for travel ideas.  His next novel HELLSTORM'S Folly, will be available this fall. He now lives in British Columbia.

Go to:  www.top-travel-ideas.com or contact him directly at ultours1@gmail.com.

(More about the writer.)

 

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