Art is subjective, opinion-based and seemingly never unanimous. No two people seem to have an exact, carbon copy experience when absorbing art in whatever guise or medium.
And travel is the same.
There isn’t a right or wrong when travelling. You either like it or you don’t, or in some cases, love it or loath it. It comes down more to the experience of the visitor than the amenity of the destination. Heart over head.
So perhaps I should have entitled this post more accurately…
Why I love Perigord and believe it’s France’s most enticing region.
Come on a journey with me as together we explore wondrous Perigord.
Perigord Tourism. Picture-perfect at every turn.
As you wander through knee-high grass, rustling around you with every step, a warming Perigord sun kisses your back. You look up ahead and nestled on the crest of undulating hills before you is a medieval castle. It’s ochre-coloured walls glisten in the distance beckoning you forward.
Before you reach that hillock it’s time to cross an ancient bridge that traverses a gently meandering river beneath. There is no menace to this water. It flows softly and calmly. You just know, at some stage, you must float upon it. When you do you will gaze in awe at the cliffs that overhang you. You will see ancient dwellings literally hewn out of the living rock faces. And atop these cliffs will stand mighty castles. Some preserved but many now only evocative ruins.
Before expending your energy to climb to the castle you enjoy a flavoursome picnic of local gastronomic delights. Not sat at a table in some ubiquitous park but right on the banks of the Dordogne river beneath restful shade. Bliss.
These words are no fanciful description of some utopian paradise. They are fact not fiction. They describe a parcel of time from my travels within Perigord. A region I chose to walk and wander. I used my rental car only to shuttle me back to my hotel in the evenings after days of exploration.
History through the ages.
Perigord is synonymous with the Palaeolithic era and no visit to this region of south-western France is complete without a visit to one of its many prehistoric sites. The palaeolithic was a period when humankind was rapidly evolving. Tool making was becoming more sophisticated and vibrant artworks were being painted upon the walls of our ancestor’s cave dwellings.
The tiny village of Les Eyzies and the expansive Lascaux caves are must-sees. The prehistoric rock paintings and cave dwellings found here date back as far as 40,000BC!
Latterly the Gauls, Romans and Franks all came and went leaving their mark on the region. It’s actually astounding to think that the Roman history in this region, when considered in context, is actually quite ‘modern’.
Today the hilltops of Perigord remind us of the other major historical epoch in this region – the hundred years war. It is said there are a thousand or more bastides (hilltop forts) still surviving here. Most of course now lie in ghostly ruins but many have been restored. Their walls and turrets casting powerful shadows across the verdant valleys below.
It is ironic that such a brutal and destructive war produced the castles that today are the icons of this beautiful and restful pocket of France.
Food for thought.
Broadly speaking Perigord is a natural geographic region located within the département of the Dordogne. It is divided into Perigord Noir, Perigord Blanc, Perigord Vert and Perigord Pourpre – black, white, greeen and purple.
It’s terrain directly relates to it’s cuisine.
Dark atmospheric forests are the perfect place for growing mushrooms, walnuts and the revered truffle. Jutted against these are lush green fields fed by the Dordogne and Vezere rivers that provide the perfect soils for growing strawberries and for grazing goats. Cabécou is a creamy goat’s cheese that is a delicious must-try.
Duck (canard) will be on every menu here and goose liver pâté, in the form of foie gras or confit, is the most famous speciality from the region.
You won’t go hungry!
Perigord towns. Spoiled for choice.
When you are not wistfully wandering through the meadows, enjoying a sumptuous picnic or floating down a meandering river there is an abundance of beautiful towns and villages to explore here.
- Périgueux, Castelnaud, Beynac, Rocamadour, La Roque Gageac and Les Eyzies
However my absolute favourite place in Perigord is the regional city of Sarlat.
Dating back to the 9th Century AD Sarlat is a Plus Beaux Detour. A town worth visiting for its beauty and I couldn’t agree more!
Sarlat is a place that should be explored on foot. It’s labyrinthine alleyways whisper to you to come and discover. There are surprises and delights seemingly around every corner of the old town.
It is also famed as a market town. So ensure that you are here on a Saturday if possible. Wandering around the stalls is divine. There is a tempest of noise, sights and smells all around you. Stop at the food stands and try some of the produce. So fresh, just delicious.
You can read more about my love affair with this place in an earlier Sarlat post.
Last but not least. A hidden Perigord gem.
Wow you read all the way down here! Thanks very much and I want to reward you for your efforts!
Of all the villages, castles and towns that I visited during my travels in the Dordogne/ Perigord one small hamlet stood out. It’s a blink and you’ll miss it place. It seriously is tiny.
Located in a valley between Montignac and Les Eyzies is Saint-Leon-sur-Vezere.
It is so serene and laid back here. Set on a bend of the Vezere river this village has fewer than 400 inhabitants. It is a place to stroll, observe and imagine yesteryear.
One of my favourite lingering memories, from more than 50 visits to France over the years, is lunch at a local bistro situated on the banks of the river.
I remember sitting outside the restaurant and gazing out towards the gently flowing river. The food was so fresh and fulfilling and the wine and mineral water the perfect accompaniment.
But more than anything else the service, care and attention afforded myself and my travelling companion was just incredible. We conversed mainly in French with a liberal splash of Franglais when I forgot a word or six. It was a delightful lunch that, suffice to say, went much longer than planned! If you ever get to experience the wonderful village of Saint Leon sur Vezere you simply must visit le dejeuner sur l’herbe for a graze.
Picturesque Perigord – A Gallery.
Click an image to enlarge. All photography © Saxon Templeton
More Information on Perigord tourism.
I hope you enjoyed this little promenade in Perigord. Please find some information below to help you further plan a trip here.