Sunday, 30 May 2010

WEEK 3, DAY 15

WEEK 3, DAY 15
Golden Beef, 10 Av. Aristide Briand, 24200 Sarlat
This morning’s early mission was to get some bread. No problem. Strolled down to the nearby butchers who have a Depot de Pain. Back in less than ten minutes with a baguette that cost 78 cents.
Pavillion de la Marée, Martine Fredieu, rue Henri Rebiere, ZI la Serve, 24110 St Astter
It took much longer to work our way through the huge market that takes over most of Sarlat’s streets on a Saturday morning. After the beef excesses of the previous night, decided on some fish from our “regular” stall: Pavillion de la Marée. Selection didn’t include Julienne but we did buy some panga, despite the fact that neither of us knew what it was and not one of our books had a translation!
Picked up a few other bits and pieces and also ticked off another one of our wines with a 7 euro purchase of a 2002 Bandol rouge.
Still on the lookout for Julienne (ling), we were disappointed not to see a second fish stall that we had previously used. Called to the Fishmongers on the main street but their selection was very limited and we gave up waiting on the queue at the local traiteur as it was out the door. Out of luck also at a small store who had sold out of prepared dishes but we did buy a jar of Soupe de Poissons (always handy for lunch).
That meant a return visit to the Golden Beef. The queue here was also big enough but eventually we got our turn and turned down stuffed cabbage in favour of a carton of freshly prepared paella which contained enough for two and cost us €6.36.
With the food safely in the gite, it was time to head out for the bastide town of Montpazier, another of France’s most beautiful villages. This little town has remained almost unchanged for 800 years and has been used as a location for quite a few medieval period films.
No films today but some of the old games for kids, including stilt-walking, were on display and being put to use. Much the same, though not exactly so, as those seen in Sarlat a few days ago. Certainly the old Market Hall and the archways of the town, where many of the houses have balconies, was a most unusual setting and well worth a visit.
Sat down under the brollies in one of the square’s restaurants for a cup of coffee (€3.00 for double espresso). Enjoyed that before moving on to the nearby hilltop village of Belves where there is a 15th century Covered Market and some medieval remains. A picturesque spot and another of France’s most beautiful places and that is official!
Back then to the gite for that paella and Bergerac Sec but first a bottle or two of Hoegaarden! (The bottles are small!).

Photos from top: Sarlat Market, poppy field and Monpazier

WEEK 3, DAY 16
Rainy Day Sarlat
J Grolier Foie Gras
24260 Le Bugue
05 53 07 22 64

If all the restaurants in the centre of Sarlat are serving up Foie Gras, then all the shops seem to be selling it. But are they? You need to read the labels carefully, otherwise you could well be presenting Aunt Mary with a Terrine du Canard.
We had an idea of what we wanted by the time we called to Groliere Foie Gras on rue de la Liberté and met a helpful person who had once visited Ballina and had happy memories of eating salmon there. She pointed us in the direction of a special offer that meant we left the store having bought three jars of the real thing for the price of two.
The previous Sunday in Sarlat had been a scorcher but this was what we Irish like to call “a soft day”. We’d thought we’d take advantage of the lack of crowds to do the Sarlat tour, a tour we had neglected since arriving, a bit like the Corkman not ringing the bells of Shandon.
We have been using the excellent DK Eyewitness Travel Guide for the area since we arrived and followed its street by street guide here, seeing some medieval streets and buildings we had not seen before or had half-seen with a bunch of market stalls up against them.

Sunday, though, we more or less had the place to ourselves and, at our leisure, as the mist came and went, we strolled through the narrow streets of Siege and Rousseau, past the Chapel of the White Penitents (right)before coming to the familiar rue des Consuls and our favourite Mirandol restaurant. Then on to Place de la Liberté, around the back of the Cathedral, into the huge church , where an organist was playing, and out again.
Just in front of us was the famous Maison de La Boétie (left) which was hosting an exhibition of photos showing Sarlat before and after its reconstruction.
Enjoyed the walk and the sights. Then called to the tourist office for the latest leaflets before doing that little bit of shopping that saw us meet the lady who must have loved the Moy salmon!

WEEK 3, DAY 18
Bergerac Museums

There was always going to be a trip to the Maison de Vins in Bergerac and we took the opportunity today, a dull day with temperatures at 22 degrees, fine for a 70 km drive. Our Sat-Nav took us right to the door but the parking was full, though there was ample within walking distance.
The facility though was closed from 12.30 to 14.00, so we lunched in a nearby outdoor (and indoor) restaurant:  Le Croq Magnon, Pl Pelissiere, 24100 Bergerac. Here we had a massive omelette with potatoes for €10.00.
The house of Bergerac wines is in an old religious building, the Cloitre des Recollets and, if you enter from the back, you will be in the old courtyard. A long panel tells the story of wine through the ages in French and English and then you go downstairs.
Here you may take in a video, again in English or French, on the season in a vineyard. Then you must do your sniffing test. All the parfums are in little glasses. Check how good your nose is. Mine was dire.
The next stop is the shop. There was no real buzz here, maybe because the visit was free. I think most of the tourists who make their way here really want a bit of help with their purchasing. There is a huge stock, all of the AOCs, and many of the producers represented. It is a bit much to take in unless you have some guidance, even a leaflet.
There was also a tasting facility but that didn’t seem to be operating. It was however, very well laid out with the bottles numbered and priced around a centre stand.  Already pretty well off in some of the AOCs, I concentrated today on Montravel and went to choose a few bottles.
The assistant was very helpful at this point and even offered to change one of my larger notes for me, which is pretty unusual in France.
Later, on way back to gite, called to supermarket where I added to collection with a bottle Cotes de Duras, a lively little white that didn't last very long, polished off that evening with some Julienne (white fish).
From there, we made the short trip to the Museum of Tobacco (there is also a Museum of Wine but we gave that a skip). The Tobacco story is told in another old building, Maison Peyradede. It is rather unexciting, consisting of the most part of old smoking devices (mainly pipes) and bits of machinery along with much written information.
Tobacco, as most of you know, came from the New World and one of the more amusing exhibits was a pipe used by the Native Americans, it’s like seen in many westerns over the decades. Tobacco is still grown in the Dordogne.
Had my camera ready and eye peeled but failed to find a Fumer Interdit sign here. Disappointed not to find one but at only four euro and boasting a badly needed toilet (the one in the House of Wine was closed and a Pay and P facility nearby was out of order), the visit passed pleasantly enough.

Pics from top: Cyrano has a better nose than me, old Bergerac and the House of Wine.

WEEK 3, DAY 19
Les Jardins de L’Imaginaire
Rue Jean Rouby, Terrasson
05 53 50 37 56

A short few years back, the people of Terrasson put their heads together and came up with the idea of a Garden area of Imagination as an attraction for their small town.
Visited it today and, despite a touch of hype in the brochures and also from the guide, it was a very enjoyable hour and a quarter. Water is perhaps the main feature of the garden and all the water is recycled right down to the fountain at the entrance.
There are moss terraces and a rose garden and other distinct areas. All are well laid out and there is also a belvedere where there is a brilliant view of the area of the town below dominated by the church.
Dry stone walls feature in the gardens and also in a living breathing structure at the end of the walk, a structure that contains an exhibition of the Japanese art of Niwaki, not to be confused with Bonsai.  The trees are allowed to grow bigger and into more natural shapes.
We followed the tour with a walk around the town and enjoyed its many water features and vistas, particularly those around and about the 12th century bridge which spans the Vezere here.
This morning saw us visit the medieval quarter of Sarlat for our 3rd Wednesday market in a row. People ask us if we get fed up of the markets. The answer is no. For always there is some variation. This morning, for instance, there were two new musical acts.
We did get a few bits and pieces in the stalls but our big call today was to the traiteur called Charcuterie de Campange, SAS Vaux, 24200 Sarlat. I’m surprised at the amount of Irish people  who visit France who do not even know of the value of the traiteur.
Here, you can get many French classic dishes and other lesser known classy ones for a very good price. That means your dinner is sorted. Heat in the oven or microwave as required and voila you get a terrific meal.
We spent just over 15 euro there this morning. Top purchase, at €4.99, was Jambon with sauce medere (ham with Madeira sauce); Sarlat potatoes; tomatoes farci (stuffed tomatoes) and Boudin Noir with onions which cost €1.37.
Having returned from Terrasson, we had that ham along with the potatoes and it turned out to be excellent, going down well with a bottle of Fronton. Dessert was a few very tasty macaroons (at €1.50 each) which came from an artisan producer in the market.
Just to give you a comparison, the meal costs were as follows: Melon starter 2.60, mains 9.89, dessert 4.50, wine c 2.00. Total for two: €18.99.

Pics from top left: Sarlat market, Terrasson Town and Garden

WEEK 3, DAY 20
 Chateau de Beynac

A bit wary as we headed up to Beynac to view yet another château but we needn’t have worried as this turned out to be an excellent visit which cost €7.50 per adult.
This is a most impressive building, dating from 12/13th centuries. You pass the 12th century keep just after the entrance. Richard the Lionhearted was here in 1189. As you go on, you see the parts from the 14th and 17th centuries.
From the 14th century keep, you step onto the southern terrace. Here you are some 450 feet above the Dordogne and overlooking a beautiful panorama of river, villages and fields. The reconstruction goes on and will be completed until 2130.
Then, in the hot sun, we walked down the narrow streets to the river and enjoyed a lunch at one of the riverside cafes where a Steak Haché and chips cost €8.50. Back to the gite and a dip in the pool.
Late, in the afternoon, strolled back to the old quarter of Sarlat where we enjoyed a drink (Stella Artois, 3 euro for 25cl) at one of the square side cafes, Le Festival. Here we enjoyed watching the world go by before heading to the gite again and a dinner based around Stuffed Tomatoes and Black Pudding.

Photos: Detail from 14th cent oratory, Castle stables, Dordogne at Beynac and view from the Chateau

WEEK 3, DAY 21
Cadouin, Limeuil
Cloitre de Cadouin, 221 bis, rte ‘dAngouleme, 24000 Perigeux

Woke to a lovely morning here in Sarlat, made even lovelier when a small deer skipped its way around the garden shrubbery. Just in case you think it was dawn, it was far from it as it was  just before ten.
Headed out then to visit the World Heritage site of Cloitre de Cadouin, a decent drive away. Here the good mood continued when the receptionist, who enjoyed here three months in UCC improving her English, presented us with a smashing bottle of Bergerac Molleaux (from the Caves de Monbazillac) as a reward for being persistent tourists.
We had clocked up four visits to such sites and so earned the wine. As it was, we had visited almost twice that number but didn’t realise that such a scheme was in force until well into our holiday.
The complex boasts a fine church but is it the 15th century cloisters in the Flamboyant Gothic Style, and sponsored by Louis X1, that are the highlight here. Fine doors at the four corners, the abbot’s throne and the restored chapterhouse are the features, though there are many more. A short but quite impressive visit.
We weren’t too far from Limeuil so we headed there for lunch, to the bar brasserie A L’Ancre de Salut (05 53 63 39 29) that we had visited earlier. They were very busy but we got a table where I enjoyed a Galette Complet (more or less a sturdy crepe with fried egg, ham and cheese). A fine plateful for €8.50. A 25 cl jug of Bergerac Rose, a delightful drink on the hot day, cost €3.50.
Then walked over the two nearby bridges, one over the Dordogne and one, its last, over the Vezere. This is the meeting of the waters and two now flow as the Dordogne. Under the trees, close to the restaurant, there are quite a few tables and here small groups were enjoying a do it yourself meal or just a rest from the hot sun.
Drove up then to the nearby Cave of the Vins de Perigord producers only to find it closed. This was a very warm day so we drove back to the gite and a welcome dip in the pool.
But not before a needed call to the neighbouring Casino Supermarket. Here we picked up a pack of lamb chops (about 7) for €7.15, some freshly made ratatouille from the deli counter, also some prawns (with Provencal sauce), fresh strawberries and a pair of millefeuillie, all for tonight’s barbecued meal.
Enjoyed the meal and also the wine: a Montagne Saint-Emilion, a Grand Vin de Bordeaux, which cost us €6.99. This is apparently a wine from a Bordeaux satellite but if I’m on the last spaceship out of here, I’ll be happy to stock it up with this one.

·         A tip. Some French restaurants, particularly in tourist areas, are spread across a road. You will usually find that the tables across the road from the main building are for drinks only.

Sunday, 23 May 2010


For more eating out in the Dordogne see


This is planned as an easy day: marche, pool, lunch at gite, visit wine merchants nearby, dinner at gite (barbecue), Champions League final.
The Saturday market in Sarlat is huge: food, crafts, clothes, footwear.... two streets and connecting lanes, plus a square, all  full of stalls and people. We meet some very nice people: a young man that helps us choose melons for today, tomorrow and Monday; another young man in a shop where we get “strings” for my glasses and quite a few others, including a lady in a Tabac who doesn’t charge for a box of matches (for the barbecue).
We did pick up a souvenir or two but it was mainly food: strawberries (from a choice of three varieties), a pain complet, melons, mussels, and a couple of gorgeous pastries. Also spotted a traiteur with potential and we’ll be calling there after the weekend.
Back to the gite then for a dip in the pool followed by a lunch of mussels (we bought too many of them) followed by some of that bread with a local cows cheese.
Valette Foie Gras, 16 avenue Aristide Briand, 24200 Sarlat, 05 53 30 25 63.
Early in the afternoon found some handy shops within a few hundred yards of the gite, including a Lidl where German Pilsner was on sale for less than €3.00 for six 50cl bottles. Next door was a butcher with a huge selection and also a variety of readymade meals.
The gem though was Valette Foie Gras which, in addition to a massive selection of Foie Gras and related products, including chutneys and Cassoulets, has quite a range of local wines. I took the opportunity to make some progress on my list:
Madiran Cuvee de L’Ange 2005 €5.75;
Saussignac Chateau Tourmentine 50cl €13.30;
Cahors St Didier Parnac Prestige 2006 €6.00;
Pecharmant Chateau Tiregand 2007 €9.90;
Montravel Blanc Sec 2007 €6.70;
And, for this evening’s barbie, a Bergerac Blanc Sec Chateau Theulet 2008, €5.30.
Got their brochure on the way out, studying it at present and we’ll be calling there again.

By the way, that Bergerac Blanc went very well with the barbie and later still the introduction of a previously purchased Jurancon (Moelleux) went down very well with the dessert. It is a lovely medium sweet wine from the Basque country, also recommended as an aperitif or with the local foie gras and certain cheeses. Certainly, worth a look.

Photos: above pig roast, right band plays, below contestant trys to ring goose and bottom local dialect (umbrellas)

Walked in to the centre of Sarlat around noon today. They were getting ready for the start of La Ringueta, Fete des Jeux Traditionnels: all kinds of games, climbing greasy poles, a type of table football played with wooden “hitters” and a round piece of timber as the ball, spinning tops and many more.

Pigs were roasting on the huge barbecues, to become part of a 13 euro meal. But we didn’t wait, headed for L’Orangerie in the shade of hits huge “awning” to take their 14 euro four course menu. With duck confit for the main course, we had an enjoyable meal and headed back to the fun and games which were starting officially at two o’clock.
The crowds were now well up, all fed, and the fun had started. We enjoyed walking around and looking at all the pre-computer activities and we especially enjoyed the lively efforts of a noisy band that didn’t confine themselves to the one spot but moved through the length of the fete.
Later, in the afternoon we headed back to the gite to take a break and cool down in the pool. Later, we enjoyed a pork chop barbecue

DAY 10
Chateau de Monbazillac
24240 Monbazillac
05 53 61 52 52 and 05 53 63 65 00
An afternoon visit to the Chateau de Monbazillac was the highlight today.

Photos from top: the Chateau, Monbazzilac vineyards with Bergerac in background and bottles of the golden nectar at rest.

But first, some housework: rubbish to be taken to the communal collection point a few yards up the road and then all the empty bottles to be deposited in the “banks” at the nearby Casino Supermarket.
Today being a bank holiday, not on the usual calendars, many places were closed but Casino was opened and I took the opportunity to add to our collection by purchasing a Chateau Larroque Bordeaux Sec 2009, a Chateau Peyrettaille Pecharmant 2007 and also a Chateau Menate Sauternes 2005.
From one sweet wine to another as we arrived at the Chateau de Monbazillac after a 70 km trip. Built around 1550, the chateau stands today almost exactly as when built by the AYDIE family more than four centuries ago. This was a very interesting visit indeed, highlights including the Grand Salon, the Mouney-Sully Hall, the Grand Staircase and the Hall of Bottles.

The world renowned vineyard was first cultivated in the 11th century and is famous for using “the noble rot” method to make its sweet wines which draw thousands of visitors every year. We availed of the tasting service, naturally, and purchased some of the golden nectar along with some Bergerac Rouge and Bergerac Sec.
“In entering this place, you are entering a part of the History of France”. So says one of the chateau’s leaflets. Today, the Wine Cooperative of Monbazillac owns the chateau and makes every effort to look after the monument and open it as much as possible to visitors. For €6.40, we thought it was very good value indeed.

DAY 11 Gouffre de Padirac, Rocamadour

Photos:  Three views of Rocamadour and one of the hole in the ground by which you enter Padirac.
Gouffre de Padirac is one of the most visited places in France and takes your breath away. Via stairs and lifts, you descend almost 1000 feet before being taken on a boat trip through the magnificent galleries of this chasm.

Here you see the “Great Pendant” a 60 metre stalactite. After the boat, a circular tour, that includes some 84 steps, takes you  into and around the “Great Dome Room”. This is 94 metres high and here you see gorgeous lakes and more odd shapes of nature, including groups of beautiful stalagmites.
The visit costs about €9.20 for an adult and takes about ninety minutes. There is plenty of car parking in the area and also a share of restaurants which seem a euro or two dearer than elsewhere, maybe dearer even than those on the outskirts of the attraction.
It was in the middle of lunch time when we emerged and we sat down at the close at hand Restaurant Les Visiteurs where we each enjoyed Moules Frites (€11.50) and a Breton cider (€3.20). A thunderclap went off in the distance but the sun stayed shining in the area.
And it was still shining as we reached L’Hospitalet, the hamlet from which there is a great view, many say the best, of the medieval town, on three levels, of Rocamadour. The Chateau is on top, then the religious area and at the bottom, the housing of the workers, nowadays used as souvenir shops and artists’ workshops.
The Bunch of chapels that make up the middle area is quite impressive. Among others, we visited Chapelle Notre-Dame where, on the altar, sits the statue of the miraculous Black Virgin and Child.
It is tough on the legs around here but you may get refreshments along the way and some restaurants and bars have terraces overlooking the valley. Life is also made easier by the lifts that link the middle area with the bottom (€3.00 return) and with the Chateau.
Quite a tiring day! Now to hit Sarlat and see what the restaurants are serving. Most in the medieval centre are serving traditional fare – for the sake of variety we’ll have to get out of town one of these nights. In the end, settle for the Auberge Lys Or in place Andre Malruax (06 87 30 37 07).

From the 14 euro menu, we start with two salads, one a Maigret de Canard, and the other smoked salmon with a lemon sauce. Both okay, nothing special. Main course were Coq au Vin (house style) and Bavette de Boeuf with shallots. Again, each was fine without being outstanding (after all, this is the 14 euro menu).
Dessert was probably the best we’ve come across in this category menu. It was a lovely fresh fruit salad, mainly exotic fruits. A pichet (50cl) of Bordeaux rouge and an Espresso bought the total bill to €38.50.

DAY 12 Chateau Milandes
24250 Castelnaud-la-Chapelle
05 53 59 31 21

After a thunderstorm last night and the exertions of yesterday, a short trip was called for and, after lunch, we headed for Chateau des Milandes, the former residence of song and dance star Josephine Baker who died suddenly in 1975 during the run of a show celebrating her fifty years in show biz.
The American was a huge success sin Paris for much of the first half of the 20th century but never forgot her American roots and the discrimination against her fellow African Americans. She sacrificed contracts in the fight which saw her famously march in Washington in August 1963 with Dr Martin Luther King. Already she had made the Chateau a home for 10 boys and 2 girls of different nationalities.
The rooms in the Chateau, including her bedroom and bathroom, are among those on the tour and, in the Grand Salon, you see many of her famous costumes, also many photos and original drawings of her in the Folie Bergere.
A popular part of any visit to Milandes is the Birds of Prey Display under the charge of falconers Patrick and Steve. Birds put through their paces include a Kestrel Falcon, a Harris Hawk, a Barn Owl, an eagle owl, a falcons and an American fish eagle. Don’t miss the show, usually on twice in the afternoons, not always in the mornings.
No visit to France is complete without a call to Leclerc and no visit to a branch of that supermarket chain is complete without a call to the wine corner.  Further filled my shopping list by adding a Bergerac Moelluex, a few bottles of Buzet, some Fronsac, one Fronton (by error, maybe  a happy one) and finally a bottle of Banyul, the sweet fortified wine, like port, from the deep south.
The morning visit to the market, where purchases included a big lump of delicious Tomme de Perigord, a lovely cows cheese, ended with a call to a branch of the Valette chain where a purchase of Sarlanoix (liquor) ticked another box. Primary use is as an aperitif but we tend to use it with barbecued banana. Do your banana, quickly lay it on a layer of ice-cream and quickly add a tablespoon or two of Sarlanoix and then quickly eat it!


Today made the trip down to the Cahors Vineyards. Started by visiting a couple of sleepy villages. In the bastide town of Montcabrier, pigeons cooed while children babbled contentedly in the school. More sounds of contentment in Duravel where the local café was doing quite a lunch-time trade.
Then onto the River Lot and the quayside of Puy-L’Eveque, once a river port. Fine views here of the river and the old town and vineyards in the near distance. Views kept getting better. High up in Belaye, we had stunning views of both the Lot and Cahors Valley.
And even that was outdone when we called to nearby Albas which overlooks the Lot from a cliff. A few kilometres outside the town we got a magnificent view as the river formed a huge shape in the valley below.
Then passed through the ancient Cathar fiefdom of Luzech and its imposing 12th century keep before getting down to business in the little village of Parnac. Here the Cave Cooperative du Vignoble de Cahors (you see Les Cotes d’Olt on the signs) have a massive cave with a fine shop.
After a few tastings we settled on a Château Les Bouysses 2002 (€7.40 a bottle) and a Cotes D’OIt Malbec 2005 (€4.00), some rewards for a hard slog in the car. As was an excellent dinner of Poulet Basque from the local traiteur, something of a welcome change from the local cuisine to which, let me hasten to add, we’ll return.

La Roque Saint Christophe, 24620 Peyzac Le Moustier
05 53 50 70 45
“The guide is in Irish”, joked the receptionist as he handed us a returnable trail leaflet as we entered La Roque St Christophe, a must visit site if you are in this area. This sheer rock face, some five terraces high, has been inhabited since prehistoric times.

It was such a secure place, above the Vezere river, that man made it a troglodytic fort in the 10th century and that these early efforts were added to throughout the middle ages when the fort, really by then a high rise town,  often held as many as 1000 people.
A little reconstruction has taken place and one can easily imagine how the medieval town worked, how it continued to supply itself – full size working models of big lifting machines have been constructed here - and how it defended itself against attackers. A marvellous and worthwhile experience.
Not too far away, hidden in a wood and also on the bank of Vezere, is the La Madeleine site. Findings here were and are of such an importance to the understanding of the Upper Palaeolithic period that the Magdalenian culture forms part of such studies.
Physically, the site is not as impressive as Christophe but the collection of underground rock shelters, where remains of a chapel, walls and shelters and workshops are visible, and the site above the Vezere, all combine to give one a feeling how life was lived here for century after century. Many of the ancient buildings outlived the castle that was built above them.
Next visit was to a much more modern establishment, for dinner. We had been recommended Le Bar Code, just outside Sarlat on the Josephine Baker Road. Newly opened on this site, it had brought with it from its former Sarlat centre site, a reputation for Meat on the Rock, rather appropriate given the day that was in it.
At present, it opens for lunch every day but for dinner only on Fridays and Saturdays. Our first courses were Charcuterie (€6.00) for me and Salad with Gizzards (€4.00) for herself. Both were substantial and it took us a while to polish them off.
They were big but nothing prepared us for the size of the main course. Both of us had chosen Beef on the Rock. The hot rocks were served smoking, the beef sizzling, all accompanied by a salad and chips and a couple of dips. All you had to do then was “cook” the beef to your taste: rare, medium or well done!
The size of the piece of meat was astonishing. In each case it was at least three times the size of the normal fillet steak served in Cork! All for 15 euro.
A good while later, we were asked, with no real expectation of an affirmative answer, if we wanted dessert. We just said we'd stick with the wine and finish it off, a very enjoyable Bergerac rouge which cost us €10.00 for the bottle.
Full. You could say that. Tel: 05 53 28 56 14. C.C. Pre de Cordy (face au lycee) 24200 Sarlat.

Pics. Model of La Roque (top) and then Church at La Madeleine

Tuesday, 18 May 2010


DAY 1 - see



The 800 plus kilometre drive, including stops, from Roscoff to Sarlat in the Dordogne took from 08.05 until 18.05. Sunday traffic was unexpectedly busy – there may have been a mid-term break in some departments but generally the trip, virtually all on motorway – Roscoff to Rennes to Nantes to Bordeaux and to Sarlat via Perigeux- was fortunately trouble free.

The dual carriage way section between Morlaix and Rennes has very few stops and none decent until the Pays de Rennes effort, after about 160 kms. We found it well stocked: two sandwiches and two drinks cost €9.80. Hot coffee was also available from a dispenser. Staff was helpful and friendly.
The section from Rennes to Nantes is pretty well covered with decent rest areas and it gets better when you hit the auto-route between Nantes and Bordeaux. We make a stop regularly at the Aire de La Vendee. We rate this very highly as it has a huge range of facilities including food supply and decent toilets also baby changing. But it was packed on this occasion; we stretched our legs (one of the reasons why you stop at all) and drove on.

The next big Aire (rest-area), about 30 kms on, has Leclerc pumps and shop and is, in fairness, more or less on a par with the Vendee stop. Again, you get your petrol, food and toilet facilities along with a small cafe.
On the run to Perigeux, we found a fine Aire not too far outside of Bordeaux. Again, they had everything you need while on the move. By the way, on a busy day, all our stops moved the customers efficiently and all had friendly and helpful staff.
DAY 3  see

La Roque Gageac – Domme-Sarlat
Gabarres Caminade
05 53 29 40 95
La Roque Gageac, with the river Dordogne at its pretty feet and the rocks towering over it, is one of the most unusual villages in France. Some of the houses have rooms built into the rock and there is also a troglodytic fort high up the rocks.
Despite the narrowness of the town, they find room for parking. Just as well, as it is a popular starting point for trips on the gabarres, the old-type river boats that ferry visitors up and down the river. We did a short trip on a Caminade boat and the cost up to the bridge under Castelnaud and return was €8.50.
It was an excellent hour’s excursion. While there was a live French commentary we were given English audio guides which worked very well and were informative. The sun came out and we saw some spectacular sights, including Castelnaud high up on the hill. No wonder a returning French visitor gave it a “formidable” rating.
Domme is one of many fortified towns in this part of France. The walls of the Porte des Tours, one of the gates through the fortifications are marked with graffiti made by the Knights Templar. Impressive buildings, many from the 15th and 16th century may be seen here but our main reason for breaching the walls and trying to find parking was so that we could take in the view.

The Dordogne is lazy here and there is a great big curve just below the walls of Domme before it starts flowing in earnest on its way to La Roque Gageac. From the ramparts, you have terrific views over the river, to the left and right, and to the fertile land in between where one f the popular crops is walnut trees. Domme is well worth a detour.

Restaurant L’Orangerie
3 rue Alberic Cahuet
24200 Sarlat
05 53 31 88 03
After the previous evening’s stuffing at Mirandol, we didn’t want Foie Gras again. But both it a confit de canard are hard to avoid in this town. L’Orangerie promised something of a change so we took a table in the open air.
Starters were six Escargots (with garlic) pour moi and Chicken Gizzards and Liver with a salad for the Advisor. Both of us were very pleased as this €14.00 four course menu kicked off.
Both of us choose the Breast of Duck with Sarlat potatoes and small herbie mash and with a honey and orange sauce.  Really classy meal served in the open air of this medieval quarter.
The cheese was once again the Rocamadour goats cheese and a little green salad with some little pieces of walnuts. Quite enjoyable but this too seems to pop up on all the menus. Desserts were a lemon tart for herself and walnut tart for me with custard. Both were quiet enjoyable.
They had a decent wine list and we picked a 50 cl carafe f local Bergerac rouge which cost €8.50. Total bill therefore came to €36.50!
Photos from top: Sarlat meal, La Roque Gageac and Domme



Got our first taste of the twice weekly Sarlat Market this morning. It was busy, tourists mixing with the locals in the medieval quarter.
We enjoyed our own tour, buying some fish (Julienne) and also a Salmon Pizza from the same stall. Also bought some vegetables and fruit and sampled a few bits and pieces before walking over to the “main” street to call to a mini-market where we got some olive oil for cooking. Of course, we couldn’t resist passing a patisserie where we helped ourselves to a couple of strawberry tartlets.
Lunch at the Gite consisted mainly of cheese and beautiful tomatoes before we made the short trip to the “hanging Gardens of Marqueyssac” overlooking the Dordogne and La Roque Gageac.
Info: Jardins de Marqueyssac, 24220 Vezac. Tel: 05 53 31 36 36;
After extensive restoration work, Marqueyssac was opened to the public in 1997 and is now the most visited garden in Perigord. A “folly of clipped boxwoods” is the main feature of the place along with excellent views over the Dordogne. There is an easy (high heels and buggies) and a more difficult path around the “overhanging gardens”.
The main viewing point is the Belvedere, some 800 metres from the chateau. It affords an exceptional panoramic view of the river and surroundings.  The amazing topiary, along with the stunning views, which include nearby castles, make it well worth the €7.30 entrance fee. The visit will take you about ninety minutes, maybe more if you want to linger for a snack and a visit the shop.
Stayed in for dinner this evening. Starter: Melon. Main Course: Julienne (a white fish like hake) served with a salad. Dessert: Strawberry tartlets with fresh strawberries. Wine: Gaillac, from some of the oldest vineyards (quite close to Sarlat) in France. Our dry white, ideal for fish, is made from unusual grapes:  Mauzac and Loin de l’Oeil and has 11.5 per cent alcohol. The region also produces reds, roses and sparkling whites. We were very happy indeed with our white.
Photos from top: Sarlat Market, view of La Roque Gageac from Marqueyssac and topiary in Marqueyssac

Les Combarelles-Limeuil-Tremolat-Gite
Photos, from top: Meeting of Dordogne and Vezere; in Limeuil; Cingle de Tremolat; Les Combarelles and  A L’Ancre de Salut

The Dordogne is so full of caves, you could spend your whole holiday underground. We made a quick visit this morning to Les Combarelles, discovered in 1901. One of two galleries, 140 meters long, is open to the public and contains engravings, sometimes drawings of animals such as horse, reindeer, and ibex mammoths. Quite impressive, considering that they were created some 13,000 years ago.

On then to the Vitrolle, site of the vineyard of Vin de Pays de Perigord. Unfortunately, it won’t be open ‘til the afternoon. Fortunately, our host at the gite has already introduced us to this red wine made from a blend of several grapes, as is usual here, including merlot. Our host, by the way, has strong opinions on wine labelling and is not at all impressed with those who buy by the grape variety alone.
“Some wines here are made with up to nine grapes. How are you going to get all those onto the label? If you are to put anything like that on the label then it should be the maker as he has the most influence.”
Just about a kilometre form the vineyard, we come to the village of Limeuil, one of the most beautiful villages of France, officially. It is an ancient village; the gateway we passed through is from the 14th century. Just inside is the tourist office where we called and picked an English language guide.
We made good use of it as we strolled around the sunlit streets. These are very narrow and our host had cautioned against driving into the upper part of the town. Good advice indeed. In any case, you see more as you walk and we certainly enjoyed our twenty five minutes of so.
Back down then to the river or rivers to be more exact. Limeuil is the place where the waters of the Dordogne and Vezere meet and, with their bridges at right angles, it is a pretty spot.

Overlooking the picturesque junction of the two rivers there is a bar brasserie called A L’Ancre de Salut (05 53 63 39 29). It has an upper terrace alongside the building itself and a lower one across the road, right on the river bank. Both are nice, each with a shaded portion.
We had a Salade de Pay (€9.00) and a beer each. The well made salad, don’t think I’ve ever had a poor one in France, was quite filling and the whole lot was just what the doctor ordered. Excellent place and very friendly staff indeed. Parking for the town is very close to the restaurant.
Then we headed for the Cingle de Tremolat, a little further to the west. After driving uphill for a short while you come to the viewing point over a huge area of the Dordogne river. This massive meander come towards you on the left, straightens out for a while in front of you and then heads off to the sea on your right. You can also see the farmers at work in the fields below and some of the chateaux. Well worth a detour.
After that it was back to the gite. With the temperature rising all the time – today’s was 26 degrees – we took a chance in the pool and had a refreshing if rather fast dip. Should be better tomorrow.
Dinner this evening is DIY, starting with melon. Main course is a Salmon Pizza bought from a market fishmonger. Pizza is almost a misnomer as this is some dish. A layer of salmon on top of a generous ratatouille like bedding with an layer of excellent pizza underneath. The cheese course (when in Rome...) is followed by cherries. And all washed down with a modest Bergerac rouge, a gift from our host. 


Les Jardins du Manoir D’Eyrignac are highly recommended in virtually all the guides for the Dordogne. Cost us €9.50 each to enter and we were suitably impressed as were the Michelin people who awarded it 2 stars.
The gardens are mainly architectural, a masterpiece of symmetry, with many surprising vistas for the strolling visitors.  Water is also used to good effect here and it is a really impressive tour.
Now, for a tip. The main green garden has been supplemented by what is called a white garden, that is a garden, again with architecture planting and topiary and water fountains and the white comes from flowers, mainly from roses. These roses though don’t come into anything approaching full bloom until the end of May so, if you delay your trip until then, it will be well worthwhile.

Restaurant Cote Jardin
Sarl Des Charmes, 24590 Eyricnac
05 53 30 22 56
If you are in the Eyricnac area, perhaps having just visited the gardens, and are looking for lunch then the Cote Jardin is just at hand.
We stopped there today and ordered a Salade Paysanne (€9.00) each, also a Stella Artois and a bottle Breton cider (€2.50 each for 25 cls). The Salad was a mountain! Loads of lettuce, lardons, crutons, walnuts, hard-boiled egg, tomatoes and tasty melon. The crutons weren’t great but overall it was a fine feed with good service despite a big crowd being in.
Eglise Sainte Martin (Soulliac)
In the ancient church of Sainte Martin in Souillac we visited an art exhibition. Just as well the 11th/12th century church was “desaffectee en 1829" as some of the art was rather racy. It was a mixture of photography, painting and sculpture. Pieces were reasonably priced but I didn’t see anything that I liked enough to purchase. Exhibitions continue throughout the summer here and the tourist office for this small and pleasant town is also located here.
Musee De L’automate
Europe’s largest “automata” exhibition is in the abbey of Souillac. It has some 300 pieces, mostly from the 19th and 20th century. Admission is six euro and is worth a visit particularly if you have kids in tow.
Our favourite was Charlie Chaplin, hanging onto a lamppost and cheekily trying to kick his way out of his glass cabinet. A jazz band in action and a man with an uncontrollable laugh also brought enjoyment.

Restaurant Auberge De Mirandol ....
Strolled up through Sarlat looking at the menus this evening and again concluded that Auberge de Mirandol was the place for us. All the others offer the standard local fare, foie gras and confit. Mirandol does as well but there are more choices on its set menus and we like the place and the people serving there.
We get a table on the margin of indoors and out and settle for the €13.50 menu. Started with Jambon de Pays with Salad, a tasty chew, perhaps a bit too chewy for some.
I enjoyed my main course of beautifully done Duck Breast with tasty local potatoes and green beans. The beans and potatoes also accompanied the other main dish, a terrific Coq au Vin (and yes there was loads of red wine in the sauce!).
Then followed the usual goats cheese course, Rocamadour with salad. Dessert was a modest lemon tart (slice) with cold custard and a crème brulee.
Water is usually from the tap and free in French restaurants though you may of course buy bottled water. Our wine was Mirandol’s Wine of the Month:  Chateau Le Coustarelle, La Cassot, Cahors 2005, a terrific red for €14.00 per bottle.

Photos from the top: Sarlat evening, the white garden, St Martin's, massive salad and automat jazz band and twisting figure