Tag Archives: cave paintings

A Taste of the Périgord

Travel is a wonderful way to broaden our horizons… and our waistlines, n’est-ce pas?

Dear Husband and I have just returned from two weeks in France, a trip that was slightly more ambitious (a.k.a., complicated) than might have been ideal. Since many of you have been to Paris I won’t go into detail here, other than to note that the city seemed to have especially poor air quality versus previous visits, not helped by the ubiquitous smokers everywhere. (How is this still a ‘thing’ ?!) And for the love of all that’s holy do NOT arrive for one day in Bordeaux on Nov. 1 which is a holiday, and then return for another day on a Monday when the museums are closed. Oh well, the Intercontinental hotel is still a great place to hang out.

We’d both been eager to visit the Dordogne (inspired by our love of Martin Walker‘s delightful Bruno, Chief of Police novels) and planned the trip based on our schedules, which proved rather an error: Once the tourist season ends (Oct. 31) it REALLY ends, and not only attractions but most shops and restaurants are closed. Note to future travelers: you can avoid the worst of the craziness by traveling in late Sept/early October when the weather is still warm. We also did not realize we had chosen a school holiday period (cue hand smacking head), which also meant crowded trains and limited seating for the Paris/Bordeaux connection. (Bordeaux is well worth visiting but otherwise I suggest flying/taking the train directly to Bergerac rather than renting a car in Bordeaux, as we did, at the rather harrowing 4th-level and hard-to-find train station location.)

Most important — since the Sarlat tourist office had not clued me in when I’d contacted them weeks before — you still need to prearrange tickets for the caves and other points of interest.

Let the photos begin! First up, Montignac, and our home base at the gorgeous Hôtel de Bouilhac.

A partial view of our private terrace at the delightful Hôtel de Bouilhac
A hint of the expansive terrace view
And its wonderful restaurant

Of course, we have to visit Lascaux IV, which is an exact replica of the original cave. I was lucky enough to visit the real one as a child in 1960 before it was closed to the public due to threats of deterioration.

This exhibit shows how the replica was painstakingly created. It’s huge!

On to Saint-Léon-sur-Vézère, one of many beautiful villages in the area.

The Romanesque 12th century church was originally a Benedictine priory. Its limestone slate roof is typical of Périgord, with flat stones wedged between chestnut wood slats.
Driving has its challenges (but offers views of sheep and cows along the way)
Imagine building a house up there

Next up, Sarlat-la-Canéda, after which we head to Château de Beynac.

Sarlat
Beynac castle, built in the 12th century, was a key fortification during the Hundred Years’ War
A commanding view of the surrounding countryside, and below

Above is La Roque-Gageac, a lovely town but too far up the cliff to explore when rain is threatening.

A pretty church in Carsac-Aillac:

Another day, we head to the farmers’ market in Périgueux, which is a lively spot at the base of the cathedral.

Which makes us hungry, so we stroll around looking for lunch, and stumble onto a terrific Michelin-starred restaurant, L’Epicurien, quite by accident.

The next day, we discover the fascinating museum of prehistory in Les Eyzies, a must if you visit the region. It is a stunning reminder that prehistoric people living 15,000-20,000 years ago were creative, practical, family-oriented, and artistic.

And, it’s built into the cliff (pretty amazing in and of itself), with more spectacular views.

The lovely towns of Trémolat, Cadouin, and Limeuil are also worth a visit.

Trémolat
Abbaye de Cadouin (and below)

A major highlight of the trip: the cave at Font-de-Gaume, which unlike Lascaux is the real deal. We are a group of four (joining us, a couple from Paris who’ve never been here before) with a guide who explains the drawings in both French and English. After climbing the steep hill to the cave’s entrance, it’s a dramatic conclusion to our time in Périgord.

Photo from the website, as cameras are forbidden

And, finally, the food. I don’t think we had a bad meal anywhere, and so much of it was as gorgeous as it was delicious.

Vive la France!