Medieval Musings in Sarlat and Other Dordogne Villages
SARLAT LA CANÉDA, Dordogne, FRANCE
Upon arriving in Sarlat la Canéda, simply known as ‘Sarlat’, in the Dordogne area of France, we settled into our chambre [room] at the Hotel La There was still time to stroll the vehicle-limited laneways of Sarlat [pronounced Sar-la]. Even though the weather was drizzly, we were awed by the picture perfect vistas at almost every turn.
We finished off the day with an exceptional dinner at Restaurant Rossignol just down the hill from our hotel on Rue Fénelon. [UPDATE: Sorry to hear they have permanently closed.]
Market day in Sarlat. We woke to a bright, warm, alive, Dordogne Valley morning. The main square and laneways of the medieval town took on a festive flare with brightly colored umbrellas seemingly everywhere, under which locals sold equally colorful and tantalizing produce and products.
Up one side lane we purchased melt-in-your-mouth hazel nut and walnut macaroons from the lady and gentleman who made them. In another laneway we tasted, then purchased, three bottles of wine from a young man who grows grapes and produces local wine with his father.
Resisting the temptation to eat it all on the spot – other than some sampling – we took our bounty back to our room with plans to consume on tomorrow’s canoe trip.
In the afternoon, after all the market umbrellas had disappeared and the streets were swept, we went on a self-guided tour of the buildings in this medieval town armed with a Sarlat tourist information sheet and a tour book along for reference. Our camera happily clicked around each corner.
The water on the Dordogne was still too high and fast for canoeing.
A wonderful day of rest: we slept in and nibbled at our Market Day purchases for brunch then went down to an outdoor café on the main square and enjoyed a slowly-sipped milkshake. Here in Sarlat, a milkshake is really a ‘milk’ shake … cold but not thick with ice cream.
We located a Cyber Café, sent some emails, and then wandered the steep narrow roads on the other side of town.
Bumped into a flea market. We, as we often do when traveling, mentally purchased items we knew in reality could not bought because of size and weight, and were content just to have pretended.
Dinner. Another restaurant. Another fine meal. Dining in France has as much to do with appreciating flavors and presentation, as it has for the act of eating … very civilized.
The Dordogne was still too high and fast so we opted for our Plan B.
Today’s travel was not undertaken in our customary style. Today we hired Allo Philippe Taxi to show us the countryside, which is impossible to experience without a car. Philippe is a large man with a sizeable zest for doing what he does. Philippe, his wife and dog, traded in careers in Paris (Philippe was an ambulance driver) for the quieter and slower pace of life in the Dordogne River Valley. Philippe loves to talk. He generously shared with us his knowledge of the local area, among numerous other topics.
At times we had to push a little because he seemed happy to just sit and talk (a great gas saver) but at 28 Euro an hour we wanted a little more. He took us on a circle tour from Sarlat to Beynac to Castelnaud to Domme to La Roque and back to Sarlat. Each town boasts a castle/chateau and three of them we would tour.
In Beynac [Beynac-et-Cazenac] Philip dropped us off at the castle’s entrance on top of the hill.
After a self-directed tour of the castle we walked down through Beynac’s picturesque medieval lanes wishing we were painters capable of capturing the changing scenes on canvas and thinking what a grand place to have family all together for some vacation time.
We rejoined Phillip at the town’s river edge where we saw first-hand the swollen swift flow of the river and the beached canoes and kayaks awaiting more seasonal safe water conditions.
The trebuchet (a type of catapult) at Castelnaud is displayed in a defensive position; its prime use was as a siege engine throwing projectiles in an attempt to break through enemy walls.
Domme was a quick stop; walking through an archway to a lookout point and taking in another view of the peaceful Dordogne River valley.
La Roque-Gageac is a small medieval town which stands on the north bank of Dordogne River backed by high cliffs. Some of its modest dwellings have been standing for three hundred years while others are newer. Phillippe tells us the impressive chateau is a 20th century build.
La Roque-Gageac was once an important trading post and area defense position on the Dordogne River; now-a-days replicas of cargo boats, called ‘gabares’, carry a different valuable cargo: tourists; and La Roque-Gageac is one of the dock points. Not today though; the high waters must recede first.
At the end of five hours we had experienced beautiful countryside, enjoyed our long conversations with a local and were ‘castled out’.
Arrangements were made with Philippe to pick us up in the morning and deliver us to the train heading for Arles.
HOTEL LA COULEUVRINE
Ideally located on the edge of Sarlat’s medieval town (easy vehicle drop off and pick up), a block from the main square. This medium priced hotel is a medieval building and comes with all the delightfully quirky building add-ons of that time; differing sized rooms, twisting corridors and staircases. If you have concerns re heights, mobility or size of room, discuss prior to arrival. Breakfast/dining area receiving good reviews.
Address: 1, place de La Bouquerie, Sarlat
Phone: 05 53 59 27 80
SIGHTSEEING IN CITY/TOWN
Sarlat Tourisme Office
3 rue de Tourny
24200 Sarlat la Canéda
Tel: +33 5 53 31 45 45
GETTING AROUND DORDOGNE RIVER VALLEY
Allo Philippe Taxi
Phillippe is passionate about what he does, an abassadore on wheels for France’s Dordogne River Valley (including Sarlat, Beynac, Castelnaud, La Roque and Domme). His English is clear, his knowledge of the area abundant and he welcomes discussions about living in France. If planning on engaging Phillippe’s services (from pickup at the train station [a 15 minute walk] to day trips), book directly and in advance to avoid disappointment. Email through his website.
24370 Prats de Carlux
Phone: 06 08 57 30 10