Perigord, in south-western France, is picture-perfect at every turn.
When you are not 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.
Highlights include Périgueux, Castelnaud, Beynac, Rocamadour, La Roque Gageac and Les Eyzies but my absolute favourite is the regional city of Sarlat.
Dating back to the ninth-century AD, Sarlat is a place best discovered on foot. It’s labyrinthine alleyways whisper to you to come and explore further. There are surprises and delights seemingly around every corner.
It is also famed as a market town. So it’s best to visit on a Saturday if possible. Wandering around the stalls is divine. A tempest of noise, sights and smells swirls around you. Make sure you stop at the food stands and try some of the local produce. So fresh, just delicious.
History through the ages
Perigord is synonymous with the Palaeolithic era and no visit to this region is complete without a taking a look at one of its many prehistoric sites.
The tiny village of Les Eyzies and the expansive Lascaux caves are must-sees. The prehistoric rock paintings and cave dwellings found here are dated to 40,000BC!
Latterly the Gauls, Romans and Franks all came and went leaving their mark on the region. It’s astounding to think that the Roman history here is actually quite ‘modern’ contextually.
Today the hilltops of Perigord are reminders of the other major historical event played out here and beyond, the Hundred Years’ War. The many castles, towers and battlements speak of a feudal past. It is said there are more than 500 bastides (fortified towns) in France and Perigord has a significant number to explore.
It is ironic that such a brutal and destructive war produced many of the spectacular castles that have become the picturesque icons of this beautiful and restful pocket of France.
Food for thought
It’s terrain directly relates to it’s cuisine.
Dark atmospheric forests are the perfect environment for growing mushrooms, walnuts and the revered truffles. Adjacent to the forests, lush fields fed by the Dordogne and Vezere rivers provide ideal conditions for growing strawberries and grazing goats for example.
Tip: Cabécou is a creamy goat’s cheese that is a delicious regional speciality and Canard (duck) will be on every menu here alongside goose liver pâté, in the form of foie gras or confit, as local signatures.
And a final tip, of all the villages, castles and towns that I visited during my travels in the Dordogne/ Perigord, one tiny hamlet stood out. It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it place.
Tucked in a valley between Montignac and Les Eyzies, is Saint-Leon-sur-Vezere.
Serene and laid back, set on a bend of the Vezere with a population less than 400, it is a place to stroll, observe and imagine yesteryear. Don’t miss it.
Published under license from Well Travelled.