Here's a list of other related guides that you may wish to discover.Dordogne
Bergerac: A visit to the Maison de Vins which is housed in a former 17th century monastery and in the old town is worth doing and if you are a wine enthusiast there is an exhibition showing the history of Bergerac wine which has 13 appellations at the last count. Sometimes, in the summer there are concerts in the cloisters and the setting is lovely and worth going if you can.
One thing that should be done is a boat trip on the River Dordogne. You can take an organised boat ride on a traditional “Gabarre” (flat bottomed boat) upstream to Beynac and La Roque Gageac taking in some wonderful views. For the more energetic you can hire a canoe and canoe down the river.
Whilst there are many villages, chateaux and vineyards to explore a trip to Monbazillac is recommended. This village is a short driving distance from Bergerac and worth a visit. The chateau is set in the heart of its own vineyards and the view from the terrace across the Dordogne Valley is stunning. Chateau tours are available all year round and at the end of the tour you are offered a complimentary tasting of the famous Monbazillac wine. There is a restaurant within the chateau and a Cellar for purchasing wine.
However, it’s the wine that brings so many visitors to Bordeaux and the surrounding areas with their chateaux and vineyards that is the draw of this area. A trip to the village of St. Emilion is a “must” as it’s the most famous of “wine towns” and is blessed with impressive medieval architecture, including an entire church carved out inside a hill. A walk up to the tower is well worth the effort for beautiful panoramic pictures of the surrounding vineyards that go on as far as your eye can see. Explore the many vineyards open for wine-tasting; also many of the stores in St. Emilion will ship the wine to your home address.
The Pre-historic Caves of the Dordogne. A visit to the Dordogne would not be complete without a visit to the many caves and grottos that abound this region. Many are open to the public and both adults and children alike are fascinated by them. There are two types of caves (grottes) – caves that are famous for their pre-historic painting and caves with rock formations – stalactites and stalagmites. Whether you visit the caves or the grottos you cannot help to be fascinated imagining that our ancestors were here or to marvel at these underground caverns that have been transformed by water and nature. Experience the Lascaux Cave. The most well know cave is the Lascaux Cave and was discovered in 1942 containing evidence of early man with its magnificent prehistoric paintings of animals and humans. The cave was closed to the public in 1963 to protect the cave paintings which can be damaged by the moisture people exhale when breathing. Therefore Lascaux II was created and it is a perfect replica and can be found in Montignac which is 30kms north of Sarlat. The colours of the walls are deep red, ochre and black. It is hard to believe that these paintings were done by pre-historic man and the many paintings are nearly all of animals, literally hundreds of them, but strangely only one man is depicted. There are no paintings of the countryside, flowers or birds. 17,000 years ago when these were painted the principal food was reindeer, but whilst there are various deer on the walls there are no reindeer amongst them. Altogether there are 2200 images painted on the walls of the Lascaux caves. Over 900 of these are animals with various types of deer being the majority of these followed by paintings of bulls and cattle. The four large black bulls in the Hall of Bulls chamber are the most famous of all the paintings and the largest of these is over 5 meters long. This is the largest animal painting in prehistoric cave paintings anywhere in the world.
A visit to the Gouffre de Proumeyssac situated at La Bugue is also worth seeing with incredible Cathedral of Crystal being the piece de resistance of stalactites and stalagmites. The caves are mainly one huge cavern and from the ceiling hang four huge stalactite formations. These resemble a siren, a waterfall, a jellyfish and an octopus. One edge of the cavern is a huge wall of stalactites, stalagmites and columns. These resemble a vast, magical organ and have led to the cavern being known as the 'cathedral of crystal’. To enter the cave you can walk down a tunnel or you can pay extra to be lowered down in a basket from the ceiling in the same way the caves first visitors had to enter. Most visitors arrive at a high level in the cave and the lights are turned off. This theatrical gesture opens onto a musical light show which illuminates the cavern and the different 'sculptures' as mentioned above and is quite a spectacle.
Before the existence of the Gouffre de Proumeyssac was known there were legends surrounding the 'Trou du diable', or the 'devil's hole'. The hole at the top of the cave, through which the basket is lowered, was known to the locals and the story goes that in the winter the hole emits a mist in the same way that rivers do on a cold day in winter, but this was thought to be smoke from the fires of hell by the locals. This hole was also used as a dumping ground for dead animals and the stench from this added to the myth. Nearby is a route that was used by wealthy travellers and also by robbers. This proved to be a good dumping ground for dead bodies and these disappearing travellers added to the reputation and that this was one of the gateways to Hell.
The gardens of the Dordogne
When you think of ornamental gardens your mind wanders to the Loire with its amazing chateaux and fabulous ornamental gardens to delightful private gardens such as Monet’s at Giverny in central France. However, the Dordogne has its fair share of gardens two of these are the Gardens of Eyrignac at the Manoir d’Eyrignac and the recently restored gardens at Chateau Margueyssac. Both of these wonderful gardens are within a short drive from each other. The Manoir d’Eyrignac is located 13 km north east of Sarlat at Salignac and it is open every day of the year and in the summer it is open from 0930h – 1900h. In the heat of the summer a good time to visit is early in the morning or late afternoon. There is a good restaurant in the Manoir. Every Monday evening from mid July to end of August from 7 pm to nightfall there is a musical white picnic in the White Garden. The White Garden is filled with white roses and with the fountains at twilight it is a magical sight. From sunset to nightfall, visitors eat their picnic treats or enjoy a delicious slice of foie gras and a glass of wine in the restaurant. This garden is filled with greenery and displays every shade of green with yews, box trees, and cypress trees that are the main species in the garden. The sheer volume of topiaries is truly amazing and range from plant sculptures, box embroideries and borders all in the French style. The gardens are immaculately maintained and instead of gravelled pathways there are turfed avenues in between these stunning boxwood designs. The ornamental ponds and topiaries give not only beauty to the eye but a feeling of opulence. The Italian style gardens of Marqueyssac that are laid out overlooking the Dordogne Valley are found between La Roque-Gageac and Beynac and cover an area of over 22 hectares. The hilltop position of Marqueyssac is enviable with wonderful views over the surrounding countryside, an array of chateaux and the Dordogne River below. The beauty is of course the gardens which consist of over six kilometres of shaded alleys, edged by 150,000 hand-pruned, one hundred year-old box-trees, and adorned with belvederes, rockeries, waterways, grassy clearings, a Gothic chapel, and playgrounds for the children. The spectacular terrace of the chateau is made up of numerous box-trees carefully pruned by the gardening employees of the estate. Coupled with cypress trees that give a balance the box-trees are all sculpted in curves to mimic the roundness of the surrounding hills. Once past the terrace, you three walkways to choose from to walk through the Holm oak woods, all leading to the belvedere. It is here that box trees are grown freely and more pathways lead to the belvedere with a wonderful panoramic view of the Dordogne River below. Visitors can stroll around the gardens without a guide thanks to illustrated signs and panels which provide information on the history of the site. Between the months of April and September you can follow a guide at no extra cost. The domain also has a boutique and a “salon de thé” (open from Easter to the end of October) which both offer spectacular views over nearby Beynac Chateau.
Bordeaux, which has 347 listed buildings, a bustling city centre and 'the port' of the moon' heritage site, created in the 'Age of Enlightenment.'
Brantome: The Abbey in Brantome has its origins in the 8th century and it’s a Benedictine abbey, founded by Charlemagne who allegedly donated the relics of Saint Sicarius, one of the children massacred by Herod. The original abbey was destroyed by Vikings and then rebuilt in the tenth century and again in the twelfth and fifteenth centuries. It was then radically restored in 1850 by the architect Paul Abadie, a student of Viollet-le-Duc, so the Abbey buildings span a period of almost 800 years. One of the oldest parts is the bell tower which dates officially to the 11th century but may be even older and is one of the oldest in France. Inside the Abbey is an elegant staircase where you can visit the monk’s dormitory where the roof is shaped like an upturned boat. Behind the abbey at the foot of the cliff are the Troglodyte dwellings used by the original monks and in here is a cave with the remarkable sculpture of ‘The Last Judgement’.
A fun day for the children is a visit to Insectopia which is near Souillac and Rocamadour. Inside you will find an interactive museum of insects and nature with mix of live insects from leaf eating ants to praying mantids and interactive computer screens with info on insects and camouflage and general fun. While creepy crawlies may be a ‘boy thing’ there is plenty for girls as well – they will especially enjoy the butterflies in the free-flight area. All visitors will find the ‘edible insects’ interesting, particularly the chocolate-coated ants!