As promised, I have returned to the Dordogne – blogging, not visiting alas. Here are some more towns/villages we visited (most – but not all – well worth the visit):
– Le Bugue (I wrote it as “La Bogue” in my journal. oops). This is sort of the start of the Dordogne (we were driving from the west and Bordeaux.) It’s more of a workaday town not touristy at all . Has a very good market where I had a memorable experience that D and I still recall when we need a laugh. I was trying out my very rusty french with a woman selling fish at one stall and soon after I spoke, she burst into laughter. I surmised that rather than telling her – as intended – that “I really like fish” I’d said something more akin to “I am a fish.”
– Beynac – in the Dordogne proper right next to La Roque, where we stayed – has an astonishing castle where it was refreshing to see that the curators had thrown the usual u.s.-style caution to the wind and lit the castle with real live flaming torches sprinkled here and there around the place. Definitely made the place seem very real. Later when we returned to DM we watched – or tried to watch – a movie that had recently been filmed there – The Messenger about Joan of Arc starring Milla Jovovich, Dustin Hoffman, John Malkovich – – but it was so bloody we turned it off. The town of Beynac is lovely – very perfect; not too touristy.
– Monpazier – this was a lovely more workaday fortified Medieval village and a little off the beaten path, with a cool château nearby called Biron (looks like nice hotel there: http://www.leprieurebiron.com) We felt like the only tourists in Monpazier, remarkably enough. There’s a beautiful and unusual town square that as I recall has a semi-enclosed arcade around most sides. We had our classic five-course Perigord meal at La Bastide Restaurant. Had read about it in a 2003 Travel and Leisure article. Ridiculous amount of food and delicious – 1) fois grais 2) a salad prepared with the locally produced nut oil and goats cheese, 3) huge omelette with truffles that tasted remarkably creamy 4)crispy duck cooked in its own fat (confit?), and 5) creme caramel. I was amazed my stomach did not rebel afterwards. We ordered one of these meals – and then a more moderate meal. way too much food. We also found a really pretty home and kitchen store nearby where I bought one – and I wish i’d bought more – very pretty soft-boiled egg ceramic cup (Provencal I think) and a french wrought iron hanging rack that is in our kitchen (w/tea cups hanging from it).
Domme was another dramatic walled village, worth a visit.
Skip Colognes-la-rogue – it’s a beautiful village made of redstone buildings – very different than the yellow stone of the other Dordogne villages but it was very touristy and full of tourists. Like La Roque it is one of France’s “Beaux Ville Villages” which is kind of like the kiss of death because they’re so lovely they’re overrun with tourists. A few other things:
1) prepare to get lost. This is where d. and I coined an oft-used phrase “Not on my map.” (I was the navigator, D was the driver). We got lost a lot but eventually found what we were looking for.
2) there are cool painted caves here. we didn’t go to them.
3) I wish we’d had time to canoe or hike – this is what the Brits do in the Dordogne and it results in a quite different experience than ours (which we of course liked just fine – drive, wander, eat, wander, eat, drive, etc.)
4) fun fact: Josephine Baker lived in Chateau des Milandes which is now a museum. We never visited but after seeing this video, wish we had. She was a remarkable person. (adopted 12 kids, Resistance member in france who also saved jews, civil rights leader etc.) /www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGi0CR3VvCM
5) Chateau de Castelnaud, which i mentioned in an earlier post, is one of the most visited castle in sw france, according to one website I stumbed upon.
6) while all these places start to sound alike, they’re all quite distinct in their own way (i just can’t remember which is which that well any more.)