We will always have Paris. That’s a given. But leave the French capital behind and venture into the rural heart of France, and other delights await. Winding rivers. Undulating countryside. Lush landscapes. And best of all? Villages clustered on hillsides. Small townhouses clinging to the sides of cliffs. Hamlets hugging riverbanks, and nestling in the shadows of turreted chateaux. Oh my. A photographers dream.
And it was a dream. Best enjoyed in the lunchtime lull between morning and afternoon when the streets were deserted for a couple of hours. The sun didn’t always shine, but summer showers washed the streets clean, and released the scents of every window box, grapevine and flowering shrub. Of which there were many. And this post comes with a word of warning. It’s very picture heavy. I couldn’t help myself.
Lucky for us, a friend has a house in France. We’ve been many times, and with every visit we fall just a bit more in love with the lifestyle and the region. We do have to venture a bit further these days in order to find new places to visit, but it is always worth the effort. And at the end of each day we retreat back to this little slice of rustic paradise. One day the barn (above) will be restored to it’s former glory and will house a bedroom, bathroom and sitting room. A perfect little guest suite for little ole me. Hint, hint.
Sarlat La Canida
Before the heatwave broke we ventured out to Sarlat La Canida in the Périgord Noir region. A picturesque tangle of honey-coloured buildings, alleyways and secret squares. Many boasting some well-preserved medieval architecture. Apparently it’s also a favourite location for film directors and it’s not hard to see why. We did choose a market day to visit so the town was thronged with locals and tourists, but it’s still easy to follow the alleyways and escape the hustle and bustle. And there are plenty of places to eat and drink. There are several large foie gras factories as well as a number of small producers of geese and ducks in the region that make foie gras the basis of the local cuisine.
La Roque Gageac
Around 8km from the town of Sarlat is La Roque Gageac. In a stunning position on the north bank of the Dordogne River, and with a backdrop of cliffs, it really is a picture postcard village. The golden yellow houses with their traditional perigord rooflines, line the river and spread up the hill behind. And the entire village (especially the bit near the church) is an interesting tropical garden that you can wander through as you walk up the hill. Possible because of the virtually Mediterranean microclimate that this secluded position affords. Our friends tell us, the best way to discover the village from the river is to embark aboard one of its famous cargo barges. These traditional flat-bottomed boats were historically used to transport merchandise along the Dordogne.
Domme is also nearby and is classified as one of the most beautiful villages of France, occupying a splendid position high above the Dordogne river. The village is lovely and the views are a bonus as is the cave system (not visited – it was late in the day and a glass of wine beckoned) that sits right underneath the main square. I was much more entranced by the gardens, window boxes and potted geraniums. You can walk round the ramparts on the south side of the town between the Port del Bos and the Porte de la Combe. There are some great views across the countryside (and glimpses of some very impressive houses and gardens built just inside the ramparts).
Verteuil-sur-Charente is a village situated on the banks of the river Charente. It’s dominated by the castle that stands above the picturesque river banks and beneath which the village nestles. The riverbanks in both directions are very picturesque with gardens, trees and shady willows along the water side, and a small dam and waterfall next to the castle. Also on the riverbank with great views of the castle, is the ancient moulin which has been converted into a restaurant and looks like an idyllic spot to sit and have lunch!
Not All Who Wander Are Lost
J. R. R. Tolkien