One of the regions of France that I have always heard wonderful sentiments about is Dordogne.
Natural landscapes, sprawling farms, orchards and well preserved ancient towns (communes) dot the countryside. Dordogne is an expansive area not far from Bordeaux. In fact, I took the train from Paris to Bordeaux and picked up my rental car at the station. My travels in this southwest region may have pressed it’s boundaries a bit, it is always hard for me to tell when I cross over to another French “department”.
Dordogne covers the ancient area known as Périgord and still is divided into four areas known as Périgord blanc (white), Périgord noir (black), Périgord vert (green) and Périgord pourpre (purple). Take note of those clever French, Périgord purple is where you find the wine estates.
Travel by car in the region offers no quick solution to getting to a destination. Think country roads over rolling hillsides through an occasional forest and navigating small villages built hundreds of years before a car was even a thought. There were some roads, more like walkways in my opinion, I decided not to even attempt. My car navigation indicated approximate travel time to include time for pulling off to the side of the road to let opposing traffic scoot by, deciding which turn was an actual road and which was a private property, and a few loop-de-loops on the traffic circles. It did not include the amount of time I stopped to photograph churches, castles, sunflower fields etc.
In truth, it was all very enjoyable and a marked difference from Paris. The winding roads lead around bends to a spectacular hillside castles. Some chateaus were cared for and ready for visitors and some have trees and vines growing out of their windows and roof. I loved them all.
I mentioned in my last post, I stayed in a beautiful country cottage near Monpazier complete with a native inhabitant. This served as a home base for my excursions each day. Monpazier is in the southern area of the Dordogne region. The town dates from the late 13th century and like many of the French villages has a market day each week.
Market days are always fun to explore and learn about what produce and products are local. Towards the end of one day, I was walking through the town and came back to the central square. Under the pavilion, I saw several vendors with boxes on the ground with what appeared to be large rocks. A fleeting thought crossed my mind, this could be my new career in France! Surely I could get a visa to sell rocks at country markets! On closer inspection, I saw that these individuals were selling large mushrooms – similar to portabellas. Lots of bargaining going on…lots of consternation. It was serious business. The Dordogne region is known for it’s duck & goose products (foie gras) and the elusive fungi: truffles.
Next post will include some of my explorations not to be missed on a trip to this region…