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Tuesday 31 December 2013

More Dordogne...

During breakfast on one of our warm, sunny days, we decided to visit Sarlat, here's the story...

Old Market Square

Located in the Perigord Noir lies the medieval town if Sarlat la Canéda, or simply Sarlat. Arriving by car it does not take long to see the signs pointing to "Centre Ville". The old centre of this town dates back to the 14th century when a Benedictine Abby was established there. Modernization over the centuries has mostly happened elsewhere and the old town centre is pretty much the same as it was 600 years ago.

There is no shortage of eateries

A typical storefront

The buildings along the cobble stoned streets are of the local umber stone and exude a warmth that causes people to stand back and take all the pictures. Small eateries and cafés along with the usual tourist shops line the streets, but some of them have some wonderful creations by the local artisans on display. The pottery is exquisite.

Spices and Herbs galore

As it happened it was market day in the old town centre and the local growers were there with large selections of fresh vegetables, cheeses, sausages and a variety of breads and cakes. There was even a Dutch vendor selling cheeses from the low lands. At about noon the entire market broke up and the town was returned to its normal quaintness.

We stopped for lunch and had a local dish, some sausage and potato dish that is not worth writing home about, but the wine was good! I guess that some restaurants, in a town over run with tourists, eventually cave in to getting away with serving a quick and very profitable few dishes to cash in on the summer holiday season, too bad, but understandable. We learned, and moved on.

The menu here looked great...

Eventually we returned to one of the artisan's shops and purchased some pottery, egg cups and a white wine decanter with an ice compartment in the centre. They are still in use today, albeit infrequently.

The umber stone of the region 

Plenty of little bars...

The day ended like all the others, relaxing in the garden at the dinner table, chatting and sipping wine. Guy had discovered a local canoe rental place and we decided to make that the next day's adventure...

Sleep came easy and the next day, after breakfast we headed for the canoe rental place, located at a local camp ground.

Each canoe is supplied with a waterproof container for all those things that must stay dry. We were given a simple map of the river and the camp host showed us where to get out at the end so he could pick us up. The whole trip should take about four hours, but we told him to give us five hours so we could stop and various places to take pictures etc. we had also planned a stop at a village called "la Roque Gageac", for a beverage break.

Chateau Montfort, photographed from the canoe

We launched the canoes and paddled off along the shoreline and found that it was quite shallow from the dry weather during the months of July and August, so we had to stay in the middle of the river. It was only about waist deep for the most part. The gentle current took us along the scenic shores and the views were awesome. Every once in a while we would stop to take in the scenery.

Chateau Montfort

Soon we came upon the spectacular view of Chateau Montfort, a privately owned castle  glued to the cliffs above us. We later walked outside the castle and discovered that it was no longer open to the public.

Some old pillars in the town of Montfort

Cruising along we passed the town of Domme, and decided to go there later in the week to have a look. Our lunch stop was next and we pulled the canoes ashore at the town of La Roque Gageac. We found a nice place in the village and ordered beer and wine. This town is mostly vertical and built up along the cliffs where once cave dwellers lived. It is my understanding that the caves may also have been used for mining. It's a beautiful village with great little places to eat and relax. Our trip ended just past the bridge at Castelnaud La Chapelle. Here the camp host was to pick us up and by the time we were all sorted, he pulled up with his car and a trailer designed to carry eight canoes. What a great day in the French sunshine!