Dordogne & Lot

Europe_Shutterstock/1740433/Iain FrazerThey don’t have the natural grandeur of the Pyrenees or the Breton coast. There are no mountains to climb or rapids to run, and they are utterly bereft of sandy beaches and great museums of art. But over a million visitors find their way to Périgord and Quercy every year. The old folks sit out in front of their houses under the rose trellises, watching them go by in summer, and they wonder ‘Why?’.

Their modesty gives a clue to the answer, in this region of modest and still rather innocent charms. Right now, these two departments of France are what the whole world would like to be: a cultured, traditional, low-stress, low-pressure area that’s green and lovely, with a touch of refinement and lots of good food and wine. Traffic is never a problem here. Slow tractors are, and occasionally chickens in the road.

Let’s not be too modest. The area does have its share of wonderful sights: humankind’s first art, on the walls of ancient caves; monuments of the early Middle Ages, untouched since the rebirth of western civilization; magnificent châteaux and gardens of noble Renaissance families with far more money and taste than was good for them. The two departments offer these attractions with an extra helping of southwestern charm – ducks and geese and truffles and old-fashioned village inns and steep slate roofs and good strong wine. It gets intense every summer, when people from around the world descend. The days are full of art exhibitions and special tours of the châteaux. In the evenings there are village fêtes and communal picnics, dinners out on the terrace and music and fireworks. The locals and the visitors share it all with grace and laughter; you ought to come down and see.

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