France

Highlights

Roman Périgueux

Périgord was Roman for 500 years, but there is only one window into that distant past and it is right here in the Civitas Petrocoriorum of old Périgueux. Architect Jean Nouvel’s excellent new museum stands right next to one of the very few Gallo-Roman temples to have survived.

Monbazillac

When you’re ready to fall in love with wine, this may be the place to visit: a great château in the midst of the most beautiful and most pampered vineyards in Périgord. The chatêau belongs to
the wine producers, who make sure you can learn everything you want to know about their very special brew.



Brantôme

The ‘Venice of Périgord’ is the Renaissance counterpart to the Château de Hautefort, but instead of a castle it is built around an equally aristocratic monastery. The best part is when you learn that, for all its airs and graces, the monastery is only a veneer, concealing some bizarre secrets in the cliff wall behind it.



Château de Hautefort

As soon as it catches your eye on the horizon, you hear Baroque trumpets blaring. Hautefort is refined art and arrogant authority at once; the boldness of the architecture and the geometric perfection of the gardens capture an expansive moment of history with crystal clarity.
 
Sarlat

A town built for gentlemen, as they used to say. Even when it’s full of tourists in shorts and bum bags, Sarlat has a way of taking us back to a more refined day. It’s also the perfect base for exploring the most interesting corner of Périgord, and the best place to be initiated into the culinary cult of the duck.
 
Château de Castelnaud

Most of Périgord’s many medieval castles either went to ruin or were converted into residential châteaux. Castelnaud survives, to tell us stories of knights of old, how they lived and how they fought. Some of the reconstructions of medieval weapons here are unique in the world.
 


Château des Milandes

As châteaux go, Les Milandes is a jewel, but a modest one. Here the real attraction is getting to know one of the great ladies of the last century, Josephine Baker, who came from the streets of
St Louis to lead a remarkable, even inspiring life in France.
 


Jardins de Marqueyssac

The most ravishing of Périgord’s Renaissance gardens, and perhaps the greatest, oddest topiary creation anywhere. Come anytime, but especially on a summer night when they light it up with candles.
 
Font-de-Gaume

Lascaux will show you only a reproduction; you have to come here to see the best of Palaeolithic art in all its mind-blowing virtuosity.

Roque St-Christophe

You would never imagine such an exotic thing could exist here in la douce France instead of in Turkish Cappadocia. It’s the Invisible Castle, tunnelled on five levels through nearly 1 km
of cliffs and occupied over thousands of years. If any old stones in Périgord could speak, we wish it were these.
 


Lascaux II

Even if it’s only a copy, there’s no better place to come to grips with the fascinating and sophisticated minds that created humanity’s first great art. It’s all there on the walls in paintings and symbols, a way of thinking and living waiting to be deciphered.
 
Souillac

Souillac has two delights, and they’re next-door neighbours who couldn’t have less in common: the wonderful ‘dancing’ Isaiah in the Romanesque abbey church, and a museum full of clockwork automata.



Carennac

The village’s current population is 373. But like so many other tiny places in this region, it is famous around the world. Carennac has one great work of art, an interesting museum, a café and a restaurant, and more charm than any village really deserves.
 
Château de Montal

It’s the real Renaissance, picked up on a magic carpet, transported from Italy to the Lot and made French. It’s also a monument to a broken heart; the protagonists of the sad story are captured in the exquisitely sculpted roundel portraits on Montal’s façade.



Gouffre de Padirac

Lofty and solemn, the ‘underground cathedral’ in the cave at Padirac is one of the great sights of France. It is impossible to photograph, and difficult enough to describe. You’ll really have no idea until the boatman is punting you through it down an underground river.



Rocamadour

It’s fashionable to laugh at Rocamadour and its roadside attractions, but it’s even more fun to visit. In what other hallowed medieval pilgrimage site can you feed Barbary apes, or watch an Andean condor swoop over your head? Bring the kids. (Or, for a unique experience, come in January when it’s nearly deserted.)



Cahors

For the most beautiful bridge in France, the Pont Valentré; for the lovely cathedral and the Saturday market, the secret gardens and a skyline of medieval towers. It’s an introspective town though, and it gives up its secrets only a little at a time.
 
H St-Cirq-Lapopie

Deep in the secret heartland of Quercy there’s a village perched on the edge of tall cliffs that’s just as visually striking as Rocamadour. This one devotes itself not to religion but to contemporary art, and it’s an ideal spot from which to explore the most scenic part of the Lot Valley.
 
Musée de l’Insolite

It’s a single mad artist living under a cliff, expressing himself through the medium of rusty junk. His ‘museum of the unusual’ is there to make us laugh, while at the same time giving our contemporary culture the nice crisp punch in the nose it deserves.

Figeac

An urban oasis in an eerily empty corner of France. In many ways Figeac is a slightly smaller version of Cahors, but this elegant city of steep slate roofs and Gothic merchants’ palaces has charms of its own.


This except is taken straight from our Dordogne & Lot Colour Guide written by  Michael Pauls & Dana Facaros.

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