Saturday, December 21, 2013

We begin exploring in the Dordogne

Our first full morning in the Perigord started in the nearby village of Limeuil, where the Vezere flows into the Dordogne river. What a delightful spot for our breakfast coffee. It is a lovely old town with a chateau and park atop the hill. In the summer you can rent a canoe and travel down river. Everything was very green and very tranquil.

We then visited the market in nearby Le Bugue. This market is renowned as the best market in the region. After parking precariously right by the river, we climbed the steps to the market square. Immediately we were assailed with a sight of wonderful cheeses, breads, fruit and veg and of course foie gras. The market stretched on both sides of the road and went on forever. It was a delight walking along the food stalls, artisanal clothing, jewelry, and handbags just to name a few. This wasn't a market of Chinese clothes with 'Made in Italy' labels. We stopped to buy some home made chutneys and some mince meat pies. Later we were lured by a round of goat cheese covered in cranberries and another soft, tasty cheese covered in peppers. We bought two small tins of foie gras rather than the fresh, and some fig aperitif that we are looking forward to opening soon. Le Bugue market is a foodies heaven.

By now it was lunch time and following 'Bruno's advice', we sought Auberge le Roussel. With a little bit of help we soon found it, up a narrow road full of twist and turns. The restaurant was filled with locals, always a good sign. The lady immediately brought a pichet of red wine and some bread to the table. This was followed by a tureen with vegetable soup, and a ladle; you just helped yourself. Next came a green salad with thin slices of duck followed by roast goose, scalloped potatoes and a kind of ratatouille. A plate with huge slabs of cheese was placed on the table so that we could help ourselves. I asked the name of one very tasty soft cheese only to be told that it didn't have a name and that it was just "cheese from here". We had our choice of six desserts. Seamus had the local nut tart, while I opted for my favourite isles flottant. All this for only €12.50. Incredible!

Back on the road we spotted the two great castles of Beynac and Castelnau, from which the English and French glowered at each other during the Hundred Years' War. The wife of the lord of Castelnau thought the place a bit grim, so she persuaded him to build Chateau de Milandes close by. American nightclub artist Josephine Baker bought it in the 1930s and turned it into a Resistance center in World War II. Unfortunately, it was closed for the season but we admired it from the outside. We knew before coming that many things would be closed but now we look at this as a good excuse to come back.

We drove on to the magical town of La Roque Gageac before ending up at the medieval hilltop town of Domme with it's great views over the valley below.

Our final stop of the day was Sarlat, a town whose centre was largely built in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and which has changed little since. They could film another version of The Three Musketeers here without changing anything except for a few modern shop windows. It stayed that way because the local swamps and malaria put the town into a long decline with little new building until DDT tamed the mosquito. We enjoyed walking around the town, especially the Christmas market with lots of nougat, marzipan, wine, foie gras of course, Christmas items and a booth from Quebec selling maple syrup.

By now it was dark and time to wend our way back to Tremolat for a beet salad and a simple omelet.

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