When the view through your windscreen evolves into rows of grapevines interspersed with fields of sunflowers and orchards of plum trees, punctuated by the odd medieval bastide, you know you’ve reached the Perigord region of France.
France is one of the most visited countries in Europe and August is their peak holiday season. However, it’s not difficult to cut into a side street in one of their little market towns, pop into a forest for a walk, or wander through the rural backwaters to still enjoy some of the chic decadence and sheer tranquillity that this area has to offer.
This holiday was a restful one for us and much time was spent at the gite reading and generally languishing around the pool. That said we did take a little time out to explore. Here are my highlights:
Issigeac – Dating back to Roman times, this circular village became one of my favourite bastides of the region. On Sundays it comes alive with a thriving market (which isn’t to be missed for any gastronomic connoisseur), but otherwise it’s general sleepiness and wonderful nooks and crannies offering delights such as half timbered cottages and tiny cafes with outdoor seating are a real pull. And they have lots of cats!
St-Cirq Lapopie – The winding road from nearby Cahors to this ancient village is wonderfully scenic, if a little nail biting in places! Built into the side of a sheer cliff face, this village offers breathtaking views over the River Lot and surrounding countryside. One caveat though: to avoid the throngs of tourists visit in the evening time, especially during high season, to fully appreciate the peace and tranquillity it has to offer, and also partake in the romantic view as it lights up the skyline.
Domme – Resting 250 metres above sea level, Phillip III founded this walled village in the 13th century and used it as a bastion against the English during the Hundred Years’ War. Many of the original structures remain. Access is made through the original stone gateway and you can still glance through the gaps in the ramparts to survey breathtaking views of the valley below.
Belves – Another beautifully restored medieval village set above the Nauze Valley, Belves is famous for its original square and seven bell towers.
One day I will live in a stone house in the sun with a roof terrace, an oversized, ancient creaking door; have window boxes stuffed with bright coloured flowers and blue shutters on my windows. One day… Until then, I’ll just have to pop back next year for another fix.