The minute we pulled off the motorway yesterday from our drive here from Bordeaux we entered a different world: picturesque villages with stone houses surrounded by rising cliffs. In some places, the houses became part of the cliffs. This is the Dordogne region of France. It’s a world of storybook villages and prehistoric caves and we couldn’t wait to explore it.The sun was shining brightly this morning as we set off for the village of Domm through the countryside. Up a winding hill we drove as two cyclists pedaled on with fierce determination in front of us. The view from the overlook at the top was stunning. A winding lazy river wove through the valley below with hundreds of canoes drifting by. The small shops sold linens, pottery, and wooden toys. In one shop with fragrant soaps and scented oils, we noticed something else. Fidget spinners have made their way over here too. At the edge of the cliff were two restaurants with outside tables overlooking the valley and river. One was expensive with tablecloths and fresh flowers. The menu featured roast duck. Just across from it was another simpler restaurant serving fresh garden salads. “They both have the exact same view,” said the friendly owner at our hotel and we thought the food at the less expensive one was delicious. Dogs are welcome at all of these restaurants and bowls of fresh water are thoughtfully placed for these canine guests. Last night in the square in Sarlat, we saw two small dogs pulled right up to the table in chairs. La Roque Gageac is built right into the edge of the cliff. Here people climbed the small cobblestone lanes that wound up the cliff behind the main road and watched the canoes float leisurely by. I noticed a sign that I thought said iced coffee with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The young girl at the counter asked me something in French and I took a risk shaking my head yes. I heard a machine whir and thought maybe I was getting a shake. Instead I was handed a cold cup of coffee in a paper cup. This was such a pretty village though. The film Chocolate was filmed there with Johnny Depp.
Chateau de Beynac is a storybook castle perched high on a cliff. To get to it in the summer heat was a steady hike straight up a cobblestone lane past stone houses with sky blue shutters and flower baskets in full bloom. People pulled off to rest in the shade, but once at the top the view was breathtaking. In every direction was a chateau surrounded by green trees, fields of corn, and farmland. From the highest point we could see the river for miles and it was as if an army of canoes had started a parade. It looked like a wonderful way to spend a summer afternoon.
Inside the castle, it was a cool respite from the summer heat. There were decorative iron swords on display, but not much else. People mostly came for the views.
Dinner tonight was at Pizza Romane in Sarlat. Dining outside in their courtyard was very nice on a warm night and our mushroom pizza was served with a fresh salad on top.
Tonight the town is full of people on holiday. They line the stone streets to watch street performers in the cobblestone squares and dine at candlelit tables outside cafes.
If you come to France, don’t just stop with Paris or Provence. Come to this storybook fairytale region and you too will fall in love with this area. You will know you have arrived in the countryside on a hot summer’s night when you hear the cicadas sing.