We’ve now spent a week in the Dordogne, a départment named after the great river that runs through many of its towns and villages, and which is known worldwide for its wine, tobacco and beautiful countryside.
Lalinde is a particularly lovely town as it’s almost surrounded by water, with the Dordogne river on one side and a beautiful tree-flanked canal on the other. And if you want to enjoy a stroll along the banks of the river you can duck down the Fontaine des Cannelles and seconds later find yourself looking up at the impressive Château Lalinde.
Standing on the river’s edge to take some photographs we noticed half a dozen or so swans further up river near the bridge, but later, when we reached the church and looked further upstream, we realised there were dozens and dozens of swans. Probably around 150 or more. It was a spectacular sight and I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many in one place. Sadly (as is my current refrain) I’ve still not managed to replace my Nikon lens and so only had my compact Canon with me, which wasn’t up to the task of capturing the swans in any great or interesting detail.
The Dordogne seems to be a popular holiday destination amongst British wine lovers and would-be connoisseurs, and as a result English has become its second language. Something which is quite strange to hear spoken when meandering through the narrow streets of a small Bastide town.
Eymet, with its high concentration of expats, is the hub of Dordogne’s English community. Stopping at a café for an iced coffee we were not only surrounded by English holidaymakers but also served by an English woman who’s lived in France for the past seven years or so. Since moving to Eymet a couple of years ago her French language skills have declined as she spends so much more of her time speaking English than when she lived in the south of France. After coffee we ambled slowly around the town visiting the remains of the bastide and came upon a cute Citroën ice cream van, but as there was no one around selling ice cream we photographed the van instead.
Issigeac is even smaller than Eymet, and on Sunday mornings people descend on the town, the streets crammed with market stalls selling everything from fresh produce and local wines to hats and baskets. We enjoyed the market so much that we returned the next day and were quite surprised at how small the village actually is — when devoid of people it’s possible to walk around the entire town in less than ten minutes.
The town of Bergerac lies low in the Dordogne valley, the tall spire of l’Eglise Sainte Catherine visible for miles. Although the largest town, we spent only one morning in Bergerac, parking by the river and exploring parts of the old town. We would have liked to take a boat ride on one of these boats, but budget travel doesn’t allow for such luxuries, so we contented ourselves with sitting on the dock watching a couple of guys steer the furthest boat back to shore in readiness for a busy day.
Our week in Dordogne has centred around life in the tiny village of Monbazillac, where we’ve been staying with a kind and generous host who has prepared delicious meals (often served with a good local wine), played boules with us on the village piste and introduced us to the joys of the local dégustations. This famous wine-producing village, known for its sweet dessert wines, sits at a 180m elevation with gorgeous views across the valley. However, as it’s been rather hazy over the valley whenever I’ve been out with a camera, the below photograph is of the bar-tabac next door instead.
Oh, and the promised post about wine tasting hasn’t been forgotten — I’m just holding off until I’ve visited another dégustation later today!