Dordogne flaunts historical castles and vineyards that roll on forever

If there is such a thing as a typical British Francophile, they might declare the Dordogne to be “the real France”.

When the sun is out the place looks grand and classical, like a 19th Century oil painting.

Wonky old market towns such as Bergerac and Sarlat are inviting, the region’s castles are vital players in France’s history and the vineyards seem to roll on forever.

The wines can certainly hold their own against nearby Bordeaux and there’s plenty of that controversial treat foie gras. The truffle enjoys iconic status, too.

Brits have been flocking to the Dordogne to live since the 1960s (hence the joke “Dordogneshire”) and that little scuffle the Hundred Years War dates the relationship back to the Middle Ages.

  • Motorbike adventure across barren lakes in Mongolia is Chancing on Ice

  • Croatia: The sun-kissed isle of Rab flaunts sandy bays nestled in deserted coves

Just jump on a plane to Bergerac Dordogne Perigord airport and Bob’s your uncle.

Not long after arriving, I find myself riding an e-bike around the vineyards of Chateau Grande Maison in Monbazillac (apolocycles.com). It is a golden September afternoon and the effortless gliding allows for even greater enjoyment of the scenery.

The sweet white wines produced here come from Semillon and Muscadelle grapes affected by “the noble rot” or Botrytis cinerea, a fungus that covers the fruit.

I enjoy a drink with estate owner Benjamin Chabrol before leaving for a stroll around nearby Bergerac with a light fuzzing of the senses.

  • Israel travel: Tel Aviv a big hit as it hosts Eurovision

The medieval town sits on the banks of the Dordogne river. The temptation is to sip beer and watch the Gabare boats – 18th Century vessels for the transportation of food and wine which are now used for sightseeing tours.

But instead we wander a bit, and come to a statue of 17th Century wit and soldier Cyrano de Bergerac, the character based on a real soldier that dramatist Edmond Rostand used for his famous play 200 years later.

Later, I check in to my wooden cabin at the Pomport Beach campsite.

This four-star resort is perfect if you’ve little ones because it’s unlikely they’ll wander from the lake, which has its own beach. There’s also a beautiful pool complex with water slides and massage jets. For dinner we head for nearby Chateau Tiregand in the commune of Creysse for a barbecue and some jazz.

  • South Wales travel: Drinking in the Gower Peninsula's poetic beauty

This is the sort of thing the French excel at – a ticketed grill open to all in the grounds of a stunning country pile.

We sit at long tables where lamb chops and sausages are washed down with local red. After supper, the Red Fish Quartet tear through some Dixieland jazz to a packed-out marquee.

Next day we make for Sarlat. Saturday is a market day, an 800-year-old tradition, and tables loaded with typical fare snake through the streets.

Our guide Katia stops at one and extends a fist of black tumour-like objects, the Perigord summer truffle. The Dordogne sits in the Perigord region, and Katia boasts that the finest examples of the smelly fungus are found here.

The ideal family campsite for Sarlat, and other Dordogne attractions, is Huttopia on the edge of Sarlat, with its heated outdoor pool and cosy woodland setting with pizza-grill and bar. Rent a wood and canvas tent, a gypsy caravan, a mobile home or a stone cottage.

Available to explore just 10 minutes away is Chateau de Beynac, the 900-year-old castle looming over the Dordogne.

A glorious way to experience the valley is by taking a Norbert Gabare boat. These motorised replicas make a four-mile round trip, starting at La Roque-Gageac – one of France’s most beautiful villages – to the castle of Castlenaud.

  • Safari in Kent: Extraordinary encounter with deadly predators

Also in the valley, situated along a disused railway line, is Le Gare Robert Doisneau. This was formerly an old platform building for Carlux station, and was opened as a gallery in 2018 dedicated to the famous Parisian photographer.

He knew the Dordogne well and in 1939 took La Gare De Carlux, an iconic shot of four cheerful friends at the
platform edge with the building behind.

You’ll find plenty more cheerful friends in the Dordogne.

  • Campsite accommodation in Dordogne Perigord starts from £269 for a week at en.campingsdordogne perigord.com (inset, Pomport Beach).

Ryanair flies from Bristol, East Midlands, Southend, Stansted and Liverpool to Bergerac, starting at £19.99 one-way between March and May. Book at ryanair.com. See also dordogne-perigord-tourisme.fr and france.fr.

  • Daily Star Sunday

Source: Read Full Article