Situated to the East of Bordeaux, the Dordogne Valley feels like the land that time forgot. The region offers everything you might want in an authentic French vacation – gorgeous scenery, fascinating prehistory, honey coloured chateaux, medieval villages and delicious culinary traditions. Read on to discover what a perfect week in Dordogne with Hosted Villas could look like.
An endless choice of activities makes the Southwest great for families. At Lascaux, witness a glimpse of prehistoric life – cave paintings and sculptures date back 28,000 years. More ‘recent’ history is evident in the dramatic cliff-side chateaux and fortified bastide towns dating mostly from the 1200s. It’s not hard to imagine life during the Hundred Years’ War, when French and English monarchs mounted attacks on each other’s castles on opposite sides of the valley. With their arcaded squares, the towns of Sarlat, Monpazier, Issigeac and Domme are architectural jewels from this time.
The hundreds of quiet country roads are ideal for exploring by car or on a bicycle. Countless footpaths trace ancient pilgrimage routes. Or if you really want to move at a slower pace, drift along a winding river by canoe.
Food-lovers will enjoy the culinary specialties of the region – foie gras, truffles, salads dressed with walnut oil (pressed in centuries-old mills), and duck prepared a dozen ways. Wine connoisseurs can savour the reds of Bergerac and Cahors or, during a great day trip, visit the grand crus domaines of St. Emilion, Margaux and Pomerol. All of these culinary treasures are key ingredients in what’s called the “French paradox” – despite the apparent richness of the local cuisine, the people of the Southwest enjoy the best health in the country! Must be something in the air…
Visit the open air markets in Sarlat, St. Cyprien or Issigeac, explore the bastide town of Monpazier
Enjoy a Michelin Star experience at L’Esplanade, high above the Dordogne in Domme
See history come to life at the ancient warfare museum at the Chateau de Castelnaud
Sample some grand cru Bordeaux wines in St. Emilion
Take an afternoon to canoe down the Dordogne or Vezere rivers
Visit the formal gardens of the Manoir d’Eyrignac near Sarlat
Welcome to your Villa. For your enjoyment this evening, a light arrival buffet will be laid out for you by your Local Host composed of regional favourites and delicacies that have been chosen with you and your guests’ tastes in mind. Enjoy this buffet of food while you settle into your home away from home and start to fall into life in France!
This morning we suggest you delve right into French life and enjoy the sights and sounds of a local market as you explore the many authentic products available in the Dordogne region. Enjoy this authentic cultural experience at your own pace and you’re sure to learn (and taste!) all that Perigord has to offer. We recommend you do a quick tour of the market before buying anything; get your bearings then go round again to buy the best of what you’ve seen. Don’t be afraid to ask the vendors how to prepare an unfamiliar vegetable, or if you can sample the olives or strawberries. Ask to taste the cheese or saucisson before you buy; most vendors will be happy to oblige. These visits are best done first thing in the morning, as the crowds are small, and the best finds are readily available. Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes, bring a sun hat and lots of small bills to bargain with. Your Local Host will be sure to provide you with more information on their favourite spots and market tips when you first arrive at the villa.
This afternoon, soak up the history and culture of some of the Dordogne’s most beautiful and historical towns. Start your day at Rocamadour, an ancient pilgrimage center in a unique canyon setting. After a stop for lunch, visit the Padirac Caves (Gouffres de Padirac), where you can descend 75 meters to enter the cave system and explore this extraordinary underground world. Once in the cave you will travel through the tunnels aboard a riverboat, admiring the stalagmites above.
Today you will discover some of France’s most beautiful landscapes with a guided Bike Tour. Cycling the calm, traffic-free country roads is a safe and fun way to explore the region. There is truly nothing like road riding in Europe, especially in France. The roads are mostly quiet and scenic, the drivers are respectful and every few miles there is a shop, cafe or restaurant where you can get supplies or a bite to eat.
Each tour is customized to meet the experience levels of the group and allow you to truly soak in the diversity of landscape and beauty the region has to offer.
After a busy morning of cycling, return home to relax by the pool. In the late afternoon, you and your guests will have the honor of learning some tasty secrets of authentic French cuisine from an expert local chef in your own home! Gather around the kitchen for the lesson and then most importantly, to sample the finished product! Come with a pen, a good appetite and a curious mind.
Often referred to as “le pays de 1001 chateaux,” the Dordogne boasts more than 1000 castles, several of them set on stunning hill-top sites that accent the natural beauty of the region.
Chateau de Castelnaud displays the art of warfare in the Middle Ages with a private collection of arms and armor, as well as furniture from the period. Outside, you will find reconstructions of war machines, such as siege catapults, in actual size.
Chateau des Milandes is a Renaissance chateau with a wonderful panorama of the valley of the Dordogne. Les Milandes is forever linked to the extraordinary personality of Josephine Baker, its renowned former owner. Come here to discover Josephine’s life and her incredible destiny
The best way to discover the beautiful Dordogne valley is by canoe or kayak. Canoeing is hugely popular and there are rental outlets at just about every twist in the river. It’s best to plan ahead and take at least a half-day to simply cruise downstream past the ever changing scenery, where each vista is as remarkable as the last: green valleys, untamed gorges, limestone cliffs, majestic castles and secretive caves abound.
After being out all day, for dinner tonight why not take it easy with a take home meal from the local catering shop. Your Local Host will place the order for you to pick up as you head back home. Or if you think you might want a full-service meal, your Local Host can arrange for a local cook to come in and prepare dinner for you
Start your day with a trip to the Sarlat market to stock up on some fine French delicacies, fine wines, local specialties, beautiful souvenirs (soaps, baskets, fabrics) and shopping list items. Be sure to start early so as not to miss out!
Sarlat, the capital of the Perigord Noir, has been awarded the exceptional three-star classification by the Michelin Guide, marking it as one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. Stroll through the cobblestone streets and stop into one of the many ice-cream parlors for an afternoon treat, or relax on a cafe terrace and watch the passers by, as well as the frequent street performers. Choose from the many superb restaurants for a tasty lunch.
Your Local Host can arrange for an English speaking guide to show you the hidden gems of this exceptional medieval town full of gastronomic and cultural pleasures.
This well-known prehistoric cave is the last original painted cave open to the public. The paintings (of bison, elk and other wildlife) were done around 17,000BC and after the inhabitants left, the cave sat empty and unexplored until it was discovered in 1901.
Your Local Host has arranged tickets for your exploration of the Font-de-Gaume. After the tour you will enjoy a picnic on a private historic site. Feast on a prehistoric and medieval meal of grilled deer and sanglier (boar), wild fruit salads, game pies and pates. This meal is eaten, as it would have been thousands of years ago.
In 1956, archaeologists discovered a chai (or winery) between Beynac and St. Cyprien that dated from the 1st century AD – thus proving that this part of the Dordogne valley, in the heart of the Perigord Noir, is one of the oldest wine regions in France.
Start your day with a visit to your Local Host’s domaine of choice with vines of Merlot, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon grown on the beautiful slopes of Montravel, the westernmost part of the Bergerac wine region.
Spend the day learning about the organic wine process, the work involved with the soil, the treatment given to the grapes and how grapes are turned into wine. Dine at the vineyard with a food and wine pairing lunch and in the afternoon visit the wine cellar, followed by a private wine tasting.
In a one-week vacation, much of your time is spent out and about taking in the local sites and culture. We suggest that you have at least one day where you can enjoy your villa.
The day before departure is ideal and is a good way to take in that relaxing atmosphere that a villa vacation offers. If pampering appeals to you, your Local Host can arrange for inhouse masseuses and aestheticians to come to the villa for a special day of indulgence.
If you’re the cultural type, your Local Host can arrange for a local artist to come to the villa for a private lesson in sketching or painting. This is the day to take it easy and enjoy the villa lifestyle that you’ve come here to experience.
This evening one of our regional chefs will arrive at your villa to prepare and serve an authentic French meal. Sit back and relax as plate after plate of delicious French fare is brought before you and reminisce with your friends and family about the wonderful week you’ve experienced in the Dordogne.
Time to pack up and say “Au Revoir” to your Local Host, the villa, and the Dordogne.