We’ve been living in France for one and a half years now. During that time we’ve returned to Scotland a few times, but last Sunday saw us take our first French break courtesy of a kindly birthday present for Heather from her beautiful daughter and son-in-law. A two-night stay in a gite on an organic vineyard just ten minutes south of Bergerac, and Pepper could come too! During our French holidays and our time spent searching for property we’ve seen plenty of the areas surrounding Bergerac, but until now this fabulous medieval town on the north bank of the Dordogne river has escaped us.
Bergerac is a two-hour drive south of Rochechouart, the first hour being a lovely drive through the Perigord-Limousin Natural Park; an area we now know well, the top half being part of the Haute-Vienne, the lower enters into the Dordogne. The hour is filled with picturesque hamlets and villages amongst endless streams and rivers, all set in an undulating sea of green valleys. We love this area and if we have any reason to go for a drive (usually hunting for Etsy stock) we never need much persuading. A further hour into the heart of the Dordogne and the number of vineyards escalates rapidly. The ‘Route des Vins’ is aptly named, extending over 12,000 hectares through 93 villages around Bergerac. The area also has the highest density of castles, bastides, churches, abbeys and grand mansions in France. A feast in many ways, surrounding this beautiful, historic town with the most stunning medieval centre…
Day two was a brief trip back to Bergerac after a mini tour of the area taking in Eymet and Issigeac as recommended by our gite host. Eymet is a beautiful, small bastide town full of alleys, churches, chapels, mills, dovecotes and wash-houses, all surrounding its stunning centre square which we found under a sea of red poppies. Issigeac is like Eymet’s smaller sibling; full of narrow alleyways and enchanting stone and half-timbered houses with cob-filled vertical and horizontal posts. Both villages are typically French where their charm emanates from their history; through its architecture and the respect that the residents clearly have for its culture. Greenery and floral displays blend in with the buildings whose faded shutters have never looked so perfect.
Day three saw us return home via a couple of stops, the first in Saint-Astier, another lovely town with a rich heritage for a gentle stroll along the river Isle before lunch. On the way down we skirted Brantome, a stunning town known as the ‘Venice of the Perigord’. We’ve spent a few days here before, but such is its beauty it was impossible to pass by on our return. Steeped in history it’s the most perfect place to relax, embraced by the beautiful river Dronne and dwarfed by its magnificent 8th century abbey where its Benedictine monks lived in the troglodyte dwellings. If you are in the area and have the chance to visit Brantome, do not hesitate.
A hugely enjoyable three days away driving through great oceans of vineyards under blue skies, enjoying French history and culture at its finest, not to mention a bounty of delicious ice cream. But then coming home to Rochechouart will always warm our hearts.