Dordogne has always been the epitome of the French countryside for me. With it’s dramatic sloping valleys, sunflower fields in abundance and medieval villages and hamlets built in to the rock faces, there’s a reason it makes the front cover of the Lonely Planet guide to France. It’s simply breathtaking. At times it can leave you feeling like it’s a bit too good to be true, like a set at Universal Studios it seems more likely to have been created for a Hollywood movie. So when Soheil and I decided on a destination wedding, after quickly ruling out Italy due to travel issues for older relatives we settled on Dordogne. Easy to access with daily flights from London to Bordeaux and Bergerac or a road trip across the channel for those who prefer not to fly, it has the transport element covered. And did I mention the wine… oh the wine!
We travelled to Dordogne last week in search of a venue and broke up our trip by spending time in each of the areas we felt best suited what we want for the wedding. A beautiful chic chateau set in a secluded area but with enough going on in the local towns to keep our guests entertained. We were completely spoilt for choice. We started our search around Sarlat-La-Caneda, a beautiful 14th century town that’s kept nearly all of it’s original charm albeit giving way slightly to the hoards of tourists it attracts. For us this is what let it down as a wedding destination but it’s definitely worth visiting as part of a holiday trip. It’s markets for food and antiques are some of the best in the region.
Further towards the river we also spent a few nights in Domme and La Roque Gageac, both members of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France ("The most beautiful villages of France") association. Days here were spent exploring the historical churches and rowing canoes up the river. Nights were spent sampling the region's exquisite wines, breads and duck dishes (whilst avoiding Frois Gras at all costs which can sometimes be tricky here as it’s their signature dish).
We then travelled further West to the Charente region and the town of Aubeterre Sur Dronne and realised almost instantly that this is the place for us. A 12th century town full of antique shops and creperies with it’s very own river beach only a stone's throw away. We’re just sad we have to wait for a whole year to come back and say I do.
Here are The Grown Up Edit’s tips and favourite bits….
Travel around to enjoy the full extent of what the Dordogne has to offer. Each village and hamlet is unique in it’s own way and worth checking out even if it’s only for lunch.
Rent a canoe. It might seem like a lot of cardio to be doing when you could just be lazing on a river beach but it’s totally worth it. The tranquillity and drama of this river can only truly be experienced this way. Plus it’s a great way to try out the many beaches that can’t be accessed by foot.
Go to the markets. Whether it’s food, wine or antiques this is a great way to sample some local produce and practice your French.
Eat at La Belle Etoile in La Roque-Gageac. Sitting out on the terrace above the river, this was the best food we ate in France and the staff went above and beyond with their service.
Take a hot air balloon ride. An amazing way to see the river in all it’s glory.
Stay at Chateau De Redon. Rented out as a full house with 8 double bedrooms this historic chateau has been lovingly renovated to a 5* boutique hotel standard.
Rent a decent car to make the most of the scenic roads and bring lots of insect repellent to tackle the many critters that inhabit the river.