I am not a travel blogger. Sometimes I have to pinch myself that the word ‘blogger’ is associated with my name at all. No less extraordinary is that my writing has recently been nominated for an award!
But as I lay here on my bed in a beautiful French cottage (utilising the hour of peace I have whilst my husband and children are out), I feel it necessary to document this short but sweet snippet of our lives. It will probably fall short of any other travel blog entry you have read, but I hope it gives you a little insight into this stunning corner of France that we have grown to love.
We are staying in the smaller part of a large country house, nestled in the hills near Journiac, in the Dordogne region of France. It’s surrounded by nothing but fields (cue Google Maps screenshot) and the silence is just incredible. Not to mention the starry nights, which come second only to the night skies I witnessed whilst in the northern territories of Australia, where I lived and worked on a 1 million acre cattle station.
At one point, when we arrived at Gatwick airport, only to find our Easy Jet flight cancelled and no outgoing flights for a further four days, we thought our dreams of a summer holiday were dashed. But, determined to experience our longed for break in the sun, we put our heads together and decided to take on the long drive south, rather than wait for a flight. 11 hours in the car with two children is no mean feat, so we stayed overnight in a Ibis Budget hotel in Les Mans. It felt vaguely prison-like with its tall, square, cramped rooms, poky windows and fluorescent lighting, but there was hot water for showers, it was quiet and we were offered a basic breakfast. However, understandably, we didn’t hang around long before heading on to our final destination.
The guest house (found on Air B&B) which is run by motorbike enthusiast Stuart and culinary expert Nadia is a true French affair with both rustic and antique furniture, dark beams, high sloping ceilings and wall hung candelabras. It is spacious and tasteful with light coloured walls and neutral flooring.
The grounds are expansive and grassy – perfect for a morning stroll (or a HIIT workout if you are me and attempting to keep up the fledgling exercise regime to combat the daily calorie-dense breakfast.)
We have ventured out of the house and grounds a few times this week as the weather has been changeable (there is a large but cold pool which the children are enjoying on hot days).
We have swum and canoed in the nearby Dordogne river and wandered the streets of Sarlat-La-Caneda to experience some culture and history. The old town, dating from both medieval and Renaissance times is a pleasure to visit, especially during the spring and autumn or early in the morning (it gets busy). The drive there is around 40 minutes from the property. There’s plenty to see including Sarlat Cathedral and Manoir de Gisson (this building dates to the 13th century and essentially is a suite of private apartments showing home life for the Sarlat nobility.) A market is held here twice weekly on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Anywhere you go from the holiday rental will involve travelling through the tiny “commune” of Journiac, whose streets are decorated with colourful bunting and only really consists of a few houses, a school and a church. It does, however also have the most eccentric looking ‘Tabac’ (local store), run by a very elderly lady and her dog, who seem to spend most of the day sat together on a rickety old chair outside the front of the shop. My Mother ventured in one morning, hoping to purchase a bottle of milk, and was amused to see an old fashioned scales sat on the counter and the only produce being a couple of newspapers, one loaf of bread and some dusty cans of food. It was extremely dark inside and as her eyes adjusted to the gloom, she saw the old lady shuffle forward out of the shadows, with her toy poodle bouncing about at her ankles. Mum asked for “lait” – the french word for milk and when the lady finally understood her schoolgirl French (after some expressive hand gestures from Mum) she nodded and answered in a gruff voice “Ah oui, lait! Non.”
There often seems to be a little crowd outside the shop – I imagine the old lady has many splendid tales of things she has witnessed from that chair to relay to the locals.
Nearby Le Bugue is a thriving market town with lots of charm situated on the Vezere River. En route to this town from our accommodation is a small stone house with bright blue shutters. Every time we pass it in the car, my five year old says – “there’s the three bears house.” Can you see why?
Le Bugue is in an ideal position to explore the Vezere Valley (UNESCO World Heritage site) and its famous prehistoric sites. This town is also where we frequented the supermarket each morning, collecting food supplies for delicious picnics, and picking up croissants and pain-au-chocolate for breakfast.
Limeuil is one of the most beautiful villages in France and offers canoeing and a river beach as well as the pretty little village full of honey-coloured houses and cobbled streets that is well worth exploring. The river beach (La Plage de Bacs de Sors) at Limeuil is an ideal place for the children to cool down with safe paddling in the river shallows – a very pleasant place to escape the busy summer crowds. We had a wonderful day here, swimming in the warm river and enjoying the scenery.
We also hired a couple of canoes for an hour and leisurely drifted down river, passing lovely vistas like the one below.
Another of our favourite places to visit in this part of France is Domme. Domme is classified as one of the most beautiful villages of France and occupies a wonderful position high above the Dordogne river. The village is lovely and has a cave system that sits right underneath the main square. We visited these caves last year and they are well worth seeing.
The highlight in Domme for me, is the ‘Belvedere de la Barre’ which is a viewpoint capturing the most breathtaking landscape I think I have ever seen, with rivers, fields, woods, country homes, bridges and more.
There is also a lovely Italian restaurant called ‘Pizzeria des Templiers’ which (if you book early) can seat you for dinner at 6:30 which is perfect if you have children in tow. The food and ambiance are good, and we have enjoyed the pizza and pasta there two years on the trot.
After a day exploring, the house is a welcoming place to relax, and we have been thrilled with our choice of accommodation this year. This part of France has just a little bit of everything you could fancy and we will definitely be back. I’ll try harder to remember the mosquito repellent next time though! For more info on where we stayed visit https://abnb.me/zK7DEh9uuP
Until next time.
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