Here a month, there a month. Europe 2011 travel blog

View of the area

Ho, hum, just another gorgeous vista

Oh, look, a chateaux

Just another town along the road

And another town perched on the mountain, yawn

Dordogne River and cute bridge

Modern Hotel Madeleine

A bit cold for this

Dinner in Sarlat

Also dinner (and diner) in Sarlat

Marilyn's Musings

About a year ago, Bob discovered the author Martin Walker who has written a series of books about Bruno Courreges, a police inspector who lives and works in the Perigord area of France. On his way to solving the latest murder, Bruno finds himself involved in the life of his village and the villagers living there. Walker also wrote The Caves of Perigord which tells of the prehistoric cave painting found here. So, we headed off to Sarlat in search of Bruno, foie gras, Bergerac wines, geese and murders to solve.

The British call this area of southwestern France the Dordogne; to the French, it is known as Perigord. The Pyrenees Atlantiques mountains begin there and the Dordogne and Lot Rivers run through it. The region is also referred to as the Aquitaine (as in Eleanor of Aquitaine Katherine Hepburn in The Lion of Winter). Geologically, it is reminiscent of western Massachusetts except with castles around every curve of the road. The weather remains sunny, but cooler in the lower 60’s and the leaves on the trees have begun to turn. It is flipping gorgeous here.

Our home for the next three days of exploring is Sarlat, a small town with a population of about 10,000 people and a large, carless “old town” area. The Duelist and The Musketeer are the most recent movies filmed here, although Chocolat is perhaps the best known one. We have decided to stay in more modern accommodations than we were in in Arles -- the Hotel Madeleine was built in the 1800’s and renovated three years ago! During the summer, the place is jammed with visitors, but this is the off-season and our fellow tourists were a bit sparse. Dinner tonight was in a small restaurant located on a large square; we both had the local menu consisting of foie gras, duck confit and Sardelaise potatoes (spuds cooked with garlic and duck fat!) with a walnut cake for dessert. Like the ducks who provided us with our meal, we waddled back to our hotel for a zantac. Tomorrow, we are going to visit a chateau or two.

Bob's Bits

Leaving flat Arles with its Roman ruins, cowboys and rice behind, we headed west and north into the rugged Perigord. Two years ago I knew only a little bit about the truffles that are famously expensive here and little else about the region. A mystery book about a small village police officer (Bruno, Chief of Police by Martin Walker) once again gave a reason to find out more about a place. I can now report this is an exciting new area to explore. To me, it is reminiscent of the Hudson river valley and upstate New York as seen through the Hudson river school of painting with rugged rock formations and huge medieval Chateaux built to defend the valleys from all enemies. The roads twist and turn as you pass large sturdy stone farm houses with square towers and steep roofs. Our base is the Hotel Madeline in Sarlat-de-Caneda which after a recent renovation is very up to date. We will not be using the heated swimming pool, hot tub or spa, but the location makes the old town (think 1600's) a few minutes walk away. Tourism is the main business here, but at this time of year the numbers are down making for uncrowded browsing thru the back alleys.

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