After a week-long visit to Dordogne I’d like to pass on some personal thoughts that could be helpful to you planning a trip.
Planning Hints and Faux-Pas
Narrow it down – Dordogne is a big place — the third largest department in metropolitan France. If you have only a few days to visit, choose your route with the intention to visit only one, maybe two, places each day. Our first two days we made too many stops, then we slowed down our pace. You don’t want to return from your trip and it’s all a “blur.”
“Home” base – Changing places to stay every night is exhausting for me. Sometimes it’s unavoidable. If possible, find a central location and “camp out” there for two or three nights. Our mistake on this trip was that our home base was in the middle of nowhere. Even finding a place for a meal was a problem. So stay in a village where you can buy a glass of wine, or two, when you arrive back in the evening.
A place to relax – Your “home” base is probably not going to be your “place to relax.” You’ll be busy traveling from there to hither and beyond. Choose to spend a couple of nights where you can “chill”. Make it towards the end of your holiday, perhaps, so you’ll be relaxed when you return home. Choose something special — a little village by the river, or at a chateau.
Bad weather alternatives – As much as you hate to think about bad weather during your holiday, it happens. We were fortunate to be close to Lascaux, so we spent our one day of rain underground, in a cave. No caves? Shopping and wine tastings are great alternatives, too!
Time to dine – One thing you don’t want to miss about the Dordogne is the food. If you wish to enjoy the canard, the fois gras, the cheese, the wine …. remember you’re in France. In some towns and villages, restaurants serve dinner starting a 7:00 pm. During heavy tourist season you may be more fortunate to find businesses that have longer hours, but don’t always count on it. Plan your day accordingly. Stock up on cheese, bread, wine and fruit that you can enjoy in your room — just in case. Take plenty of water bottles that you can fill whenever you stop.
Photo opportunities – As much as I hate to admit it, getting up early in the morning is a good idea if you want great photos from the Dordogne. My friend, Julie, has some fabulous sunrise shots. For example, the best shots of Rocamadore are taken early in the morning, before the sun shines right into your camera lens. Bring several camera batteries, chargers and, if possible, more than one camera. My iPhone, iPad and camera were all put into action at one time or another.
If you plan to drive through the Dordogne — which is fabulous, by the way — be prepared for “interesting” road conditions along the way.
Maps vs. GPS – I love my Garmin GPS. However … there were a few places we wanted to go that Garmin didn’t recognise. That’s because we didn’t program it before we left on the trip. Oh dear. That’s where my map-reading friend, Julie came in. She had every map of this part of France that’s been printed, I believe. If you want to use a GPS, check the route beforehand.
Curvy roads, one-way roads and bridges – If you think you are used to back road driving, Dordogne is a test to your skills. Roads that lead to some of the most charming places are way off the beaten path. In many cases, you’ll think the road you’re on is a path.
Here are a few roadsigns you should know:
Click on each of the links below to read about my favorite places we visited and view the photos.
Whatever you do … eat fois gras!