Category: Domme

Dordogne's Plus Beaux Villages

Dordogne’s Plus Beaux Villages: Beynac-et-Cazenac and Castlenaud-la-Chapelle

Recently I challenged myself to visit all the “Plus Beaux Villages de France” — France’s most beautiful villages. Perhaps I should have done a bit more research before making such a statement. There are 156 official villages with the “Plus Beaux” distinction. Even though France is only the size of Texas, it’s a big place!

Dordogne's Plus Beaux Villages

Now that I’m a bit more realistic about the “task” (albeit, a pleasure) it’s more feasible for me to do one region at a time.

Plus Beaux Villages by Region

There are 13 regions in France. The region where I’ve visited the most beaux villages in Aquitaine. It’s also where there are the most “official” Plus Beaux Villages in France — in Dordogne.

 Dordogne’s Plus Beaux Villages

Three years ago a hometown friend that I hadn’t seen in 40 years came to visit me in France. While here we entertained ourselves by driving from Uzès to Dordogne. Like typical tourists we focused on the area around the Dordogne river: the “classic” Dordogne: picturesque villages, medieval castles, limestone cliffs and caves with prehistoric drawings. The French call it “le Pèrigord.”

During our week-long tour we stopped at two of the most well known beaux villages in Dordogne — Domme and La Roque-Gageac. To learn about these villages read on here…

On the way back from my recent visit to the States, I intentionally stopped in Dordogne to see four of the beaux villages on my list: Beynac-et-Cazenac, Castlenaud-la-Chapelle, Monpazier, and St. Jean-de-Côle.

A Day in Beynac-et-Cazenac and Castlenaud-la-Chapelle

Because they’re so close together, you can visit both of these villages in a day. Admittedly, I lingered over lunch in Beynac so I didn’t see as much as I could have. But then, relaxing to enjoy your surroundings is part of the journey, too.

Beynac-et-Cazenac

If you dream about France, like I do, you’ve seen Beynac-et-Cazenac in your dreams. It’s a fairytale French villages perched above the Dordogne river, complete with narrow cobblestone streets, storybook houses and a stately castle at the top. You would expect Cinderella and her prince to appear at any moment.

Like all Plus Beaux Villages de France, Beynac is tiny. The max population for beaux villages is 2000. In 2015 Beynac had 552 residents.

It takes only a few hours to walk around town and through the castle. If you’re driving you can find parking at several levels on the way up to the castle. It’s a pretty steep climb if you stop at the bottom and you only want to visit the castle.

I strongly advise you plan to spend enough time in Beynac to stroll the streets and enjoy the medieval architecture. There are not many places that are as original and as well maintained.

They say the castle, “Château de Beynac”, is the most authentic example of a feudal fortress in the Pèrigord. Towering above the river and valley, it is a reminder of legendary conquerors like King Richard “the Lionhearted” who walked this very courtyard and within the stone walls.  Likewise, it is a shrine to wars that raged through Dordogne for over nine centuries.

If you visit Beynac on I sunny day like I did, enjoy a lovely meal with a “to die for” view of the river at La Terrasse des Chateaux.

Castlenaud-la-Chapelle

Literally down the road from Beynac-et-Cazenac is the plus beaux village Castlenaud-la-Chapelle. The magnificent castle, Château de Castelnaud, soars above the Céou River valley as if to announce “Look at me!”

Dordogne's Plus Beaux Villages

The proud castle, like its neighbor in Beynac, was the site of numerous wars and confrontations, including the Hundred Years War. It changed occupants between the French and the English seven times. During its history, the castle was burned to the ground, rebuilt, abandoned during the French Revolution, then used as a stone quarry. During WWII the fortress gave shelter to French resistance groups. Between 1974 and 2005 it was restored to its near-original state.

Dordogne's Plus Beaux Villages

Today the castle is one of the most visited spots in Dordogne, especially by families with children. A museum features medieval weapons from all over Europe. In the village perigordine style houses with high-pitched roofs are tightly terraced along narrow streets.

Dordogne's Plus Beaux Villages

When visiting Castlenaud-la-Chapelle there’s a large parking lot at the top. You can walk directly to the castle from there. That view alone will make your day!

Dordogne's Plus Beaux Villages

Stay tuned for photos and an overview of the visit to Monpazier and St. Jean du Côle. To read about the earlier tour of Domme and La Roque-Gageac, click here

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Dordogne's Plus Beaux Villages

 

 

 

Les Plus Beaux Villages de France

There’s a new obsession running around in my head: “visit as many of France’s ‘Les Plus Beaux Villages‘ as I possibly can.”

So far, I’ve seen only 10 out of some 156 “authentic” Les Plus Beaux Villages. I have a lot of traveling to do.

Les Plus Beaux Villages

There are 156 communities in France with the distinction of being a beaux village. Most are in the Dordogne and Aveyron departments. Vancluse and Lot are next with seven and six beaux villages respectively.

Most Beautiful Villages in France

The designation “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France” was borrowed from the Reader’s Digest book of the same name. Charles Ceyrac, mayor of Collonges-la-Rouge, one of the villages featured in the book, believed his village and others like it could be revitalized economically if they joined together and promoted themselves as the most beautiful villages in France.

The criteria for the title was based on (1) the character and population of a village: rural with no more than 2,000 inhabitants; (2) two national heritage sites; and (3) the local council of the municipality must have voted on the application.

In 1981 mayors from 66 villages joined Collonges to form the association.

So far, these are Les Plus Beaux Villages I’ve visited. Click on the name of each village to learn and see more. Enjoy!

Eguisheim

Riquewihr

Domme

La Roque-Gageac

Les Baux-de-Provence

Gordes

Lourmarin

Menerbes

Roussillon

Najac

Yes, I have a lot of traveling to do.

If you have thoughts on the Beaux Villages I shouldn’t miss, please leave a comment. Let’s all go!

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

7 Days in Dordogne: Cahors to Sarlat

On the third day of the seven day Dordogne tour with my friend since kindergarten, we finally got it right.  

We narrowed down the “to do” list for our seven day Dordogne tour to a manageable number of places to see in one day. We came up with the concepts of “walkabouts” and “drive by photo shootings.” In other words, there are places where we want to park the car and walk around, and there are others we just want to drive through and take pictures on the run.

We’ve gotten quite good at spotting a perfect photo opportunity, slowing the car down to a near-stop, then Julie taking a picture out the window.

Today’s adventure started after we took more photos and checked out of our “dream” Chateau Mercués outside Cahors.

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Chateau Mercués

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour: Home of Josephine Baker

First stop: Les Milandes, Chateau built by Caumont family in the 1400’s and former home of Josephine Baker. 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Chateau Les Milandes

The self-guided tour through the chateau and the immaculate grounds was well worth the time and 3.5 euros fee. Costumes and possessions of the American songstress and philanthropist, who dazzled Paris during the 30’s at the Follies Bergere were displayed throughout the chateau. Most rooms had the furnishings and decorations that were owned and used by Baker and her large family, the “Rainbow Tribe,” while living there. (No inside photos allowed.)

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Seven Day Dordogne Tour:  Roque Gageac

As if carved into the side of cliffs, Le Rogue Gageac is a small and friendly tourist town alongside the Dordogne. There were lots of tourists, but not so many as we imagined had filled the town a few weeks earlier.

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Le Rogue Gageac

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Le Rogue Gageac

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Le Rogue Gageac

It was here we began to see our first signs of foie gras– the duck delicacy found famously in this part of the world.

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Seven Day Dordogne Tour
Could there be anything better than a salad with duck gizzards, slices of smoked duck and foi gras, and a cold glass of beer on a day with temperatures in the high 90’s? (35 degrees Celsius)

Seven Day Dordogne Tour: Domme

The picturesque town above the Dordogne valley was a bit of a surprise to me. I thought it was going to be much larger than it is. While quite a nice place with cute shops and cafes, Domme was a quick stop for us. Parking the car for an hour and walking around taking photos was quite enough for us to say we’d “done” Domme

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Domme

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Domme

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Domme

 

I will say,  if we had not already stopped for lunch, this spot that looks over the valley would have given us a great view.

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Domme

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Domme

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour: Sarlat

If I didn’t love Uzes so much, Sarlat could possibly be my next home. Oh my! To die for! 

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Sarlat

After a “drive by photo shooting” in Beynac-et-Cazenet where the pictures of the town and chateau are still in Julie’s camera, we landed in Sarlat.

Today’s visit to Sarlat was short — mostly to find where to park and where to go on Saturday for market day. I can tell I want to spend more time exploring the place, its shops, cafes and intriguing back street.

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Sarlat

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Sarlat

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Sarlat

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Sarlat

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour: Marquay

I’m not certain how we decided on this spot to stay for the next three nights, but the tiny village of Marquay is giving us a welcomed respite from our hurried pace.

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Marquay

Actually, the small, family-owned hotel outside Sarlat is a good jumping off place for each of the next days on our trip. A “home base,” so to speak. It’s a far cry from the luxurious chateau last night, but it’s cozy and friendly, and everything we need to recharge and move on.

 

 

Next stop: Lascaux 

 

Stay tuned…

 

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