Dordogne named among the ‘best places in Europe’

Dordogne named among the 'best places in Europe'

Photo: Dale Musselman/Flickr

This rural southwestern département has made this year’s Lonely Planet list of top ten destinations in Europe for 2016.

Last year it was the mountainous Auvergne region that Lonely Planet shone a light on and now in the spotlight is an area in southwestern France that locals and expats have already cherished for quite some time: the Dordogne.

The area, often jokingly called Dordogneshire – given the huge number of British living there – came in fourth out of ten on Lonely Planet’s Best of Europe list.

Often referred to by its previous name, the Périgord, this département sits between the Loire Valley and the Pyrenées mountain range (highlighted in red below).

It takes its name from the stately Dordogne river that flows from the Auvergne mountains to the sea near Bordeaux.

“Nowhere does French art de vivre (art of living) quite like the Dordogne,” says Lonely Planet, going on to call it a “Garden of Eden… stitched from dreamy chateaux, market towns and walnut groves.”

Photo: Stephane Mignon/Flickr

You might know Lyon as the culinary capital of France, but Lonely Planet would beg to differ.

“For travellers following the increasingly hip ‘local produce, homemade’ mantra, this foodie region – without the crowds of Provence and 100 percent au naturel – has never been so alluring.”

Photo: Jonny/Flickr

Indeed, apart from its gorgeous countryside and flourishing British expat population, the area is famous for its cuisine, often based on duck or goose. Foie gras, confit de canard, truffles, and walnut cake are just a few of the local specialties. 

Lonely Planet recommends that to take full advantage of this foodie region, you need to “dive into the markets”, “dine at the region’s top tables”, “quaff the local wines”, and “gorge on truffles”. 

After that, the travel guide advises checking out the area’s abundance of castles which have earned it the nickname “The Other Chateau Country” (after the Loire Valley) as well as the multitude of prehistoric cave paintings, Lascaux being the most famous.

Photo: @lain G/Flickr

It’s not only Lonely Planet that has taken notice of the Dordogne; British Airways just started offering direct flights from London.

Best go now before the crowds move in.

CREDIT/SOURCE: Le Local

Chateau de Puymartin

exterior2Built in the 13th century and destroyed during the 100 year war, this castle was rebuilt by Radulphe de Saint-Clar around 1450.  It was then partly restored in the 19th century by his descendant, The Marquis de Carbonnier de Marzac, ancestor of the family currently residing in a private section of the chateau.

The legend of the Dame Blanche retraces the life of Therese de Saint-Clar, who was imprisoned for 10-15 years and died in the chateau’s tower by her jealous husband, following her tryst with a Protestant lover.

 

Les Jardins d’eau

Only 8km from Sarlat in Carsac-Aillac, there are gardens created in 1999 which feature a rare collection of aquatic plants on a Gallo-Roman site. Strolling along the pathways provides a visual splendor of colorful nature at its best, with benches placed at strategic places to relax in the shade and take in the tranquile setting – a lovely way to discover the area and enjoy a beautiful setting.

frog

lotus

overview pond

red lotus

http://www.jardinsdeau.com

 

French Riviera / Cote d’Azur

Sun and sea, nature, villages perched, beauty, diversity, art, activity, traditions, & yachts:  some words that come to mind, from living here for over 8 years, but what stands out the most is (Mediterranean) BLUE!  The one thing I would change would be to have sandy beaches in Nice, rather than pebbly ones.

Overview of Nice and all that this area has to offer – watch new Tourist Office video HERE

 

 

Product of the month: The Périgord Walnut

The Perigord walnut is an extremely healthy and versatile nut grown in southwestern France. Perigord is the old walnutsname for this region, which is now usually referred to in English as the Dordogne. Most of the Perigord walnut production area is located in the Dordogne department, but there are also significant amounts produced in the neighboring Corrèze and Lot departments and small areas of other neighboring ones.

It has benefited from a Protected Designation of Origin status since 2002, but the walnut has had a history in the region that dates back thousands of years. While the walnuts grown today aren’t quite the same, walnuts themselves have been found at 17,000-year-old prehistorical Cro-Magnon sites in the Périgord walnut-producing region.
The Périgord walnut production area is located in and around the départment of Dordogne in southwestern France.

Walnuts continued to play a major role in the culture of the area ever since then and are inextricably linked to the region’s history. During the early Middle Ages, peasants would often pay off their debts with Perigord walnuts and by the 13th century, tithes to local churches were paid in walnut oil. The oil was at one time considered to be worth its weight in gold and contributed greatly to the wealth of the region due to its widespread and many varied uses. In 1730, it was found that more than three fourths of the national peasant population used nothing but Perigord walnut oil for cooking. Besides culinary uses, the oil can also be used as body oil or in painting.

The Périgord walnut can be used in so many ways in cuisine that the list of culinary dishes it can’t be used in is probably a lot shorter than the list of dishes it is included in. The possibilities are almost endless: Salads, mousses, covered in chocolate, baked in breads, used in cheeses, roasted or used as oil – the Périgord walnut is a versatile nut that has thousands of applications. It’s even used to make a type of liqueur, Eau-de-vie de Noix du Périgord, and a type of wine in the region (vin de noix – “walnut wine”), bringing a subtle, nutty flavor to the drinks.

 

There are numerous health benefits of consuming this walnut. The Périgord region of France has one of the lowest rates of heart disease – by some estimates it has the second-lowest rate in the world. The cholesterol-lowering properties of the walnut, which play a large role in local cuisine, certainly help to play a part in this. The walnut is also rich in fiber and antioxidants, high in protein, and filled with healthy minerals like magnesium, iron, and potassium.

Credit/Source:  French Food in the U.S.

An Anecdote About Table Linens

Photo from Pinterest

Photo from Pinterest

“Up until the sixteenth century, eating was a rather rough-and-ready affair that we would certainly not describe as dining. As people and their habits became more refined, table settings and linens also became more refined. As the 16th century progressed, it became a sign of wealth for each diner to have his own napkin (rather than wiping one’s hands and mouth on clothes). It was a sign of even greater wealth if the napkins were changed for fresh ones several times as the meal progressed through its courses. These napkins were larger than the ones used today and were tied around the neck to protect all those expensive silks and brocades from dripping sauces, soups, and gravies. Because it was difficult to tie a napkin behind one’s head, polite diners helped each other with this little task and thus arose the saying “making both ends meet.”

Although there are many beautiful linen tables at flea markets, locally made cotton mats and napkins are mostly used. These can be purchased in wonderful colors and patterns and only become more beautiful with age. The best way to handle these table linens is to wash them with your favorite detergent and dry them on the line. Using scented linen water or scented sachets with table linens may interfere with food aromas much as scented candles on the table would.”

 

Source: Joie de Vivre, 2002

 

Saturday Market in Sarlat

Sarlat’s population is approximately 10,000 but in summer jumps to around 100,000.  It’s late May and today, I saw two tour buses, strategically parked for attending the weekly Saturday morning market: the main street through town becomes an avenue of vendors, as well as throughout the historic center and its side streets – a true medieval maze of sights, smells, and flavors!

Regional specialties are walnuts, foie gras, strawberries, confit de canard, and a cheese made from goat’s milk, called “cabecou.”

cab_cou

walnuts

Walnuts

crown of flowers

Couronne de fleurs

nutcrackers

Nutcrackers

Piella

Paella

food covers

Incense

incens

Incense

baskets cremerie flowers hats

olives

food covers

Food screens & dream catchers

main square

Place de la Liberte (main square)

main street

Rue de la Republique

street tablecloths

confit de canard

Confit de canard

bread cheese

food stand strawberries