Tuesday, May 18, 2010

DORDOGNE WEEK 1


DAY 1 - see http://corkfood.blogspot.com/

DAY 2

DAY 2

The 800 plus kilometre drive, including stops, from Roscoff to Sarlat in the Dordogne took from 08.05 until 18.05. Sunday traffic was unexpectedly busy – there may have been a mid-term break in some departments but generally the trip, virtually all on motorway – Roscoff to Rennes to Nantes to Bordeaux and to Sarlat via Perigeux- was fortunately trouble free.

The dual carriage way section between Morlaix and Rennes has very few stops and none decent until the Pays de Rennes effort, after about 160 kms. We found it well stocked: two sandwiches and two drinks cost €9.80. Hot coffee was also available from a dispenser. Staff was helpful and friendly.
The section from Rennes to Nantes is pretty well covered with decent rest areas and it gets better when you hit the auto-route between Nantes and Bordeaux. We make a stop regularly at the Aire de La Vendee. We rate this very highly as it has a huge range of facilities including food supply and decent toilets also baby changing. But it was packed on this occasion; we stretched our legs (one of the reasons why you stop at all) and drove on.

The next big Aire (rest-area), about 30 kms on, has Leclerc pumps and shop and is, in fairness, more or less on a par with the Vendee stop. Again, you get your petrol, food and toilet facilities along with a small cafe.
On the run to Perigeux, we found a fine Aire not too far outside of Bordeaux. Again, they had everything you need while on the move. By the way, on a busy day, all our stops moved the customers efficiently and all had friendly and helpful staff.
DAY 3  seehttp://corkfood.blogspot.com/




DAY 4
La Roque Gageac – Domme-Sarlat
Gabarres Caminade
05 53 29 40 95
La Roque Gageac, with the river Dordogne at its pretty feet and the rocks towering over it, is one of the most unusual villages in France. Some of the houses have rooms built into the rock and there is also a troglodytic fort high up the rocks.
Despite the narrowness of the town, they find room for parking. Just as well, as it is a popular starting point for trips on the gabarres, the old-type river boats that ferry visitors up and down the river. We did a short trip on a Caminade boat and the cost up to the bridge under Castelnaud and return was €8.50.
It was an excellent hour’s excursion. While there was a live French commentary we were given English audio guides which worked very well and were informative. The sun came out and we saw some spectacular sights, including Castelnaud high up on the hill. No wonder a returning French visitor gave it a “formidable” rating.
Domme is one of many fortified towns in this part of France. The walls of the Porte des Tours, one of the gates through the fortifications are marked with graffiti made by the Knights Templar. Impressive buildings, many from the 15th and 16th century may be seen here but our main reason for breaching the walls and trying to find parking was so that we could take in the view.

The Dordogne is lazy here and there is a great big curve just below the walls of Domme before it starts flowing in earnest on its way to La Roque Gageac. From the ramparts, you have terrific views over the river, to the left and right, and to the fertile land in between where one f the popular crops is walnut trees. Domme is well worth a detour.

Restaurant L’Orangerie
3 rue Alberic Cahuet
24200 Sarlat
05 53 31 88 03 orangie2009@hotmail.fr
After the previous evening’s stuffing at Mirandol, we didn’t want Foie Gras again. But both it a confit de canard are hard to avoid in this town. L’Orangerie promised something of a change so we took a table in the open air.
Starters were six Escargots (with garlic) pour moi and Chicken Gizzards and Liver with a salad for the Advisor. Both of us were very pleased as this €14.00 four course menu kicked off.
Both of us choose the Breast of Duck with Sarlat potatoes and small herbie mash and with a honey and orange sauce.  Really classy meal served in the open air of this medieval quarter.
The cheese was once again the Rocamadour goats cheese and a little green salad with some little pieces of walnuts. Quite enjoyable but this too seems to pop up on all the menus. Desserts were a lemon tart for herself and walnut tart for me with custard. Both were quiet enjoyable.
They had a decent wine list and we picked a 50 cl carafe f local Bergerac rouge which cost €8.50. Total bill therefore came to €36.50!
Photos from top: Sarlat meal, La Roque Gageac and Domme

DAY 5

SARLAT MARKET

Got our first taste of the twice weekly Sarlat Market this morning. It was busy, tourists mixing with the locals in the medieval quarter.
We enjoyed our own tour, buying some fish (Julienne) and also a Salmon Pizza from the same stall. Also bought some vegetables and fruit and sampled a few bits and pieces before walking over to the “main” street to call to a mini-market where we got some olive oil for cooking. Of course, we couldn’t resist passing a patisserie where we helped ourselves to a couple of strawberry tartlets.
Lunch at the Gite consisted mainly of cheese and beautiful tomatoes before we made the short trip to the “hanging Gardens of Marqueyssac” overlooking the Dordogne and La Roque Gageac.
Info: Jardins de Marqueyssac, 24220 Vezac. Tel: 05 53 31 36 36; www.marqueyssac.com.
After extensive restoration work, Marqueyssac was opened to the public in 1997 and is now the most visited garden in Perigord. A “folly of clipped boxwoods” is the main feature of the place along with excellent views over the Dordogne. There is an easy (high heels and buggies) and a more difficult path around the “overhanging gardens”.
The main viewing point is the Belvedere, some 800 metres from the chateau. It affords an exceptional panoramic view of the river and surroundings.  The amazing topiary, along with the stunning views, which include nearby castles, make it well worth the €7.30 entrance fee. The visit will take you about ninety minutes, maybe more if you want to linger for a snack and a visit the shop.
Stayed in for dinner this evening. Starter: Melon. Main Course: Julienne (a white fish like hake) served with a salad. Dessert: Strawberry tartlets with fresh strawberries. Wine: Gaillac, from some of the oldest vineyards (quite close to Sarlat) in France. Our dry white, ideal for fish, is made from unusual grapes:  Mauzac and Loin de l’Oeil and has 11.5 per cent alcohol. The region also produces reds, roses and sparkling whites. We were very happy indeed with our white.
Photos from top: Sarlat Market, view of La Roque Gageac from Marqueyssac and topiary in Marqueyssac


DAY 6
Les Combarelles-Limeuil-Tremolat-Gite
Photos, from top: Meeting of Dordogne and Vezere; in Limeuil; Cingle de Tremolat; Les Combarelles and  A L’Ancre de Salut



The Dordogne is so full of caves, you could spend your whole holiday underground. We made a quick visit this morning to Les Combarelles, discovered in 1901. One of two galleries, 140 meters long, is open to the public and contains engravings, sometimes drawings of animals such as horse, reindeer, and ibex mammoths. Quite impressive, considering that they were created some 13,000 years ago.

On then to the Vitrolle, site of the vineyard of Vin de Pays de Perigord. Unfortunately, it won’t be open ‘til the afternoon. Fortunately, our host at the gite has already introduced us to this red wine made from a blend of several grapes, as is usual here, including merlot. Our host, by the way, has strong opinions on wine labelling and is not at all impressed with those who buy by the grape variety alone.
“Some wines here are made with up to nine grapes. How are you going to get all those onto the label? If you are to put anything like that on the label then it should be the maker as he has the most influence.”
Just about a kilometre form the vineyard, we come to the village of Limeuil, one of the most beautiful villages of France, officially. It is an ancient village; the gateway we passed through is from the 14th century. Just inside is the tourist office where we called and picked an English language guide.
We made good use of it as we strolled around the sunlit streets. These are very narrow and our host had cautioned against driving into the upper part of the town. Good advice indeed. In any case, you see more as you walk and we certainly enjoyed our twenty five minutes of so.
Back down then to the river or rivers to be more exact. Limeuil is the place where the waters of the Dordogne and Vezere meet and, with their bridges at right angles, it is a pretty spot.

Overlooking the picturesque junction of the two rivers there is a bar brasserie called A L’Ancre de Salut (05 53 63 39 29). It has an upper terrace alongside the building itself and a lower one across the road, right on the river bank. Both are nice, each with a shaded portion.
We had a Salade de Pay (€9.00) and a beer each. The well made salad, don’t think I’ve ever had a poor one in France, was quite filling and the whole lot was just what the doctor ordered. Excellent place and very friendly staff indeed. Parking for the town is very close to the restaurant.
Then we headed for the Cingle de Tremolat, a little further to the west. After driving uphill for a short while you come to the viewing point over a huge area of the Dordogne river. This massive meander come towards you on the left, straightens out for a while in front of you and then heads off to the sea on your right. You can also see the farmers at work in the fields below and some of the chateaux. Well worth a detour.
After that it was back to the gite. With the temperature rising all the time – today’s was 26 degrees – we took a chance in the pool and had a refreshing if rather fast dip. Should be better tomorrow.
Dinner this evening is DIY, starting with melon. Main course is a Salmon Pizza bought from a market fishmonger. Pizza is almost a misnomer as this is some dish. A layer of salmon on top of a generous ratatouille like bedding with an layer of excellent pizza underneath. The cheese course (when in Rome...) is followed by cherries. And all washed down with a modest Bergerac rouge, a gift from our host. 



DAY 7





D’eyrignac-Souilliac-Pool-Sarlat
Les Jardins du Manoir D’Eyrignac are highly recommended in virtually all the guides for the Dordogne. Cost us €9.50 each to enter and we were suitably impressed as were the Michelin people who awarded it 2 stars.
The gardens are mainly architectural, a masterpiece of symmetry, with many surprising vistas for the strolling visitors.  Water is also used to good effect here and it is a really impressive tour.
Now, for a tip. The main green garden has been supplemented by what is called a white garden, that is a garden, again with architecture planting and topiary and water fountains and the white comes from flowers, mainly from roses. These roses though don’t come into anything approaching full bloom until the end of May so, if you delay your trip until then, it will be well worthwhile.

Restaurant Cote Jardin
Sarl Des Charmes, 24590 Eyricnac
05 53 30 22 56
If you are in the Eyricnac area, perhaps having just visited the gardens, and are looking for lunch then the Cote Jardin is just at hand.
We stopped there today and ordered a Salade Paysanne (€9.00) each, also a Stella Artois and a bottle Breton cider (€2.50 each for 25 cls). The Salad was a mountain! Loads of lettuce, lardons, crutons, walnuts, hard-boiled egg, tomatoes and tasty melon. The crutons weren’t great but overall it was a fine feed with good service despite a big crowd being in.
Eglise Sainte Martin (Soulliac)
In the ancient church of Sainte Martin in Souillac we visited an art exhibition. Just as well the 11th/12th century church was “desaffectee en 1829" as some of the art was rather racy. It was a mixture of photography, painting and sculpture. Pieces were reasonably priced but I didn’t see anything that I liked enough to purchase. Exhibitions continue throughout the summer here and the tourist office for this small and pleasant town is also located here.
Musee De L’automate
Europe’s largest “automata” exhibition is in the abbey of Souillac. It has some 300 pieces, mostly from the 19th and 20th century. Admission is six euro and is worth a visit particularly if you have kids in tow.
Our favourite was Charlie Chaplin, hanging onto a lamppost and cheekily trying to kick his way out of his glass cabinet. A jazz band in action and a man with an uncontrollable laugh also brought enjoyment.

Restaurant Auberge De Mirandol ....
Strolled up through Sarlat looking at the menus this evening and again concluded that Auberge de Mirandol was the place for us. All the others offer the standard local fare, foie gras and confit. Mirandol does as well but there are more choices on its set menus and we like the place and the people serving there.
We get a table on the margin of indoors and out and settle for the €13.50 menu. Started with Jambon de Pays with Salad, a tasty chew, perhaps a bit too chewy for some.
I enjoyed my main course of beautifully done Duck Breast with tasty local potatoes and green beans. The beans and potatoes also accompanied the other main dish, a terrific Coq au Vin (and yes there was loads of red wine in the sauce!).
Then followed the usual goats cheese course, Rocamadour with salad. Dessert was a modest lemon tart (slice) with cold custard and a crème brulee.
Water is usually from the tap and free in French restaurants though you may of course buy bottled water. Our wine was Mirandol’s Wine of the Month:  Chateau Le Coustarelle, La Cassot, Cahors 2005, a terrific red for €14.00 per bottle.

Photos from the top: Sarlat evening, the white garden, St Martin's, massive salad and automat jazz band and twisting figure