About Dordogne & Gironde
The principal towns of Bergerac, Nontron, Sarlat and Périgueux offer a wealth of shops and restaurants, museums, and lovely architecture. Smaller towns and bastides such as Monbazillac, Monpazier and Ribérac pepper the countryside, and don’t miss Brantôme which is known as the ‘Venice of the Dordogne’.
You will also come across innumerable chateaux – Hautefort, Marqueyssac, Castelnaud and Beynac to name but a few – many with stunning interiors, and displays or exhibitions to bring the past to life.
There are so many attractions in this region but high on the list must be the prehistoric cave paintings at Lascaux, and the combination of an aquarium and a reconstruction village makes Le Bugue a fun family day out.
The rich cultural heritage of the Gironde department includes 941 protected ‘monuments historiques’, among them the Cordouan Lighthouse, the Blaye Citadel and the collegiate church in Uzeste.
Medieval bastide towns such as Duras, Sainte-Foy-la-Grande, Monségur and Pellegrue are delightful to stroll around, whilst the rebuilt château-mansion in the small village of Saint-Michel-de-Montaigne is an interesting visit, as it was the home of the famous Renaissance philosopher and thinker of the same name.
This department also includes the metropolitan city of Bordeaux, a listed UNESCO World Heritage site with plenty to see and do, and nearby St Emilion, both of which merit visiting as much for their superb architecture as their world class wines.
The Gironde coastline is rigorously protected, with pristine dunes and 126km of sandy beaches. The Atlantic rollers are perfect for surf sports, whilst the sheltered beaches of the lakes and lagoons set just inland are ideal for families.
The Bay of Arcachon is a multi-faceted landscape of sand (including the highest dune in Europe!), salt meadows, pine forests and oyster ports, and is a superb place for enjoying the great outdoors with 220km of cycle paths to follow, trips out into the bay on traditional boats, and various sports on offer such as sailing, canoeing, kayaking and stand-up paddle. The Le Teich reserve here is a bird watchers’ paradise.
Truffles, a subterranean fungi that grow on the roots of certain trees, are a fairly common ingredient in traditional Périgord cuisine. Highly prized and expensive, they are widely (but sparingly) used in sauces and fillings, or a few shavings are added to an omelette or a salad to bring out their earthy flavour. Wild mushrooms are another speciality with many different varieties found in the area, in particular the cèpe which is similar to the field mushroom although much fleshier, also served in omelettes or in stews, having been fried lightly in goose fat. They are also used as a substitute for truffles.
And last but certainly not least, wine lovers will be in seventh heaven! The established Bordeaux, St Emilion and Bergerac wines are perhaps the best known in the world, and range from tannic Pécharmants, dry whites from Montravel, and sweet dessert whites from Monbazillac. Visit the ‘Maison du Vin’ in Bergerac to learn more about wines from this area, and the history of viticulture.