Mystical, Magical Dordogne

Castelnaud DordogneLocated in the southwest region of France and cut off by mountains from the immensely popular Provence to the east, the Dordogne region has remained largely untouched by time and much less discovered by tourists. Its countryside is a beautiful patchwork of vine-covered fields, bucolic rivers, verdant woods, turreted castles and picture-perfect villages.

And village life is what we’ll experience during the week – living in a villa, shopping at local markets, strolling through medieval villages, tasting local wine, exploring prehistoric caves and cruising down the Dordogne River.

The Dordogne Itinerary

Day 1, Saturday
Arrival at the Villa
You’ll be picked up at the Brive train station in late afternoon. Arrive at the villa with time to unpack and explore this magnificent property before the evening’s welcome reception and dinner served on the terrace.

Dordogne is home to dozens of caves deorated with prehistoric art.

Dordogne is home to dozens of caves deorated with prehistoric art.

Day 2, Sunday
Lascaux II  / Grotte de Rouffignac
Today we’ll travel back to prehistoric times – to the Vézère Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site which contains 147 sites and 25 decorated caves dating from the Palaeolithic era. We’ll start at the world-renowned Lascaux II cave, an exact reproduction of the original that was closed in 1963 when microorganisms began to deteriorate the drawings. This replica was created with the same paints and techniques as the original which dates back to 18,000 BC.

After a short stop for a picnic lunch along the river, we’ll travel to the Grotte de Rouffignac. This dry cave was already well known in the 15th century. We’ll take a small train ride through the cave to the main galleries to see a remarkable group of black-line paintings and engravings.

Marqueyssac Gardens

Day 3, Monday
Marqueyssac Gardens / Sarlat-la-Caneda
This morning we’ll explore the Marqueyssac gardens, with its incredible topiaries, wooded paths and maginificent views. After a tour and picnic lunch, we’ll head to the star of Dordogne, the historic town of Sarlat-la-Caneda. Nestled at the foot of several hills, Sarlat has Europe’s largest concentration of medieval, Renaissance and 17th century facades. And today we’ll see many of them as we tour a maze of narrow cobblestone streets illuminated by gas lamps.

La Roque Gageac on the Dordogne River

Day 4, Tuesday
Boat or Canoe Ride / La Rogue Gageac / Domme
After breakfast at the villa, we’ll head to the Dordogne River where we’ll board a traditional wooden gabare (boat) and sail down the river. From the boat we’ll have incredible views of the lovely chateaux, picturesque villages and beautiful countryside of the region. The more adventurous may want to do this trip by canoe or kayak. After lunch, we’ll explore two enchanting villages that we passed on our boat trip: La Rogue Gageac and Domme. Both are included in “The Most Beautiful Villages in France.”

Provence Escapes Cooking ClassDay 5, Wednesday
Sarlat Market / Cooking Class
It’s market day and Sarlat’s is legendary, selling everything from local fresh products (including its famous fois gras and black truffles) to pottery, soaps and linens. Later we’ll head back to the villa for a cooking class in which we’ll incorporate some of the wonderful ingredients we bought at the market.

The spectacular medieval village of Rocamadour in Dordogne, built into a vertical limestone cliff.

Day 6 Thursday
Rocamadour
We’ll journey east this morning into the Lot region and up the side of a mountain to the fortified 13th century town of Rocamadour. Built on the face of a cliff, it is one of the most dramatic settings in France. In the Middle Age, pilgrims from all over Europe descended upon the village, then, on their knees, ascended the 200 steps of the Grand Stairway to pray to the Virgin Mary and seek miracles from St. Armadour by visiting his crypt. Today, tourists flock to the village to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site and shop in its many charming boutiques.

 

Chateau de Castelaud

 

Day 7, Friday
Chateau de Castelnaud / Free Afternoon
After breakfast, we journey to Chateau de Castelnaud. Built between the 12th and 13th centuries, the chateau, and its strategic location, became a pawn during the Hundred Years’ War, constantly changing hands between the British and French. Today the impressive ruins offer a glimpse into the past and one of the most panoramic views of the Dordogne and Ceou valleys.

You’ll have the afternoon free to enjoy the villa and pool.

Day 8  Saturday
Au Revoir…
After an early morning breakfast, we’ll depart for the local train station and your journey home.

The Details

Dates
September 14 – 28, 2013

Group Size
Maximum of 6 people

Hosts
Travel writers Judi Janofsky & Rich Steck

A bedroom in the chateau

A bedroom in the chateau

Accommodations
Ideally located in the Dordgone valley near the village of Domme, this luxurious 13th chateau has been lovingly restored and offers spectacular views. The 10-acre grounds include beautiful gardens and a pool all overlooking the valleys below. Inside, each beautiful and spacious bedroom has fine linens and its own private bathroom.

Rate
$3,575 per person, based on double occupancy

What’s Included
(Almost everything once you’re there.)
• Seven nights in a 13th century, fully restored, chateau
• Transfers from and to the nearby train station
• Local ground transportation
• Admission to attractions
• Cooking Class
• Breakfast every day, 2 lunches and 5 dinners
• Local wines with meals
• A personalized packet of information including market buying tips, restaurant recommendations and information on places we’ll visit.

Not Included
Airfare to and from France, round-trip train fare to and from the local train station pick up point, trip insurance.

 

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