So during our whirlwind road-trip down the French Atlantic Coast to La Rochelle, Île de Ré and Biarritz, we decided to take a vacation inside of a vacation in Foie Gras Land, more commonly known as the Dordogne.
The Dordogne is one of the many gastronomic heartlands in France, that specializes in foie gras, duck and truffles. (All of which I adore, for your information.) After so much travel, we were all ready for a few days of fluffy beds, relaxation and good old-fashioned gluttony. Let’s not forget- my poor mother drove a rental car from Paris to Spain!
As we made our way into the Dordogne, I couldn’t stop snapping pictures of the magical landscape: rock grottos, houses carved into mountain faces and tiny villages all built in the same warmly colored sandstone. It honestly looked enchanted.
Once we reached our hotel in medieval Sarlat, we soon left to find a nice, hot dinner. (Six hours of non-stop driving leaves me in need of some comfort food, personally.)
And while our first meal in the Dordogne was unphotographed (I think after the photo frenzy in San Sebastián I was a little over my camera) it was a delicious dinner. We started with salt-flecked and fatty foie gras and then feasted on a cassoulet périgourdin, a rich winter stew of white beans, sausages and duck. It’s one of those stick-to-your-ribs French peasant meals that I crave on a cold day.
Sarlat is a very well-preserved 14th century medieval town that tourists flood in summer. But as we were visiting in April, we seemed to be some of the only travelers. (Though I did hear a lot of Spanish when walking around town!)
After we woke up from our goose-induced food comas the next morning, we decided to hit the road. As I’ve said before, the beauty of having a car is being able to stop wherever you please- so when we saw signs for a little village called Saint-Geniès, we pulled over.
The town was charmingly French, in all the typical ways: cobblestone streets, a medieval church, a bustling boulangerie. But with a population of less than 1,000, I quickly wondered how people could survive in such a small town. As a self-proclaimed city girl I don’t think I could make it through a weekend.
I noticed that in every town we visited in France, there were monuments to the fallen for both world wars.
Next we stopped at an unassuming little hotel for lunch. It was strangely outfitted, needless to say, in pink satin reminiscent of a child’s tea party. The proprietress was at least 900 years old and we were the only customers.
But what I love about France is that you can have a fantastic meal in the most unsuspecting places. Even canned food and frozen food (Picard, my love) are yummy in France.
For lunch we tasted the best omelet of our lives, made with seppes mushrooms, as well as a hearty soupe a l’oignon.
We finished off the meal with a clafoutis, but as usual, I found it lacking. In all fairness I generally find dessert anywhere outside of the U.S. to be so-so because I strongly believe that America makes dessert better than any other nation on earth. There, I typed it.
One big reason I wanted to visit the Dordogne was to see Lascaux. Lascaux is a series of underground caverns famous for their paleolithic cave paintings. In fact, my guidebook referred to it as, “the Sistine Chapel of prehistoric art.”
The only problem is that you can’t visit Lascaux anymore- it’s been closed to the public since the 1960s. But now you can visit Lascaux II, a very lifelike replica located a few miles away.
While I was super excited to see this “prehistoric Sistine Chapel”, my mom and sister were, well… less than enthused. And once the tour started, I quickly realized that our guide only spoke French, a language my mom and sister only know a few words of.
So um, my mom and sister endured a 45-minute French-language tour in a fake prehistoric cavern for me… and if that’s not love, what is?
Maybe I’ve done way too much babysitting in my life, and therefore have watched way too much Ice Age, but I loved Lascaux. I find it amazing that prehistoric peoples were able to paint such lifelike scenes in near darkness. You can really see the bison moving, right?
On our last day in Sarlat, there was a morning market which I foolishly didn’t wake up early enough to see much of- but if I’m ever back you know I’ll be in line for some duck.
Overall the Dordogne was a sleepy region that didn’t make me feel the need to urgently return- but if you’re ever road-tripping through the area, it certainly warrants a night or two.
Have you ever visited the Dordogne?