Our little corner of the Dordogne isn’t really a tourist hot spot and so, as in the rest of rural France, English is not always widely spoken, so an attempt, however embarrassing, is always appreciated.
You’ll already know a fair bit about driving in France just by getting here but I must just pass on a warning.
Despite even more vociferous protests by the French public than in the UK, France is catching up with the number of speed cameras on its roads.
ones always display a warning as you approach but mobile radar traps
are becoming more common, as I know to my cost, both on the main roads
and in villages.
Having said that, it is nowhere near as bad as the UK and foreign cars have been known to get away with minor traffic offences.
Best not to test out that theory though?
It is more common out here in rural France to eat the main meal at lunchtime and so more restaurants can be found open at this time than in the evening, almost all will involve driving.
See the driving section above and please be aware that the Gendarmes do venture out into the countryside, alcohol limits are lower than in the UK, they have recently been lowered again and such offences are taken extremely seriously!
We are in the north-eastern corner of the Aquitaine region of France.
Aquitaine also covers the Atlantic coastal departments which contain popular seaside resorts such as Arcachon, Biscarosse and Lacanau, famous for surfing.
It stretches down to Biarritz, the Pyrenees and Spanish border.
The regional capital is Bordeaux.
This region is only 15 minutes away, to the North and East, one of the smallest and most rural of all French regions.
The capital is Limoges, about an hour’s drive away and the largest town within an easy driving distance – good for shopping (I’m told).
This region is found to the North and West, about an hour from us and stretches to the Atlantic coast.
We are in the 3rd largest department in France, the capital is Périgueux.
See below (Périgord) for the differences in landscapes within the department.
It is one of the most popular holiday destinations for the French and as well as the Brits, many Parisians have a 2nd home down here.
I refuse to enthuse about the climate, just in case you happen to be in our gîte, stuck inside reading this whilst listening to the rain – we do get some, which is why everything is so green. But at least the rain is warm.
In the Limousin region, this contains the regional capital Limoges.
St-Yrieix-la-Perche (pronounced sant-eerie-eh) is the 2nd most important town in the department and is only 20 minutes drive away.
The department’s administrative capital is Tulle, but closer is Brive-la-Gaillarde, the biggest and best-known town in the Corrèze.
Brive is just over an hour away and is home to our closest Top 14 rugby team.
The administrative structure of France was reorganised into Régions and their Départements in 1790.
This led to the disappearance of some the historical area names of France, at least in terms of their administration.
Périgord covered what is now the Dordogne department but lost some of its area to its new neighbours in the Limousin region.
It was traditionally divided into 4 “areas”, defined by their topography.
The gently rolling hills of the area provide a mix of arable and pastoral agriculture over the centuries and it is farmland that dominates the landscape of today.
Out of the 4 areas, it is probably the most varied landscape, the fields interspersed with good areas of deciduous woodland and deep river valleys.
It is also the least populated and off the beaten tourist track, making it a peaceful and relaxing area in which to spend your holiday. This is a totally biased opinion, as we live in it.
The limestone plateau or “causse” give this area its name, the valleys are wider as the landscape flattens out a little and here in the Isle Valley is the departmental capital, Périgueux.
It is probably the most built up, the least “touristy” and the least attractive of the four areas, but don’t say I told you that, I have friends who live there.
An area dominated by dense deciduous woodland, giving the area the “black” label.
The forests may not be quite as thick as they once were, but sustainable forestry is taken very seriously in France and as forested areas are cleared, more are planted.
The dramatic gorges of the upper Dordogne are tourist hotspots and do get busy in summer but still well worth a visit.
Those of us who are used to the bank holiday traffic jams of the Lake District, for example, will be able to cope quite easily, it’s nowhere near as bad as that.
Vineyards. Wine. That’s about it, really.
A little harsh maybe, it is one of the best-known and prestigious wine-growing areas in France but mile after mile of vineyards doesn’t necessarily make it the most attractive of areas. It does make me smile though.
Périgord-Limousin Parc Naturel
http://www.pnr-perigord-limousin.fr/Le-Parc/Tests/E-Services/Cartographie-interactive (interactive map)
This is right on our doorstep and roughly equates to the area known as Périgord Vert plus a decent chunk of Haute-Vienne and a little bit of the Charente.
Its park status is mainly due to its topographical variety, see Périgord Vert above, combined with a sparse population with few towns of any great size.