Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sarlat-la-Canèda, no stress, only pleasure

Pleasure is a word that comes easy when talking about Sarlat. The beauty of the landscape, the abundance of castles, the wings of a history full of bravery and shining knights. And the food. Always the food.

Place de la Liberté in Sarlat
Photo: C. Sotomayor

Before going on this long weekend trip I had gotten advice from my neighbour, I had studied guide books and done research on internet. My predominant feeling the night before leaving was anguish. Too little time, too many things to do and see! How will I choose?
Approaching Sarlat by car we saw loads of castles up high on cliffs and heights. With every turn of the winding road a new castle appeared. Fairytale landscape. Down below in the valleys the farmers were working or driving across the fields. Elderly men were quietly fishing in the rivers. We end up driving for kilometres behind a harvest machine, but it was OK. No need to stress here.

Mum, why are there so many castles here, asked my daughter. I had studied a bit, so I knew it was because of a famous war, the one hundred year war between the English and the French. The Dordogne River made a natural delimitation between the two camps, so they had time to build many castles on each side of it during the war years.

City hall in Sarlat

Sarlat puts us under its charm straight away. Nothing is ugly here - maybe except the modern road signs. We arrive late in the afternoon and the sun is putting a warm glow on the stone buildings. Everywhere we see signs about guest houses and B&Bs, one more idyllic than the other.  We have rented an apartment in the historical centre of Sarlat, at Villa des Consuls. The narrow streets are covered with pebbles and there is nothing but stone houses with metre thick walls. We walk around and finally end up at the popular square Place de la Liberté, a typical image of Sarlat. We try one of the terraces and enjoy the last rays of sun. I pick a local dish, the Périgourdine salad, with geese liver and duck.

Outside our hotel Villa les Consuls

The second day we head out in the neighbourhood for three different destinations: The villages Domme and La Roque-Gaugeac and the garden Merqueyssac. (We also did the Bonaguil Castle on the way to Sarlat). Even with children, we can do it leisurely because here everything is close. The children follow without any complaints, but when I list their highlights of the day a certain pattern is evident. Number one is the first playground, number two is the second playground and number three is the third playground. Well. I hope they still absorb some of the beauty and the history of the sites...

Main shopping street in Sarlat Rue de la République

We end the day in Sarlat. From the terrace of our apartment we have a nice view over the centre and the main shopping street, rue de la République. The children stand for a long while observing the people passing. I sip my coffee and listen to the birds. Everything is beautiful, everything is calm and in harmony, everybody is nice - or at least it feels that way. We end the day again at the Place de la Liberté. Before going home we watch two police men fetch a drunken guy who seemed to fall asleep on a bench. He was disturbing the picture, indeed.

Local sausages

Before leaving the last day, we make a round at the famous Saturday market. Strawberries, cèpes, asparagus, duck liver... colourful and tempting with spotless presentations. We leave with regrets, promising to come back and do the Lascaux caverns, Baynac-et-Cazenac, Eyzies, Castelnaud, just to mention a few of the sites we want to see. Sarlat is often presented as a compulsory stop. I totally agree, but I would avoid July and August. It is too hot and too crowded and the pleasure I enjoyed here will not be the same. We really appreciated our hotel but otherwise I would have tried the Hotel Montaigne, where my neighbour stayed. Or the Clos La Boetie, if you have a larger budget.  Usually the Sarlat Tourist Office is a good start to plan a trip here.

Duck liver and other regional products

Typical house fronts


  1. Eva,

    I love your blog, it is best. Thank you for putting the comment in the NY Times about Bordeaux. Although, I am very far in New York, everday I imagine that I will be in Acquitaine.

  2. Jay, thank you very much!
    I hope be able to show you the many different faces of Aquitaine, because this region is so rich. It really has something for everyone. I hope your wish to come to Aquitaine will come true.

  3. Bientôt l'Aquitaine va être surpeuplé car on va tous vouloir venir y vivre...Il va falloir que tu t'attaques à la construction!!!

  4. Så fina miljöer du visar! Det måste ha varit en underbar helg. Och sen måste jag berömma dig för din fina bloggdesign. Allting är lätt att hitta och jag tycker det var en kul idé det där med "you might also like". Man klickar vidare och sen är man helt fast! :-)
    En riktigt glad påsk önskar jag dig!!!
    Kramar från Lotta


Hi! Please say hello! It is so nice to see if somebody has read a post!

Related Posts with Thumbnails