Special OfferSave $300 per person on 2014 departures when you book by November 1.Overview
Experience the authentic provincial character of Dordogne for one full week in Sarlat-la-Canéda, one of the most beautiful and well-preserved medieval villages in France. Stay in the family-owned Plaza Madeleine Hotel, formerly a grand 19th-century townhouse.
Discover the region’s charming villages, medieval castles and prehistoric treasures through specially arranged excursions and cultural enrichments—the medieval pilgrimage site of Rocamadour
and the fascinating prehistoric cave paintings of Rouffignac
and Cap Blanc
, all part of UNESCO’s World Heritage list
; the perfect replica cave art in Lascaux II; a specially arranged performance of French folk music and dance; Sarlat’s famous open-air market; the English-style Gardens of Eyrignac; a specially arranged gabare cruise on the Dordogne River; and the exclusive Village Forum™ with a local resident who will share candid insights into daily life in Dordogne.
Complement your exploration of France’s rich culture with the two-night Bordeaux Pre-Program Option, featuring an excursion into St. Emilion
, one of France’s world-famous wine regions and a UNESCO World Heritage site
. Early Booking Savings are available. This exceedingly popular travel program sells out quickly every year!2013 ITINERARY
Days 1 & 2 — Depart from the U.S., Sarlat-la-Canéda, France
Depart from the U.S. for France. Upon arrival the next day, transfer through the Périgord Noir to Sarlat and the hotel Plaza Madeleine. Settle into your intimate 19th-century townhouse hotel, offering gracious French ambiance. (D)Day 3 — Sarlat-la-Canéda
A rich merchant town, Sarlat was rebuilt in the late 15th century and today is an open-air museum of medieval, Renaissance, and 17th-century architecture. Take a walking tour of historic Sarlat this morning, then enjoy time at leisure to stroll through the medieval town center and the market. This afternoon, attend a presentation on architectural preservation, followed by a private reception and dinner at the hotel. (B,L,R)Day 4 — Rocamadour and Souillac
Today features a full-day excursion to the fortress town of Rocamadour. Visit the renowned Notre Dame Chapel, one of the most dramatic pilgrimage sites in Europe, with its extraordinary 13th-century chapel complex perched on a cliff. Have lunch in Rocamadour, then continue to Souillac and the 12th-century church of Ste. Marie for an afternoon visit. (B,L,D)Day 5 — Les Eyzies de Tayac and Cap Blanc
Les Eyzies de Tayac is France’s capital of prehistoric society, where fossils of Cro-Magnon Man were discovered. At 35,000 years old, the fossils are the earliest evidence of homo sapiens in existence. View cave paintings, fossils, and early tools, which are given context at the National Museum of Prehistory, housed in a 13th-century castle. Later, visit Cap Blanc, where treasures such as life-size relief sculptures of horses, bison, and reindeer can be seen at this designed Historical Monument and World Heritage site. (B,D)Day 6 — Eyrignac, Lascaux, and Rouffignac
Stop at the gardens of Eyrignac Manoir, which are among the most famous and beautiful in France. Originally designed in the 18th century, they were later transformed into the English-style gardens of today. The magical landscape surrounding Sarlat was not lost on Aquitaine’s prehistoric ancestors. In approximately 15,000 B.C., unknown painters created the breathtaking cave paintings of Lascaux. Because of their fragility, Lascaux II was created. This exact replica of the cave and its paintings was reproduced using the same materials as the original. View images of exquisite beauty and skill, including long-extinct bulls, wild stallions, and ancient antelopes. In the Rouffignac Cave, dubbed the "Cave of a Hundred Mammoths," take an electric train through miles of caverns and see drawings of extinct beasts that populate the walls. (B,L)Day 7 — Tursac and St. Amand de Coly
Enjoy a morning at leisure to explore Sarlat's traditional weekly outdoor market, one of France’s most lively, which dates back to the Middle Ages. In the afternoon, travel to Tursac to discover the Troglodyte village of La Madeleine, perched in the cliffs high about the Vérzère River. Families occupied this prehistoric village of cave dwellings for over 15,000 years. Continue to St. Amand de Coly, one of the oldest villages in the Périgord Noir, where all lanes lead to the Abbey Church. Built in the 12th and 13th centuries by Augustinian monks, the abbey looks more like a fortress than a place of worship, with its ramparts and arched tower with arrow-slits. This evening, enjoy traditional songs and folkdances from southwest France performed by a troupe of troubadors dressed in regional costume. (B,D)Day 8 — Beynac Castle and Domme
Overlooking the Dordogne Valley from a 300-foot sheer cliff, the Beynac et Cazenac fortress is a fine medieval prize, once the proud possession of Richard the Lionheart. Explore its elaborate series of parapet walks, watch towers, and passageways and walk inside to see the superb 17th-century staircase and delicate 15th-century frescoes of the Last Supper and the Pietà. Depart the castle and board a gabare
, a riverboat, for a cruise past Castelnaud. Spend the afternoon touring Domme. This true medieval bastide, or fortified town, is entered through a gate flanked by stout limestone towers. Graffiti, etched by the Knights Templar in the 14th century, still fleck the inner walls. Join fellow travelers this evening at your hotel for a farewell celebration. (B,L,D)Day 9 — Bordeaux and the U.S.
Transfer from Bordeaux for individual flights to the U.S. (B)
Day 1 — U.S.
Depart from the U.S.Day 2 — Bordeaux, France, Sarlat-la-Canéda
Upon arrival in Bordeaux, transfer through the scenic Dordogne region to Sarlat-la-Canéda and check in at the Plaza Madeleine Hotel. Author Henry Miller called Sarlat “the Frenchman’s paradise.” Your charming village home for seven nights is the pre-revolutionary capital of Périgord Noir, a lushly forested corner of the region of Aquitaine embraced by the Dordogne and Vézère rivers. It is a gastronome’s dream, renowned for its foie gras, truffles, wild mushrooms, strawberries, walnuts and duck, and is close enough to Bordeaux to receive the finest vintages straight from the vintners’ cellars. Dinner is in the hotel. (D)Day 3 — Sarlat-la-Canéda
Sarlat is a historical monument with one of the greatest concentrations of medieval, Renaissance and 17th-century façades in Europe. On the guided tour, walk along narrow cobblestone streets illuminated by gas lamps and lined with traditional Renaissance-style stone houses crowned with pepperpot chimneys. Return to the hotel for lunch.
The heart of Sarlat is the Place de la Liberté, where every Wednesday and Saturday one of France’s most famous markets is held, a tradition dating from the Middle Ages. The afternoon offers an excellent opportunity to explore Sarlat’s legendary market. This evening, attend the private welcome reception in the hotel. (B,L,R)Day 4 — Rocamadour, Souillac
Tour this fortified 13th-century village with one of the most dramatic settings of any village in the world, built on the face of a sheer almost 500-foot cliff. During the Middle Ages, pilgrims flocked here from across Europe to perform penance by ascending over 200 steps of the Grand Stairway
on their knees to pay homage to the Virgin Mary and seek miracles from St. Amadour by visiting his crypt, a UNESCO World Heritage site
. Embedded in the cliff above the doorway to the Chapelle de Notre Dame is a sword said to be that of the heroic knight Roland. After lunching in Rocamadour, stop in the nearby village of Souillac, known for the extraordinary Romanesque carvings in its Abbey. Dinner is included in Sarlat. (B,L,D)Day 5 — L’Abri du Cap Blanc, Les Eyzies-de-Tayac, Gardens of Eyrignac
Visit the original rock shelter and UNESCO World Heritage site
of L’Abri du Cap-Blanc
to see the rare, life-size frieze of horses and bison sculpted in limestone.
Les Eyzies-de-Tayac is France’s capital of prehistoric humanity, where unprecedented fossils of Cro-Magnon Man have been discovered. Approximately 35,000 years old, these fossils are some of the earliest known evidence of modern humans in Europe. Tour the exhibits of the National Museum of Prehistory, housed in a 13th-century castle in Les Eyzies, that help put the area’s cave paintings, fossils and early tools into perspective.
After lunch in the hotel, visit the Manor of Eyrignac, designated a national monument by the French government. Located in the rolling hills of Sarlat, this ancient estate has been the residence of the same family for over 500 years and 22 generations. Meander through what many consider one of the finest gardens in all of France. Originally designed as an Italian garden in the 18th century, the grounds were converted to an English-style, sculpted, coniferous garden in the 19th century and have been immaculately preserved and enhanced through the years. (B,L)Day 6 — Lascaux II, St-Amand-de-Coly
Dordogne has the densest concentration of prehistoric sites anywhere in the world. The region’s limestone caves and rocky overhangs provided Ice Age man not only with shelter, but with vast canvasses for his extraordinary rock paintings. In the two most famous caves, Lascaux
, both UNESCO World Heritage sites
, the extinct aurochs, wild stallions and antelopes painted between approximately 25,000 and 17,000 years ago still seem to prance, preen and gallop before your eyes. The original Lascaux cave has been closed to the pubic since 1963 for preservation purposes, but you will visit Lascaux II, an exact and stunning replica that gives a truer representation of the exuberant colors that have faded in Lascaux itself.
St-Amand-de-Coly is one of the most unusual villages in Dordogne. Each of its picturesque, cobblestone lanes leads to the fortified 13th-century Abbey Church, built by Augustinian monks. The church’s ramparts and towers make it appear more like a fortress than a place of worship. This evening, enjoy dinner in a restaurant in Sarlat. (B,D)Day 7 — Sarlat, Rouffingnac, La Madeleine Troglodyte Village
Tour Rouffignac Cave, where you can view up-close the original drawings of extinct animals covering the five-mile labyrinth of these prehistoric cavern walls and see the famous and impressive frieze of two bison about to engage each other in battle.
Carved beneath a cliff overlooking the picturesque Vézère River, the prehistoric troglodyte village and UNESCO World Heritage site
of La Madeleine
offers unique insight into the Magdalenian culture, which prevailed in southern Europe for over 60 centuries from 15,000 to 9,000 B.C. This ancient settlement of approximately 20 dwellings once accommodated 100 residents at a time. (B,D)Day 8 — Beynac-et-Cazenac Castle, Domme
Perched on a 300-foot cliff overlooking the Dordogne Valley, the fortified village and castle of Beynac-et-Cazenac is a masterpiece of medieval military engineering that was once a stronghold of Richard the Lionheart. Make your way through its elaborate series of curtain walls, parapet walks, watchtowers and passageways to an impressive interior decorated with a magnificent 17th-century staircase and delicate 15th-century frescoes of the Last Supper and the Pietà. Enjoy a private cruise on the tranquil Dordogne River aboard a traditional 19th-century gabare (barge) followed by a lunch of Périgord specialties in a restaurant overlooking the river.
Among the Most Beautiful Villages of France and a true medieval bastide, or fortified village, Domme is entered through its original monumental gate. Graffiti, etched by the Knights Templar in the 14th century, still fleck the inner village walls, and the ancient beauty of Domme’s 13th- and 14th-century architecture is surpassed only by its exceptional views overlooking the Dordogne River. Return to the hotel for dinner. (B,L,D)Day 9 — Sarlat-la-Canéda, Bordeaux, Return to U.S.
Transfer to Bordeaux for your return flight to the U.S. (B)
*Pre-Program Option is available at additional cost. Details will be included with your reservation confirmation.
All program features are contingent upon final brochure pricing.