Traditions of Southwestern France: Sojourn in the Dordogne
Experience the essence of southwest France during a stay in Sarlat-la-Canéda (one of the most beautiful and well-preserved medieval villages in France) as you tour the rugged countryside and lovely villages of the breathtaking Dordogne.
WHAT OUR TRAVELERS SAY
The Sojourn in the Dordogne was a magical experience in every way: the visits to the prehistoric sites with a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic study leader, the beautiful countryside rich in French history and culture, the cuisine, wine, and hospitality. All facets of the journey were incomparable.”
The Dordogne tour was exceptional for the beauty of the land and the medieval architecture and the exceptional expertise and exciting personality of the tour leader. I want to go back again.”
This was a well-planned, enjoyable trip to a beautiful and fascinating part of the world. The guide was exceptional, the lecturers excellent, and the tour director experienced and considerate.”
Take this trip - history truly comes alive!”
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In the Dordogne River Valley—one of France’s best-kept secrets—tiny medieval villages cling to sheer cliffs, prehistoric paintings are found in caves, and traditional southern French cuisine is found at every meal. Embrace the history and tradition of this remarkable region as you make yourself at home in a 19th-century townhouse hotel in Sarlat-la-Canéda, a lovely town renowned for its medieval, Renaissance, and 17th-century architecture. Here your resident expert will introduce you to all facets of life in the magical Dordogne and you’ll feel part of the community.
Step back in time to learn about prehistoric cave paintings at Lascaux II and Rouffignac, explore celebrated medieval fortresses and towns such as Rocamadour, Beynac et Cazenac, and Domme, and meander through a dazzling 18th-century garden. Enjoy a traditional folk dance performance, hear about the allure and challenges of modern village life from local residents, and learn about architectural preservation from a local expert. You’ll also sail aboard a traditional gabare on the river, experience Sarlat’s fabled market, and savor timeless gastronomic traditions of the Perigord. Limited to 44 participants.
Day 1 - 2 — U.S., Bordeaux, France, Sarlat-la-Canéda
Depart from the U.S. 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
A rich merchant town, Sarlat was rebuilt in the late 15th century and today is an open-air museum of medieval, Renaissance, and 17th-centry architecture. Take a walking tour of historic Sarlat this morning, then sample wines and local cheeses in une épicerie gourmet et magasin du vin (a small gourmet food and wine shop). Enjoy time at leisure to stroll through the Place de la Liberté, the medieval town center where every Wednesday and Saturday one of France's storied market is held. This afternoon, attend a presentation on architectural preservation. In the evening, enjoy a private welcome reception in the hotel. (B,L,R)
Day 4 — Rocamadour, Souillac
Today travel to the fortress town of Rocamadour, a UNESCO World Heritage site, built on the face of a sheer 400-foot cliff. Visit the renowned Chapel of Notre Dame, one of the most dramatic pilgrimage sites in Europe, with its extraordinary 13th-century chapel complex. Embedded in the cliff above the doorway to the chapel is a sword said to be that of the heroic knight Roland. Following lunch in Rocamadour, continue to Souillac to see the 12th-century Church of Sainte-Marie. Dinner is included in Sarlat. (B,L,D)
Day 5 — Les Eyzies-de-Tayac, L’Abri du Cap Blanc
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, that help put the area’s cave paintings, fossils, and early tools into perspective.
Then, visit the nearby UNESCO World Heritage site of L’Abri du Cap-Blanc to see fascinating treasures, such as life-size frieze of horses, bison, and reindeer sculpted in limestone. (B,D)
Day 6 — Eyrignac, Lascaux II, Rouffignac
Begin the day with a stop at the gardens of Eyrignac Manor, 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.
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 and Rouffignac, 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. In the Rouffignac Cave, dubbed the "Cave of a Hundred Mammoths," take an electric train through miles of caverns and see drawing of extinct beasts that populate the walls. (B,L)
Day 7 — Sarlat, La Madeleine, St-Amand-de-Coly
The morning is at leisure to explore Sarlat's traditional twice-weekly outdoor market, one of France's most lively which dates back to the Middle Ages.
In the afternoon, travel to the UNESCO World Heritage site of La Madeleine. Carved beneath a cliff overlooking the picturesque Vézère River, this prehistoric troglodyte village 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.
Continue to St-Amand-de-Coly, one of the oldest and most unusual villages in the Périgord Noir, where all the lanes lead to the fortified 13th-century 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 folk dances from southwest France performed by a troupe of troubadours dressed in regional costume. (B,D)
Day 8 — Beynac-et-Cazenac Castle, Domme
Perched on a 500-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.
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