Are you visiting Rocamadour and the Dordogne Valley in France? Below is a list of “Insider Tips” for things to see and do in this Midi-Pyrenees region.
When I have a visitor from out-of-town the first place they want to see is Rocamadour, perched on a 150-metre cliff. I also take them to Carennac, Loubressac and Autoire in the heart of the Dordogne Valley – for a more local, authentic experience. Here you will see some of the “Most Beautiful Villages in France.”
When I want to escape the tourists, my favorite thing to do is rent a canoe, float down the Dordogne river and find a hidden beach on the banks of the river.
Several canoeing rental companies organize trips on the Dordogne (from 2 hours to several days) including Canoë Safaraid, Copeyre Canoë and Port Loisirs.
Museums are wonderful, but if you are traveling with kids, you’ll want to visit La Borie d’Imbert in Rocamadour. They have a farm with “ baby animals” and goats. They also make the famous Rocamadour goat cheese on site; www.rocamadourlaboriedimbert.com.
The prehistoric park of Préhistologia in Lacave has life-size dinosaurs and trace the evolution of mankind.
In France’s Dordogne Valley there are many animal parks.
Le Rocher des Aigles is a park that specializes in birds, especially endangered species such as eagles. There are also conservation programs and shows. Don’t forget the Animal Park in Gramat.
While I didn’t have a chance to visit the Chasm of Padirac, the most famous caves in Europe, I heard it is a “must see.” Part of the visit is by boat on an underground river! www.gouffre-de-padirac.com
Food of Dordogne Valley
If you are looking for local French cuisine, I recommend La Vieille Auberge Souillac , www.la-vieille-auberge.com, a hotel restaurant in the center of Souillac. I also recommend La Terrasse Meyronne, www.hotel-la-terrasse.com. This hotel restaurant is situated in an old castle in a small village in the Dordogne Valley, with beautiful views overlooking the river. During my visit, a group of equestrians were staying here and going horseback riding in the morning.
What I have learned in my travels to France is that Best Western hotels are very different from the hotels in the United States. We had lunch at Jehan de Valon in Rocamadour, www.bestwestern-beausite.com, and it was one of my favorite meals on the trip. We tasted seared duck foie gras, excellent local lamb, a most decadent potato gratin and enjoyed local wines and cheese. The French really do know how to live.
While I have not stayed here, Hôtel du Château in Rocamadour, www.hotelchateaurocamadour.com, is located in the heart of the médiéval city with a hôtel restaurant and beautiful views. Belle Rive in Port de Gagnac : 00 33 5 65 38 50 04 is also an option.
Looking for affordable food in Rocamadour? Go to La Ferme Auberge de Calvel – Lacave. Here you will experience genuine french cooking with the produce from the farm. 05 65 37 87 20
Les Remparts – Prudhomat is the spot for late night dining.
For an expensive, yet quality meal, go to Le Pont de l’Ouysse – Lacave. This hotel restaurant is located in a beautiful spot, overlooking the Ouysse Stream. 1 Michelin star www.lepontdelouysse.fr
Also try, Le Château de la Treyne – Lacave, located in an emblematic castle (XIV and XVI century) over the Dordogne river. Here is an exquisite restaurant, www.chateaudelatreyne.fr
Finally, Les Trois Soleils – St Jean Lespinasse. The location is close to the golf course and the French Renaissance Castle of Montal, www.3soleils.fr
The route to Santiago de Compostela
Are you seeing a lot of pilgrims wearing backpacks, walking the Way of St. James? The Dordogne Valley is renowned for many things: Rocamadour, the caves of Padirac and Lacave, the beauty of its villages, its gastronomy, as well as many activities such as canoeing, horseback riding, hiking and biking.
When you come to the Dordogne Valley, get your picture taken at Rocamadour from the view-point near the château. Market pictures are also wonderful to get a sense of the local flavors in Bretenoux, Souillac and St Céré. The best vantage points are taken by walking to the top of Les ruines de Taillefer in Gintrac with views over the Valley. Additional places are St Laurent les Tours and Le Pech de Clédy in Teyssieu.
In the Dordogne Valley, outdoor enthusiasts will want to hike, bike, horseback ride, walk or canoe. Another way to experience the sites is to go for a hot air balloon ride.
Looking for a little exercise? The Tourist Office can propose many hiking trails, from short walks to trails for experienced walkers. However, while some areas are pedestrian friendly, you will need a car to see the Dordogne Valley.
If you are a museum lover, you will want to visit Musée de l’Automate in Souillac www.musee-automate.fr and Musée Jean Lurçat in St Laurent les Tours – 05 65 38 28 21
To truly experience the Dordogne Valley like a local, look to what the villages are offering at the time. There are many local fetes in the summer months. The atmosphere is very convivial.
La Manade à Gramat 05 65 34 62 48
La Dépêche will keep you posted on what’s happening in the Dordogne Valley.
You can tell a lot about from the Dordogne Valley and Rocamadour from visiting and watching the local festivals. From 14 to 21 April 2012 FESTIVAL CONT’EMOI (Stories) Bretenoux (I4) Tel 05 65 33 22 00 o 05 65 38 67 46
From May to November 2012 LES MUSICALES DU CAUSSE DE GRAMAT Chamber music, choir ensemble and world music. Gramat (G8) Tel 05 65 33 22 00 From 17 to 22 July 2012
SOUILLAC JAZZ FESTIVAL Jazz concerts Souillac (B5) Tel 05 65 33 22 00 www.souillacenjazz.net
18 & 25 July and 1 & 8 August 2012, From 5 PM LES MERCREDIS DU MIME Pantomime theatre and spectacles on Wednesdays Souillac (B5) Tel 05 65 37 07 07 www.musee-automate.fr
From 28 July to 18 August 2012 FESTIVAL DE SAINT-CERE ET DU HAUT QUERCY
Lyrical art and opera Saint Céré (J6) Tel 05 65 38 28 08
From 6 to 11 August 2012 ART’ZIMUT song, dance and theatre.. Bretenoux (I4) Tel. +33 (0)6 30 97 30 80 or 05 65 38 07 99 [email protected]
10, 11 and 12 August 2012 COUNTRY FESTIVAL Country Gramat (G8)
Tel. +33 (0)5 65 38 73 60 – www.gramatcountryfestival46.com
From 19 to 26 August 2012 CANTICA SACRA Sacred art and music Rocamadour (E7) Tel. +33 (0)6 72 69 31 77
29 and 30 September 2012 EUROPEAN MEETING OF HOT-AIR BALLOONS Rocamadour (E7)Tel. +33 (0)6 80 63 32 30 rocamadour.aerostat.free.fr
Insider Tip: Check out three of the “Most Beautiful Villages in France” Carennac, Autoire and Loubressac. Just outside of the Dordogne Valley you can visit the town of Martel and eat at the Moulin à Huile de Noix in Martel (05 65 37 40 69) www.martel.fr
Thanks to Atout France, Dordogne Valley Tourism Board and Midi-Pyrenees Regional Tourism Board for assistance with this post. Photos and YouTube video courtesy of Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown.