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Published: December 26th 2018
Water mirror at the Place de la Bourse
For our first two days in Bordeaux, I could hardly see this, the weather was so bad. When we came back, 10 days later, it was still bad, but good enough to take a photo.
I usually like to take a holiday before the winter but this year because of other obligations, we didn’t manage to get away until November. I have to admit that I have developed quite an obsession with internet weather sites. Now I can tell you definitively that they are mostly wrong. We were trying to choose between Italy and France. We leant toward France even though the weather in Italy was supposed to be much better. After a very hot summer we were ready for a bit of cooler weather and rain. What we actually got was unseasonably cold weather and quite a lot of rain and what Italy got was a national disaster with floods, storms and wind.
We arrived in Bordeaux at 10 at night. It was about 2 degrees and we were wearing t-shirts, coming from 30 degree weather and for some reason had packed our coats in our suitcases, so arrival also included a mad dash across the tarmac in the rain (completed in record breaking time) to the warm terminal. Our first two days in Bordeaux were really cold and rainy. It took some getting used to. We liked Bordeaux, went for a
walk around the center, stopping at a teahouse for canelé which I can’t say I liked but didn’t really dislike either, different. The Museum of Decorative Arts and Design is housed in a lovely 18th century townhouse and has three floors packed with furniture, paintings and ornaments and a large china collection. The water mirror in front of the bourse was almost invisible in the rain. We spent a bit more time in our hotel than usual, and popped out for a paté salad and some red wine in the evening.
The next day we headed off for a week to the Dordogne. We stayed for a week in Sarlat. A laughing French woman on the plane had already told us it wasn’t pronounced like salad but in spite of our best efforts to remember high school French and even though I could understand a fair bit and manage well with the menus, my French is atrocious and the French woman on the plane wasn’t the only one that laughed at my attempts to speak their beautiful language. The French don’t really speak English but they speak a bit more than they used to and I’ve always
found the French to be very helpful and they were this time too.
We arrived at our Airbnb apartment on the main shopping street without any problems and the apartment was small and cozy with good heating and lots of hot water for our 3 day stay. We went out to explore the old town, which is a pedestrianized area behind the shopping street. I felt overwhelmed by how beautiful it was with its buildings dating from medieval and renaissance times and the photos I have seen of it don’t really do it justice. I turned around to tell my husband that but before I could speak he said to me “wow, this is amazing, much better than I thought.”
Sarlat le Caneda is apparently overrun with tourists in the summer. When we were there it was the end of autumn school holidays and the other tourists were mostly French families. It was busy but not crowded. We just loved it. There is a great market on Saturday and a smaller one on Wednesday. The old town is full of amazing buildings and cute shops with many little alleys and lanes to explore.
There are a lot of restaurants with set menus for about 20 euros which include 2 courses, sometimes 3 and which are all fairly similar. Some give bigger portions and some are just better but the menus are the same. The first restaurant we went to turned out to be our favorite and we tried other ones too but always returned there. I had mostly paté salad or duck from the a la carte menu and sometimes dessert too. A strawberry tiramisu was fantastic. I loved the food, it was quite simple and very tasty. I have simple tastes and we are budget travelers and it suited our pockets. We didn’t eat in gourmet restaurants with Michelin stars and impressive prices, of which there are quite a few in the villages of Dordogne. There were no fast food places or kiosks, only tearooms and mini markets and big supermarkets out of town.
The restaurants kept strict opening times from 12-2 for lunch and 7.30-9.30 for dinner. The French eat at the same time every day and so did we, although we usually skipped lunch. There is no extra vinaigrette or even pepper and salt on
the table, and also no toothpicks. We would just order straight from the menu, no questions asked, but the French always had long discussions with the servers first. They have a lot to say to each other too. Nobody looked at their phones. In fact, they weren’t even on the table. And nobody took photos of their food either.
We walked a lot and even with all that wine and bread and paté and cheese and pastries, we didn’t put on any weight. It must be the French paradox. Breakfast included a trip to the patisserie for a fresh baguette and a pastry to eat with our cheese and eggs. During the day we would visit villages, gardens, castles and chateau in the area and come back for dinner in Sarlat. After three days we moved to a different Airbnb right in the middle of the medieval town for another four days. It was on the first floor of a 14th century converted abbey, looking out on to a lovely square and connected to the main church which you could see from the kitchen window. It was beautifully decorated and wonderfully atmospheric. We felt so lucky to
be staying there.
The market on Saturday was great fun with all the local produce and the chicken and paella and potatoes cooked in the fat of the barbecue chickens, all looking wonderfully tasty and ready to take home. There is a market on Wednesday too that is smaller and with less people.
There is so much to see and do in the Dordogne, we didn’t try to see it all. I am not very keen on caves and grottoes, so that cancelled out a lot of attractions right there because the area is bursting with them. We also didn’t get to the prehistoric cave art but never mind, there are still plenty of places that I want to see, so I hope we will be back. Although I always say that and then I very rarely do return, or I do after many years. Next post will be about all the great day trips we made from Sarlat.
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