Dordogne and the Land of the 1001 sites, what could be more enticing? I was looking for a way to spend my holiday that would allow me to fully embrace another culture and another lifestyle. In Dordogne, there is so much to see, to do, and of course, to eat.
A Bit of History: Dordogne and the Land of 1001 sites
Going into my holiday in Dordogne, I did not know too much about the area or the immense history. The heat of the battles of the Hundred Years’ War and the Wars of Religion are very evident in this area. The wars allowed the region to adapt and change, basically out of necessity. The years following the Hundred Years’ War were wrought with growth and architectural change; but, the various Wars of Religion would destroy that growth.
However, not all was lost to the wars! Throughout the river valleys, numerous medieval châteaux, rural villages and ornate Romanesque churches remain open to the public. Since the region is home to seven rivers, the river towns and the river activities provide as much history as the medieval areas.
Why did I go to Dordogne?
When I look into how I want to spend my holidays, I am going to be honest; it is usually about what I can see. I love to experience cultures and expose myself to my surroundings, but above all, I love getting the chance to see something that I have never seen before. With the Land of the 1001 sites, there was bound to be something new and memorable for me to see. Between the castles, chateaux, rivers, and French countryside, I was ready to dive into the region.
I also had to consider the location. Since Dordogne is in the south of France, I knew that the spring was the perfect time for my holiday. Summer gets too hot, and it just rains too much in the winter. When I looked at the possibilities for my spring holiday, the location of Dordogne simply made sense.
Overcoming the Obstacles
As is true for any new traveller, I had a few concerns and fears heading into this trip to Dordogne.
One of my biggest concerns was that I was going to France and I do not speak even a little bit of French. This would not be my first trip out of my native country; however, it was going to be my first trip to a country where English is not the first language. I know that people always say not to worry, that English is spoken everywhere. But that did not stop me from worrying.
I went through the typical phases of preparation. I tried to cram French phrases and sentences into my head, which didn’t help. Then, I went out and bought the world’s biggest French to English dictionary. Now obviously it was impractical, because it probably would’ve taken up my entire carry-on bag! Finally, I accepted that there was going to be a language barrier, and I just had to survive.
Turns out, those people telling me that English is common were right. I did not struggle as much as I thought!
Aside from this, I was also anxious to be setting out, on my own. Usually, I travel with a companion or even a large group, so the idea of setting out on this holiday alone scared me. It could be a complete bust, anyhow I just had to face it alone. Months later, and I am here to tell you that it was a life-changing experience, every minute of it.
My trip to Dordogne and the Land of the 1001 Sites
Consisting of eight days and seven nights, my walking holiday in Dordogne was absolutely fantastic. Everything started out in Sarlat, a renaissance town just north of the Dordogne River. Taking the train from the airport, I arrived at Sarlat in time for a late lunch. I strolled around the town, and after several hours simply taking in the beauty around me, I grabbed dinner and headed to bed.
Because there were two options for the first day of hiking, I spent my first evening checking out the possible routes. I ended up choosing the longer route to Domme. Taking just over five hours, I walked through the gorgeous French countryside. Along the trail, I was graced with views of so many different castles, ruins, and small towns.
I stopped for the night in Domme, which is categorized as one of the most beautiful villages in France. The next morning, since there were multiple routes to choose from, I opted for the shorter one, so I could explore Domme in the morning. The city offered a wonderful view of the Dordogne river valley, which was breath-taking at sunrise.
My hike to Beynac was short, but no less captivating than the previous day. The day took me alongside the Dordogne River, so I got to take in the landscape surrounding the river. The day’s hike, once again, lead me to a village overlooking the river valley. Since I picked the shorter walk, I got the chance to visit the Beynac fortress before I retired for the evening.
I spent the next day travelling through forests, simply soaking up the untouched nature around me. After a shorter day of hiking, I stopped for the night in Meyrals. The following day I set out on my hike to Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil, a small village surrounded by caves. Along the way, I stopped to peak over the cliffs and into the caves.
I made sure to wake up early the next morning, because I wanted to pay a visit to the Prehistoric Museum. After a wonderful morning in the museum, I started off to Marquay, the next village I was staying in. The day’s trail took me across several hamlets, and past many astonishing castles, including the Château de Commarque.
On the last day of my holiday, I went hiking from Marquay to Sarlet. The final hiking trip let me fully immerse in my surroundings. I saw many more castles, châteaux, and of course, the gorgeous French countryside.
Finishing where I started, I got the chance to walk the streets of the quaint Sarlet before heading to the airport in the morning. Without a doubt, my holiday spent in Dordogne was one of the most memorable and certainly worthwhile. I loved getting the opportunity to learn about French history in the area, take in the unparalleled scenery, and experience the unique local heritage.
To learn more about a trip to Dordogne or another holiday in France, please click here or connect One Foot Abroad today!
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Originally published on 14th August 2017