We’re off to Sarlat!

Just two more days and I am off for several weeks in Sarlat in the Dordogne Valley!  Sarlat is the perfect Slow Travel Adventure destination–the city is gorgeous, manageable, brimming with history, and best of all, very affordable.  Whether you are traveling with a friend, spouse or your family, whether you like to bike, hike, canoe or just take in the local culture, Sarlat and the Dordogne Valley will not disappoint!

Nestled in the heart of a valley between the Dordogne and Vezere Rivers, Sarlat is almost a storybook French village, with winding streets, half-timbered houses, and a history that can be traced back to prehistoric times.  The city has undergone extensive restoration over the last 20 years, and great care has been taken to preserve its many architectural treasures.  My husband and I last visited Sarlat and the Dordogne Valley about 15 years ago on one of our first bike trips in France.  We vowed that we would return some day with our children and share the magic and adventures that the area holds with them.  So off we go, my husband, two daughters and new son-in-law, to see what kind of new adventures we can discover in Sarlat.

Our home for the week will be an apartment at the Villa des Consuls (that’s our terrace on the home page!), located in the heart of the medieval quarter in Sarlat.   Our apartment is the “Montaigne”, which accommodates from 2 to 6 people, has a kitchen, 2 bedrooms and a terrace overlooking the pedestrian only street, Rue des Consuls.  On Wednesdays and Saturdays, the street is filled with one of the largest markets in the region, so I know where I will spend my mornings on these days!  Being located in the center of everything will enable everyone to do as much or as little as they want to do–an ideal luxury when traveling as a group.

We will travel to Sarlat from Paris by train via Bordeaux.  We have chosen not to rent a car, preferring to do our touring by bike and canoe/kayak.  For the day that we visit the prehistoric caves at the Font du Gaume, we have enlisted the services of local guide and taxi driver, Philippe of Allo Philippe Taxi.  Philippe speaks great English, is very friendly, and will accommodate your travel requests, or will design an itinerary based on your interests.  His van accommodates up to six people, which is just perfect for us, and not having to drive will mean an opportunity for wine tasting over lunch!  Philippe made our Font du Gaume reservation and purchased our tickets, oftentimes not an easy thing to do from America.  One funny thing about Philippe is he loves magnets from places outside of France, so we are taking him magnets from Charleston and Washington DC.

While in Sarlat, we will fill our days with hikes, bike trips along the voie verte from Sarlat to Casoules and back, canoeing on the Dordogne River from Vitrac to Beynac, visiting Castelnaud and Beynac castles, and visiting villages like Beynac and Domme, discovering history around every bend.  The area around Sarlat is the foremost region of prehistory for the period from 300,000 to 10,000 BC, a time frame that is impossible to comprehend.   From the Font du Gaume to Lascaux II to the cave dwelling fortress of Roque St. Christophe, this will not be an ordinary vacation of big cities and museums.   This will be a vacation where we will all enjoy the luxury of immersing ourselves in the culture and history of one of the most unique regions in France.

Did I tell you that duck and foie gras are two of the major specialties of the area, in addition to truffles?  I think I might eat duck every night we are there!

So it’s time to get back to packing, but I will look forward to sharing photos and more information on our trip when we return!

Posted by Maggie LaCoste

I love the adventure and unpredictability of experiencing France by bike. Cycling in France is the ultimate slow travel adventure, an opportunity to see it through the back door in a way few tourists experience. One week on a bike in France and life takes on a different meaning! I created Experience France By Bike to inspire recreational cyclists to visit France the slow way....by bike, and to be the best source of information for planning the perfect bicycling adventure. I encourage readers to embrace the uncertainty of the road ahead and to take the path less traveled, exploring roads, towns and villages that you would never experience traveling by car.

  1. barbara bumgardner July 19, 2011 at 11:49 am

    How was your trip? It sounds wonderful. My husband and I are going in September and are very excited. We were there 2 years ago, but only for 3 days. Just a taste. Now we are going again for a week, renting a house and hoping to enjoy it all slowly.

    1. Hi Barbara!

      Sarlat is heaven! We had such a wonderful time, and I always look forward to going back. It is a perfect place to just soak in all the beauty of the French countryside. Be sure to go to every market day you can, and if you need a tour guide/taxi driver, please let me know and I will send on a name. September will be a perfect time for exploring the hill towns and I would highly recommend that you consider taking at least a day bike trip to explore.
      Thanks for reading Experience France by Bike, and I will plan to write more about biking in Sarlat in the fall!