Friday, 29 June 2012 12:24 PM
Choosing to go on self catering holidays to the Dordogne is a great option for anyone whop is passionate about French history, as the region is home to more than 1,000 chateaux. In addition, it has some really interesting towns and villages to visit.
Here are three of our favourites.
The Medieval town of Sarlat le Caneda - more commonly known as Sarlat - lies within the Perigord Noir region of the Dordogne and is among the most popular attractions in France. This is a year-round destination, making it the perfect place to visit no matter when your holiday is scheduled for.
Walking around the streets of this town is almost like stepping back in time, as the buildings have been impeccably restored to their original state. This is largely thanks to the tireless efforts of novelist and former French minister for cultural affairs Andre Malraux, who campaigned for the properties' restoration - along with many others in the country.
Perhaps the most famous landmark is the Sarlat Abbey, which has been extended and amended over the years to create the cathedral that stands here today. Because of the many changes it has undergone over the decades, it is a rich blend of architectural styles, including Gothic and Roman.
Nearby stand the cour des fontaines and the cour des chanoines, which were both originally part of the abbey. Above it, meanwhile, is the La Lanterne des Morts - or Lantern of the Dead to give it its English translation. This has had numerous uses throughout the generations, including being a chapel for funerals.
Simply strolling through the streets here is an enjoyable experience, as the sun glints off the golden hue of the stone buildings and the bright flowers in window boxes add a pop of colour. It's not all about the architecture, though, and you can also visit the marketplace and taste some of the culinary delights on sale. The town is famed for its gastronomy, so if you're staying longer than a day, be sure to book an evening meal at one of the acclaimed restaurants.
This is another historic settlement, although its is smaller than Sarlat and consists of little more than one street with Medieval houses on each side. There are also heavily fortified gateways, which creates the feel of the residents all living in a castle.
Many of the properties are built into the rock face of a gorge, which gives them a precarious feel. High above these homes are several sanctuaries that can be reached via the Grand Escalier. This is made up of 216 steps that the pilgrims once climbed on their hands and knees. At the top you can visit Palais des Eveques, Basilica Saint-Sauveur, Saint-Michel Chapel and Chapelle Notre Dame, which houses the Black Madonna.
This town has a fascinating history and is almost entirely preserved in its original Medieval state. It was founded in 1284 by Edward I of England and is a pristine example of a bastide town. This is the name given to settlements built during the 13th and 14th centuries with heavy fortifications by those who wished to establish colonies in the as-yet uninhabited countryside of France.
There is a legend that as the Hundred Years War raged, the inhabitants of Monpazier plotted to invade nearby Villefranche-du-Perigord and take its riches. This they did, but were surprised at how quiet the settlement was. They later learnt it was because the residents of Villefranche-du-Perigord had chosen the same date to plunder Monpazier!