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Dordogne and Lot

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Welcome to Dordogne and Lot

Dordogne and Lot

The Dordogne and the neighbouring Lot Valley is one of the most beautiful regions in France, a magnetic holiday destination for food lovers and nature enthusiasts. The area has remained fairly untouched by 20th century development and tourism and the rural way of life continues very much as it has for centuries. Local farmers seem happy to live a fairly subsistence lifestyle, and village markets continue to flourish long after they have disappeared from the high streets of other European countries. This is due, no doubt, to the local taste for fresh ingredients and their disregard for what are regarded as draconian EU health and safety laws.

Dordogne is home to over 1,500 castles as well as 150 prehistoric sites, and thus has a huge draw for history enthusiasts. There is a popular museum of medieval warfare at the Chateau de Castelnaud in Castelnaud-La Chapelle, and the stone villages of Rocamadour, Domme and La Roque Gageac are akin to stepping into a time machine.

Although medieval villages and towns such as Conques, Cahors and Montauban are starting to be discovered by tourists looking for a more authentic France, they have managed to retain their old-world charm. Visitors don't come here for a busy nightlife, or indeed for the weather (which can be wet even in summer), but are drawn to the stunning countryside, pâté, truffles, succulent Limousin veal and fine wine.


Information & Facts

Climate

Dordogne experiences mild winters and moderate summers, which can be long and very warm at times, making it the best time of year to visit Dordogne and Lot. Average summer daytime highs range from 77°F to 95°F (25°C to 35°C) with occasional storms and showers. Spring and autumn are mild with a higher chance of rain while in late spring heavy rainfall can occur. Winters are generally mild with short periods of cold weather with frequent rain.

Language
French is the official language.
Money

The Euro (EUR) is the official currency in France. Currency can be exchanged at banks, bureaux de change and some large hotels, though you will get a better exchange rate at the ATMs. Major credit cards are widely accepted, as are travellers cheques, particularly in major tourist destinations. Foreign currency is not accepted.

Time
Local time is GMT +1 (GMT +2 between last Sunday in March and last Sunday in October).

Situated 55 miles (89km) north of Toulouse in a loop of the Lot River, the ancient city of Cahors was inhabited long before the Romans arrived, and in medieval times was a thriving university town. Across the river is the town's signature piece, the Pont Valentré. This magnificent fortified bridge was built between 1308 and 1500 and features a trio of towers, battlements and seven pointed arches. The Cathédrale St-Etienne dominates the old town and features a sculptured Romanesque north portal, which was carved around 1135. Today the town is best known for its excellent cuisine and the fine deep red wine that is made in the surrounding vineyards. Sunday is market day and a good opportunity to buy some of the local produce. A good excursion from Cahors is the stunning cliff-edge village of St-Cirq-Lapopie, 19 miles (31km) to the east. Perched high above the south bank of the Lot, the village, with its cobbled lanes, half-timbered houses and gardens, is best visited in the evenings when the tour buses have left and the excellent restaurants have more tables available to linger over.

Conques occupies a spectacular position on the flanks of the steep, densely wooded gorge of the little River Dourdou, a tributary of the Lot, and is one of the great villages of southwest France. The site was chosen as a retreat by a hermit called Dadon in the 7th century, and was named from the Latin concha, meaning shell. Dadon founded a community of Benedictine monks here, one of whom pilfered the relics of the martyred girl, Ste Foy, from the monastery at Agen. Known for her ability to cure blindness and liberate captives, Ste Foy's presence brought pilgrims flocking to Conques and the magnificent Romanesque abbey-church became a prime place on the pilgrimage route to Compostela in Spain. Pilgrims still come today, along with tourists who come to admire Conques' beautiful setting.

In 1868 prehistoric skeletons were discovered in the Vézère valley, and the area was found to be one of the richest in the world in terms of ancient sites and deposits. The small market town of Les Eyzies suddenly became the base for exploring this treasure-trove of antiquities, including the many prehistoric painted caves, the most famous and beautiful being at Lascaux, discovered in 1940 by boys looking for their dog. The paintings were made about 30,000 years ago and depict wild boar, deer and majestic bulls. Unfortunately visitors cannot view the actual paintings because the caves have been closed to the general public to prevent deterioration, but a replica gives you a clear picture of the remarkable works. The town has some excellent museums in which prehistoric art and artefacts are on display.

Montauban lies on the banks of the River Tarn, 50 miles (80km) north of Toulouse and is one of the most ancient cities in southwest France. Its origins date from 1144 when the count of Toulouse decided to create a bastidehere as a bulwark against English and French royal power. The genius of the original medieval town plan is still obvious in the lovely town centre, and though the suburbs now sprawl way beyond the old core, the city is still dominated by the fortified Eglise St-Jacques fort and the 14th-century brick bridge, Pont Vieux. The artist Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) was born in Montauban and many of his works now hang in Musée Ingres, situated in the old 17th-century Bishops Palace, including The Dream of Ossian,originally intended for Napoleon's bedroom in Rome.

Tiered precariously halfway up a cliffside above a small river, Rocamadour has one of the unique settings of any town in Europe. The town is famed for being the site where the body of St Amadour (who is believed to be Zacchaeus of the Bible) was discovered, an event that led to a succession of miracles in the town. Since the 8th century it has been an important pilgrimage site; everyone from prince to pauper has ventured here in the hope of curing their ailments at the shrine, which has been plundered several times so the reliquary today bears little relation to the original. Today the town is overrun by tourists and its atmosphere has suffered accordingly, but, despite this, it is a must-see for the stunning views of the Dordogne and its marvellous situation.

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