Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Sarlat la Caneda - a City of then and Now

I think we tried to rent a place in Sarlat la Caneda in the Perigord Noir without much luck and as it turned out, our week in Le Bugue was delightful – things sometimes turn out for the better. Sarlat was certainly on our “must see” list just the same. We passed by on our way to Le Bugue and I distinctly remember passing a McDonalds on the outskirts of the town. Not a great omen I must say.

The sign post really doesn't invite you to the delights that are Sarlat Le Caneda..
The village grew from Carolingian origins and survived the ravages of the 100 years war due to its loyalty to the King of France.

We emerged from the shadowed laneways of Medieval Sarlat
 through arched coverways into the morning sun.
It was Monday and Sarlat was our destination. It was unfortunate that we were not aware that market days in Sarlat were Saturdays (the day we passed by) and Wednesdays. The town is supposedly renown for being one of the best markets in France offering the best in Perigord produce including black truffles, walnuts, foie gras, and wild mushroom as it probably has done over centuries past.

Still, we enjoyed the serenity of the old part of town with very few people (tourists that is) which is sometimes as good (to us) as the hustle bustle of the maddening crowd.

As we walked the streets and laneways, we seemed to have Sarlat to ourselves.

Geese, duck - the Perigord Noir

We were there in spring as the Wisteria coloured the walls in purple.
 On arrival we parked the car – I found a spot on the high side on Boulevard Eugene Le Roy and we walked through a car park and the gardens of what seemed like a council building or school. The pathway led us down into the old village lanes with buildings of stone rising above us. Not only were the walls made of stone but so were the roof tops. We’d never seen anything like it before. The south of France had red/brown terracotta tiles for roofing but here in the Dordogne, the architecture took on a totally appearance.

Where are all the people, friends ask us when we return to home and show our photos.
We travel in the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn - so pleasant for us.
Sarlat La Caneda, we were told from our now much tattered DK Eye Witness Travel Guide of France has the most examples of Medieval, Renaissance and 17th century buildings in the whole of France and we can believe its true.

What Leon hasn't mentioned (and he should have!) is that the ceramic goose in this picture was for sale. It was a snap at a mere 450 euro, and the thing I have most wanted to bring home from France EVER!
Now I don't know what you guys all think, but surely ANY man who wanted to make his wife happy, could have worked out how to find that amount of money AND of course the minor matter of how to transport a 1 metre high ceramic goose home to Melbourne in my carry on luggage. I mean really! Anyone visiting Melbourne soon?  It's probably still there... 

Like this statue, we did the same - relaxing in the sunshine and watching the village come to life in the morning sunshine.

But he does tend to look a little bored though, doesn't he - surely not.
The shaded laneways squeezed between the buildings lead us out to the main open area of Rue de la Liberte, the Renaissance centre of Sarlat. The late morning sun offered a bit more warmth than the shaded laneways and we were yearning for our second coffee for the morning. We chose one of the many Cafes and sat on the wicker chairs under a spreading umbrella to just chill out and take in the the wonderful architecture before our eyes.

I have a fascination for arches, doorways and windows throughout France.
Sue had it in mind to shop for foie gras to take home and maybe some truffles. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough room for the truffles (on my credit card). A few bottles of wine did find their way into the basket with the foie gras though.
Sarlat did have a modern day dark side to it, and most likely it also did over the centuries. While we were there we took a walk around the 16th century Cathedrale St Sacerdos to find a poor soul stretched out upon the ground in what was possibly an alcohol induced coma. Minutes later an ambulance arrived to take him away.

Still, I guess you’ll find sad sights like that almost anywhere.
You can’t expect to experience all the wonderful sights of these magic villages in the space of a day trip but how fortunate you can be to take these few hours into your memory for the rest of your life.

We moved on to the most southern end of Sarlat where we came to the more modern part of the city. Super Markets, Mc Donalds and heavy traffic. We were transported from the Medieval times to “Back to the Future” as Marty McFly might say.

It was time to drive back to Le Bugue, our cottage, some foie gras and a bottle of chilled Rose in the afternoon sun before having dinner.

Leon, I've poured you a glass of chilled Rose and the foie gras is served.
Next Wednesday we travel to the Bastide towns of
Montpazier and Montflanquin


  1. Sarlat looks really nice - I must get there on a future visit to France. You definitely should have bought the goose, if only for the entertainment value as you tried to get it through security and into the overhead bin!

  2. And it would have made a great front doorstop.

  3. This looks like a wonderful village - goose and all. Would you believe I've never tasted foie gras - but I'm sure with a little chilled rose it would be delightful.

  4. Sarlat was just one of the many sights we saw in our week in the region. The South West is very unique.
    At that time of the year in France, any rose is a delight.

  5. Another enjoyable virtual tour, thankyou.

  6. We camped at Le Bugue on one of our many motorcycle tours of France. It was July and incredibly hot and humid, I seem to remember. We visited Sarlat on a market day and it was magical. Thanks for the super photos and bringing back the memories.

  7. LLM - Tried to comment recently on your site but did not work for me - I hate rejection... Will keep trying.

  8. Jean,
    Lucky you to have been in Sarlat at market time. Hope to return someday. Planning our May 2012 trip to France at the moment.


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