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A jumping off point please?

Toronto
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A jumping off point please?

Mum and I planning a great France adventure but limited to a week...we will be flying to France from Toronto so likely Paris is our best arrival point.

We were looking at Provence, where I have been and have some knowledge of...but Mum presents me with this Region as another idea. It looks sensational....but we have no context or clue....can you help up with some ideas of the best places to see - what is the main focus in this area usually? Where would we connect to from Paris and would it be better to take the TGV (how long a ride please?) or would we fly?

What is not to be missed and where should I begin my research - we would be travelling in September.

Thank you in advance as I know this is a LOT!!

Tampa, Florida
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1. Re: A jumping off point please?

It IS sensational.

But you and Mum owe it to yourselves to get your hands on a guidebook or two, and visiting websites (try perigord-decouverte for one) to see if this is something YOU would like to do.

You MUST, MUST have a car to see this area..you could take the train or fly to Bordeaux or Bergerac, but a car is essential.

Chicago, Illinois
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2. Re: A jumping off point please?

I much prefer the Dordogne to Provence and have driven through and stayed a night once, and have stayed for a week on two occasions.

You must get a guide book -- and you must have a car to tour this area. It is a long ways from Paris, so if you are coming in and out of Paris, you will want to train down and then pick up the car in the south -- or find a southern airport for your initial flight.

Just scratching the surface: the food is fabulous, the prehistoric caves outstanding (two must Font du Gaume -- get reservations ahead as there is limited access, it is the real deal , and the replica of Lascaux, Lascaux II which is in Montignac -- you get the tickets in the town and drive up to the site -- There are many more caves, but these are the two musts IMHO

In Montignac you might stay at Le Roseraie hotel -- or at least have dinner there -- it is a wonderful place for an elegant dinner for a much more reasonable price than you could eat similarly in Paris --

Also plan to do a canoe trip on the Dordogne River, upriver from Le Roque Gageac -- this stretch is beautiful and full of chateaux -- there are many places that will rent you a canoe and then take you up stream and you float on down to the rental place. They give you a giant plastic barrel with lockable lid to keep your lunch, camera and purse etc dry although you would have to really be dumb to capsize (we managed this once on the Vezere however -- we were really dumb)

There are also many lovely small towns e.g. Sarlat is one charming example.

Just a wonderful area.

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3. Re: A jumping off point please?

I urge you to pick up a copy of the Green Michelin guide for the Dordogne, Perigord-Limousin. It is the definitive guide for the region, and will give you a good idea of whether it is the place that you really want to spend a week with your Mum.

Being an AlpillesGal, naturally I think that Septemebr in Provence is as good as it gets, and it's where we have been every year since '95. What's not to love - gorgeous scenery, the best preserved Roman ruins in the world, great food, great wine, great weather, and, the hordes of tourists are returning home just as we are landing. Also, since you are already somewhat familiar with Provence, you will be able to share some of your favorite places with your Mum.

Wherever you decide to go, you are sure to have a memorable trip.

Toronto
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4. Re: A jumping off point please?

Thank you all so very much- this trip is really keeping me positive as I return to work from maternity leave so thank you very much!!

Now I wonder - with only a week is it realistic to do both Dordogne AND Provence?

What town would you suggest as our main base for Dordogne? Should we stay at a few?

I have looked at some pictures so far and I am blown away by the beauty in these towns and the countryside...I have been to France once and did a three week tour with Paris, Loire, Provence Cote D'Azur and then TGV to Calais and on to London....as much I love the Brits and enjoyed London - France stole my heart and I can't wait to return! But that creates a lot of pressure for one wee week....I love the idea of seeing something new but I hate the idea of missing too much that stole my heart...namely Provence...

That was likely just an emotional burst....but I am having a hard time narrowing in on what to do with this wee week....How long does the train take to get to say....Sarlat?

The places I loved the most in Provence were La Turbie (or is this the Cote D'Azur?) Eze, Aix, and loved loved loved Arles....loved the history, houses, little streets, market with the olives and pizza's and fruits and veg, loved the restaurants and the wine, history history and just the stunning beauty of the towns and countryside...

We currently live in the Toronto Canada area...which I believe is like the newest place on earth....and so the sharp blessed contrast of the French history and culture is what I long for....

Not helpful though is it as it exists in both locations right?

We stayed in Nimes which for me still possessed a great deal of charm but it was a hotel. Many years later and with my Mum I would like something with MORE of the experience and less of the HOTEL....in Nimes...make sense?

Thank you all again!

Chicago, Illinois
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5. Re: A jumping off point please?

we rented a cottage in a village at the place where the Vezere and Dordogne meet -- I would not recommend that location as a base as it was a bit inconvenient for driving the narrow roads to get to other spots.

I prefer to stay for longer periods in one place and get an apartment -- there are tons of rentals in the Dordogne -- it is British ex pat heaven. -- I would probably go for Sarlat next time - in fact we intended to this summer and found a great place on VRBO but then decided on two months in Paris instead of one and did our countryside stay in Semur-en-Auxois in Burgundy (which was totally fabulous)

With only a week and the huge jet lag/travel time issues, and possibly flying in and out of Paris -- I would pick one area and sink in a bit --

Tampa, Florida
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6. Re: A jumping off point please?

You absolutely cannot do Provence and the Dordogne in one week. You barely have enough time to do ONE of them in a week.

And you absolutely, positively need to have a car to see the Dordogne. It's even more rural than Provence, and there simply isn't any kind of a public transport system that is set up for tourists...commuters and students are better taken care of, but if you're not driving, it's difficult to the point of not being worth the trouble.

There are no direct trains to Sarlat -- you go to Bordeaux, then catch the regional TER that stops at every crossing on the rail...and then walk the couple of kilometres into town. Repeat for every other place in the region you care to go.

Montreal
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7. Re: A jumping off point please?

My vote goes to Dordogne as well.

And no, you can't do both regions in a week. They're so much to see and to do anyway. I would choose one location for your entire stay and discover the area , that you will just love it !

I agree with Sunshine having a car is not simply a possibility but absolutely a must for Dordogne !

For your plane, you should check with Air Transat since they have connections with Bordeaux and Toulouse until the end of September (from Montreal at least... not sure about TO). They would be both better arrival point then Paris.

Edited: 24 December 2010, 02:31
Sydney, Australia
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8. Re: A jumping off point please?

We have stayed in both. I liken Provence to spring, light, bright, light food such as salads composee, maybe a rose wine sitting in the sun, fields of lavender or sunflowers and wheat, whereas the Dordogne strikes me more as an autumn feel, rich foods, especially foie gras and duck, red wine, caves and forests, hunting and mushrooms sort of feel, a deeper aspect to it somehow, Many lovely chateaux but often serious, defensive ones and quite a strong religious sense as well, places like Brantome, Periguex and Rocamadour.

We stayed in Sarlat which is all gold stone and winding streets, magnificent markets and a good base. You can't park or drive in the centre but it is still easy to get to the centre from nearby streets. Troglodyte houses cut into the soft limestone and of course the famous caves.

As you haven't seen it, give it the week. Take a TGV out of Paris and pick up a car at Bordeaux, stay at or near Sarlat.

…blogspot.com/2008/08/sarlat-to-st-cirque-la…

Los Angeles...
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9. Re: A jumping off point please?

If you decide on the Dordogne, then you can fly into Toulouse, spend the night to recuperate and have a fantastic casulet at Emile's; pick up a rental car and spend the rest of the time exploring the area. You could spend a day or two in the Lot region and then continue to the Dordogne.

Vermont
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10. Re: A jumping off point please?

We spent 3 weeks in the Dordogne last March/April; great time for no tourists. I'd go again in a heartbeat, but hubby wants Provence this year.

Any way, you will have to drive around to get to everything available, so plan on a car. Bordeaux train station grew like topsy, long walk through tunnels to car rental at back of station if you chose that option.

With 7 days, I'd stay in Sarlat area for 2 nights, move to LesEyzies area for caves & troglodyte dwellings, then end in Monpazier to spend at least two days in a bastide.

Easy to get on "castle overload" I'd recommend no more than 1 per day & 3 total. Beynac had right blend of info & atmosphere for us. Josephine Baker's place to feel like a princess. And -quite close to Monpazier- Biron Castle-least tarted up for tourists & great little restaurant at foot near entry.

You really need to have a guide book to pinpoint the things that will please you most, but I can't imagine lacking enough to see & do. We had a really old Rough Guide that gave plenty of info & lots of suggestion for accommodations & food.

Happy Trails!