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First time to southwest France

Brunswick, Maine
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First time to southwest France

We're planning our first trip to the Périgord region and all the guidebooks only get me more confused. Maybe some of you experienced lovers of this regions can help.

1) We're flying into Paris (CDG) and plan on taking the TGV to Angoulême and getting a rental car for a week.

2) We prefer taking a room in a gite-type accommodation for the week and making daytrips with the car. So, a more or less central location in the Périgueux/Sarlot/Cahors area.

Merci beaucoup for any suggestions you care to offer.

Michael

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1. Re: First time to southwest France

Why would you take the TGV just to Angouleme if your final destination is the Dordogne? You might find you'll have less driving time if you were to go to Bordeaux or Libourne. It's a little over two hours from Angouleme to Bergerac, so it's not a disaster...just might not be terribly efficient. It's also on small backroads, so it's also not an easy drive.

The roads in this region are very well-maintained, but other than a couple of recently-built motorways (4-lane interstates) they are narrow and very, very curvy and very hilly...They're not scary or dangerous, but driving in this region demands your attention.

Driving in a foreign country in a car with which you're not familiar is not a great idea when you're tired and jetlagged and disoriented -- doubly so if you've never been in the region before. I'd strongly suggest you spend the night in Angouleme (or Libourne or Bordeaux...) -- get some rest, then pick up the car the next morning and head out. Saves another day of car rental, and might just save more than that.

You either rent a room in a chambre d'hote (like a B&B) -- OR you rent a gite (a furnished flat or house in which you buy and/or cook all your own meals) -- which do you prefer to do?

Perigeux to Sarlat is a little over an hour, and Sarlat to Cahors is a little over an hour...in the other direction. So Sarlat is the more central location for these three cities.

If you can post what it is that you're confused about, we'll have a little better chance of getting you sorted.

Edited: 13 March 2010, 17:43
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Dordogne
Dordogne
Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France
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Bordeaux
Gironde, France
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Dordogne, France
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2. Re: First time to southwest France

What attracts about this region? Clarifying that might make it easier to recommend places to stay and sites to see.

Having said that I can suggest that Sarlat is a beautiful Dordogne market town and centrally located for some wonderful day trips - Rocamadour, Lascaux caves,etc.

Investigate the possibility of flying from Paris to Bergerac,staying overnight in Bergerac, or even a day or two, then renting a car and driving on to Sarlat where you could stay at a chambre'd'hote or book a gite.

Let us know what you would like to see and do.

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Dordogne
Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France
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Ile-de-France, France
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3. Re: First time to southwest France

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Brunswick, Maine
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4. Re: First time to southwest France

Thank you both for these excellent suggestions. In the past 24 hours, I have narrowed things quite a bit, and these suggestions have helped.

I found what appears to be an excellent "b&b" between Bergerac and Sarlat: LE DOMAINE DE LA MILLASSERIE, in Mauzac (Trip Advisor/Google had 77 guest comments--almost all "Excellent"). I received an email confirmation last night. This has "centered" us in this area of Perigord Noir, with the Vézère valley and the Dordogne to explore.

The suggestion about flying to Bergerac and renting a car there is intriguing. The TGV to Bordeaux is getting problematic. Our flight into CDG is after the early morning TGVs to Bordeaux and the next one would be four hours later. So, do we go to Montparnesse for more TGV options and still arrive Bordeaux late in the day (after flying trans-Atlantic all night), or take a flight (from CDG or ORL) to Bergeric and be at our little bit of paradise by the afternoon?

I'll have to explore the schedules and cost differentials.

We're attracted to the Dordogne, because it's one part of France we have not previously visited, but also because of the beauty and history of the area. We enjoy good local dining experiences and hear that this area is renowned for this (but so is most of France!)

Most of all, we're looking for a relaxing and beautiful trip, to meet French people and savor the beauty. Heck, we're just Francophiles, what can we say?

While there is so much to see and do in the Dordogen/Vézère/Sarlat areas, we also like to make easy hikes/picnics and explore on foot.

Given this time of the year, will it be "hot" and will there be crowds of tourists in most of the popular spots, such as the caves and historic section of the towns?

Merci beaucoup!

Michael

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Bergerac
Dordogne, France
Mauzac
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Dordogne, France
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Dordogne
Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France
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Gironde, France
Tampa, Florida
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5. Re: First time to southwest France

I must be getting tired -- I don't see what time of year you're visiting. July and August are really busy, with August being the absolute peak season -- June is actually fantastic, as European kids are still in school, the weather's great, and the crowds are pretty thin.

I truly would just take a later TGV to Bordeaux or fly -- it's not uncommon for it to take an hour and a half to get through customs and baggage claim, especially in the morning when all of the long-haul flights arrive. It's not a bad thing to have a chance to wash your face, brush your teeth, put on a clean shirt, and have a real cup of coffee while you wait for a train or flight, as the dirty water they serve on the plane doesn't have enough caffeine in it to have any effect at all! And I think you'll find you don't have nearly as much time as you think you will, especially by the time you make your way to the train station with all of your bags.

You still might want to seriously consider staying in Bordeaux, Bergerac, or wherever you end up that afternoon -- you'll be pretty severely strung out, and you don't want to start your trip on a rough note.

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Gironde, France
Bergerac
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Dordogne, France
Brunswick, Maine
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6. Re: First time to southwest France

Thanks, Sunshine. Due to our circumstances, we are coming the first two weeks of August. I am aware of the down-side to European travel at that time, but we have no other option. So, it was either stay in Maine or take our chances with France... and we'd rather be in France under any circumstances.

I cringe at the thought of touristique crowds and lots of kids, but as the propriater of our b&b said, they are rural, off the main roads and they don't take children. So, at least there it will be peaceful. He can book us tables at some of the better restaurants in their area, as well.

Sarlot, of course, will be quite touristique, but with some local advice and planning, we can manage to avoid some of the craziness.

Our arrival flight into CDG is actually an intra-European, Aer Lingus flight from Dublin. We're connecting there that morning from Boston. I wonder if flights from other European cities are subjected to the same customs and immigration as those arriving from outside the EU. In such a case, we might not have much of delay upon arrival at CDG.

While the TGV schedule for the late summer does not appear on line yet, it seem that we may just catch an Air France flight from CDG to BOR and pick up the car there. Our b&b is two hours to the east of Bordeaux. On the return, we'll drive back to Bordeaux and take a mid-day TGV (non-stop) to Paris, where we shall stay an additional three nights before returning to Boston.

Recommendations regarding "not to be missed" points in the Sarlot/Bergerac/Perigeuex area will be greatly appreciated, as will special dining recommendations and winery/vineyard visits.

Merci.

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7. Re: First time to southwest France

Good plan re the flying. And I strongly support the suggestion that you stay put in Bordeaux (or Bergerac if you fly in there) for at least a day before you head off. Bordeaux is a beautiful city with much to do that can be reached on foot, so give those cramped muscles a treat and get over the flight before you jump in a car!

If you want a decent and not overly expensive place to stay in Bordeaux have a look at the Comfort Suites Hotel http://comfort-victoria-bordeaux.h-rez.com/. We've stayed there a couple of times and been happy with it.

This hotel is an easy walk from the heart of Bordeaux and is clean and fairly cheap. Then pick up your rental car early one morning and allow yourself time to stop off at St Emilion en route to Sarlat.

You can do the Bordeaux /Sarlat drive in the day easily, but the temptation to stop and sightsee is high so maybe plan an overnight along the way, maybe somewhere around Beynac/Castelnaud would be a good spot to stop. There is a fabulous B&B somewhere here which I will have to get back to you on! Places along the way of interest are Cadouin, Beynac, Castelnaud, Monbazillac, Bergerac (the old medieval town heart); Issigea, St Emilion, and mor.

While in the area don't miss a day trip to Rocamadour (try to get there as early as possible) ; Lascaux Caves; Gourdon; les Eyzies; Village Troglodytique de la Madeleine and Roque St-Christophe; and heaps more

…about.com/od/dordogneperigord/Dordogne_Trav…

There wil be LOT of tourists but asyou say, that's just how it is. At least you know the weather will be good. Plan for it to be pleasant to hot at times, with not much rain really.

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Gironde, France
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Dordogne, France
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New York
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8. Re: First time to southwest France

Can someone also comment as to the weather in the Sarlat area the first 2 weeks in June? Merci bien!

Meris

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9. Re: First time to southwest France

Should be extremely pleasant, although you may need a light sweater or jacket in the morning and evening, as it may still be a little cool.

10. Re: First time to southwest France

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