Stepping out onto the balcony of La Salamandre Apartment, I saw the empty gaslit streets and walls of the stone houses below, winding their way down toward the great church. It's lit cupola and bell tower stand in my view above the tiled roofs, just as it has from this balcony for the last 500 years. I breathed in the fresh clean air of this most special place in the Dordogne, Sarlat-la-Canade, certainly one of the most amazingly preserved Midievel towns in France and anywhere.
And as with Sarlat post WWII, which totally rebuilt this jewel box of a town”s infrastructure while restoring and stabilizing the unmatchable architecture, Dan and Francesco at Les Suites Sarladaise have not only renovated a building and modernized all the systems, they have restored this former Royal Judges offices and apartments to its former glory.
The balcony stands through 10 ft tall French door opposite the tastefully canopied bed (more accurately a “ciel de lit” my wife informs me) placed against the hand stenciled wall. Actually everything in this apartment is done with taste and the highest of standards. The details of decoration and the furnishings are given the same level of attention by the proprietors as has been to the building itself. And what a space their vision, dedication and three years of hard work has created.
The king bed with a nicely firm mattress is nestled amongst the curtains that frame the headboard.. The duvet which covers the bed and all linens are of highest quality. The very large room is focused on the side wall by the floor to ceiling wood mantle and surround of the marble fireplace. Sadly, though understandably, it does not work. Opposite is a sofa and then on the outside wall, a series of tall double French Windows which filter the sunlight through the bubbles and imperfections of ancient glass. The sofa became my default place to sit and think and use my laptop (excellent wifi of course). I could imagine Judges sitting here in their quarters deciding what they were about to do in the former royal court building which is on the other side of Suites Sarladaise back wall.
Actually it shares a narrow slit of airshaft between the two buildings. During the course of renovation, they discovered a long ago covered over portal to the air shaft. It had a stone seat with a carved hole strategically placed. Yes, original indoor plumbing. Now, as with all the bathrooms, it is done in Italian porcelain and tile. Rainshower head in the corner glass stall gushes appropriately. And of course the original feature has been enshrined as it were, with window installed behind.
The bathroom is off the galley kitchen. There is high quality equipment from a full set of knives to a large fridge. A wood countertop frames a five burner stove with electric oven. The end of the kitchen has a towering wall of glass that was also discovered hidden by the hundreds of years of renovations before Dan and Francesco decided to take it back to its origins.
Luckily, all those years of treatment and mistreatment had not damaged the wood paneled fireplace which dominates the large main salon and offset dining area. The owners were tireless in bringing it back to its faultless origin while preserving its layers of patina.
We had a few friends in for dinner and I felt as if I was in my home kitchen. The fridge and pantry with stocked with all the basics to make it through the first few days. The dishes and glasses were antiques and enough vases and bowls to make the evening festive. Dan said if there was anything we could not find to give him a call. I didn’t have to. This place lent it’s magic and feel to an enjoyable evening.
And outside your door in the grand central stair well/hall, stone steps, that have been trod so often that the stone is worn hollow in places, take you down and through the electronic controlled outer main door. You are now a hundred paces from the markets and shops that bring daily life to Sarlat, just as they have done for half a millennia.. Staying in les Suites Sarladaise, I felt I understood those times of old Sarlat and, for a brief while, belonged.
My hosts were justifiably proud of their effort and were most gracious and helpful. A tour of the other suites is a must if the rooms are available. All are individually decorated to the same exacting standards.
There is another two room suite (100m2) on the first floor ( directly below ours). On the other side of the central hall staircase are three studio suites with full amenities though the kitchens are more compact. They are large rooms with tables and seating area along with the same high quality curtained bed and linens as in ours. Perfect for singles but certainly comfortable for couples as well. Les Suites Sarladaise web site is quite well done and gives all the info you need.
Do understand you can not drive up to the door. They are happy to meet you at a parking area about a two block walk away.
One last note. You need to come prepared to entertain yourselves. There are no tv or stereo systems. There are however walls of books should you lack your own. Les Suites Sarladaise opens a a window in time back to a very special way of life. This is a high quality for value rental and I look forward to my next chance to share in it.