Fortnight in France:
Our sun-soaked sojourn in the
Dordogne, Languedoc and Provence
June 2006

This year’s trip was first and foremost a visit to the Dordogne. Our airline
tickets, however, were in and out of Nice, as this was what was available
with frequent flyer miles. Nice is a bit of a distance from the Dordogne, so
we built an itinerary of two days in Languedoc on the way there and four
days and Provence/Nice on the way back. We knew that with this small
amount of time, we barely would scratch the surface of these areas, but we
hoped it would at least give us a little taste for future planning.

Moreover, following on last year’s very positive experience basing
ourselves for a week in a rental property (Positano, Italy), we decided to do
the same in the Dordogne this year.

Our final itinerary shaped up like this: two nights in Pezenas, a mid-sized
Languedoc town near Montpellier; seven nights in Daglan, a very small
village of about 600 in the Dordogne, south of Domme; three nights in St.
Remy de Provence; and one night in Nice prior to our return. By the way,
this was not our first trip to France, but all of these areas were new to us.
We've vacationed in Paris twice (and Marisa has been there a number of
other times), and we spent a lovely week in the Loire a few years ago.

Highlights, in no particular order:

1) Experiencing some 25,000 years of history and prehistory – from the
Cro-Magnons, to the Romans, to the Cathars, to the Bastides, to the
current day – all within the span of two weeks and a few hundred miles.

2) Making ourselves at home in a small French village for a week, and
feeling like we’d really settled in.

3) Enjoying inexpensive, tasty local wines – everywhere.

4) Seeing the Dordogne Valley from a canoe.

5) Feeling like we could communicate effectively in French when we had to,
despite the fact that both of us studied French more than 25 years ago.

6) Marveling at the great Roman-era antiquities, such as the arena at Arles
and the Pont du Gard.

7) Soaking in the vibrant historical centers of Arles and Nice.

8) Experiencing the art and symbolism of Cro-Magnon man, firsthand.
Yeah, we already mentioned history, but the caves, alone, are truly a
highlight.

9) Perusing the wide mix of wares at local markets, including two of the
best – Sarlat and Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.

10) Gazing at picturesque towns, many of them dramatically set atop hills
or cliffs: Beynac, St. Cirq la Popie, Domme, Les Baux, Gordes, and
Carcassonne. And discovering a few gems, such as Pezenas. The whole
area is a feast for the eyes.

11) The Millau Viaduct. We drove across this on the way from Pezenas to
Daglan, and we took the detour beforehand that provides a sweeping view
of the bridge and the town below it. Crossing the bridge did not cause
Marisa the case of vertigo that she feared it would.

12) And finally, catching a glimpse of the blooming lavender.

13) Allie would give a very honorable mention to all the delicious entrecote
steaks and glaces.

We found that knowing some French was helpful in the Dordogne –
particularly outside of major tourist destinations. Most people seemed to
appreciate our attempts to communicate in French. We found English to be
more prevalent in Provence, although admittedly the places we visited
there are the ones we’d expect to find many English speakers. Our
language-teamwork came in handy once again, as Chris can speak
French better than Marisa, but Marisa can understand it better when it is
spoken to us.

We thought that early June was an outstanding time to visit the Dordogne.
The weather was beautiful (though hotter than expected), and the crowds
were relatively small. We rarely had trouble finding places to park. Above
all, we found the people to be exceptionally friendly, helpful, laid back and
very proud of their area – not a surprise, really.

Finally, we found it thrilling to be in Europe during soccer’s World Cup. It
really did dominate evenings in the restaurants and cafes, and it didn’t
seem to matter much who was playing – everyone was into it. Those
restaurants with large-screen televisions seemed to do well, and those
without…not so much.

Next -- Languedoc
Dordogne 1
Dordogne 2
Dordogne 3
Provence
Provence/Nice
Accommodations
Other logistics

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The family at the Pont du Gard
Beynac, from a canoe on the river
Carcassonne 'skyline'
Museum of Prehistory - Les Eyzies
Gordes
Flowers in St-Cirq-la-Popie
Dordogne Valley
Watching the World Cup - a familiar
scene in France