Believe it or not, there’s more to France than Paris, in the same way that there’s more to England than London. Chances are, like us, you’ve been missing out on a huge chunk of a beautiful country with so much to offer. On one end of the spectrum there are Mediterranean beaches and on the other the snowy French Alps. The Dordogne Valley fills the gap into between these two parallels with wondrous landscapes, quaint villages and esteemed French cuisine. Sit back and enjoy the view Through The Lens once again as we capture the beauty of Brive-la-Gaillarde.
Château de Castel Novel would be my home for the first night, overlooking a vast estate, Castel Novel is not only a magnificent place to stay but also a great place to dine, with Michelin starred Chef Nicolas Soulie at the helm of the kitchen.This magical French castle provided me an idyllic escape from the madness of London and as you quite well know, we all love to escape the city. Forget the romantic notion of Paris for a second and step forth into this charming chateau which will no doubt be unforgettable.
Before I forget, I mean how could I, I need to introduce the lovely Rosie (above right). Rosie was my partner in crime, companion and food buddy on this trip. She runs Cider with Rosie and has written about this trip as well as all sorts of other things, so go say hello.
With just a few days to pack in a magnitude of adventures, there was little time for sitting around. This meant an early start, a hearty breakfast and some deep breaths of fresh morning air to get myself energised for the day ahead. We’d begin with a road trip aboard the Brive Tourisme camper van, an old banger that crawled up hills but had enough character to steal the attention from a room full of sports cars. First stop, Les Pans de Travassac, a picturesque slate quarry and slate making site that sticks to a process that has been used for centuries and that we got to have
a go at. The slate maker listens to and then cuts the slate with miraculous precision, individually cutting each slate tile. All the walking and slate making were a perfect preparation for what was to come. We jumped back into the van for a trip to a winery which was followed by a picnic in the warm sun of a quaint village, what could be more French? Undoubtably the dining experiences I had during the trip were some of the best I’ve encountered, more on the food and drink over on the blog.
Without a doubt my favourite thing to do when travelling is explore, walking and wandering freely within an unfamiliar location with no fear of getting lost. Besides, what is being lost really? Think of it as discovering the unknown, the new, and don’t be tempted to turn back so hastily, you may never get to see the wonders that await around the next corner. Plus, as long as you have the address of the place you’re staying, there’s always a way back. So it should be unsurprising that
the opportunity to explore the city and the markets excited me. Typically trigger happy, I snapped away at the colourful fruits and vegetables, took in the smells of freshly baked goods and just observed all that was going on around me. When you’re new to a place even the simple act of walking down the street or sitting down for a coffee can be exciting, you just have to embrace every little detail as part of an adventure.
As someone always on the lookout for a good picture, a new environment is wondrous. Nothing is taken for granted or overlooked like it is in your home town; every texture, colour, shadow, line, light and fine detail is absorbed and Brive-la-Gaillarde is a city full of photo opportunities. Firstly because it is quite simply beautiful, secondly because it is generally very quiet and not hoarded by crowds of tourists.
You could quite easily find a quiet spot to sit and read your afternoon away or, like me, explore the still streets with no real goal in mind. If this doesn’t appeal to you however there are numerous tourists attraction to see, shops to visit and restaurants to satisfy your palate. Cheese and wine were in abundance the entire time and if indulgence is your idea of a good holiday, Brive won’t disappoint.
On the final day, in the hours before our flight home, was spent discovering Turenne and Collonges-la-Rouge. No trip to the Limousin region would be complete without a visit to Collonges-la-Rouge, which is built entirely out of red sandstone, making it distinctively beautiful. It was the perfect time of year for blossoming trees and flowers which made it even more scenic.
Despite Collonges-la-Rouge being eminently charming, it was Turenne that I found most fascinating. Perhaps, again, this was due to it being so quaint and quiet, scaling little village streets up to Château de Turenne we saw only a handful of people. The view from which was magnificent and provided a perfect way to end the trip.
I wouldn’t suggest the Dordogne Valley to someone looking for a bustling city break or heavy weekend of partying, it’s not cut out for such things and hopefully it never will be. It’s far too busy doing an amazing job of being an escape from the big city with a long list of picturesque sites and plenty of delicious food and drink. A beach isn’t the only place you can go to relax and get some down time, somewhere like this is the perfect alternative and it comes without the bikini clad Brits and “British food served here”.
We don’t stop for long and we’ve got more from our travels coming your way very soon! In the meantime, make sure you’re following our adventures on Instagram! Au revoir folks.