The best part of my trip to France last month was poking around the
Southwest. Carcassonne, the Lot, Perigord, the Dordogne. Beautiful,
restful, lots of interesting little towns. Below is
some of the nice things we found.
See also my
notes on restaurants
from the trip and
hilltop city is one of the best known sites in Languedoc.
It's very touristy without a whole lot to do, but it's beautiful and
pleasant, particularly in the evening. I'm glad we stayed in
the old city itself at the Hôtel de la
- We dropped into this town for just an hour; next time I'll spend
a couple of days. Beautiful medieval town in red
brick, including an amazing
bridge and the
of St. Cécile, an imposing fortress of a cathedral with a
beautiful interior. Albi was the center of the Cathar heresy, a
big part of the history of southwest France.
- Mercuès (Cahors)
- The town of Mercuès isn't worth a special trip,
but the fantastic
Mercuès is. It's everything I like about fine French country
hotels. You drive across the valley
and see a 17th century château on the hill. That's your room for
the night. Lovely staff, great restaurant,
and a serious winemaking
operation on the grounds.
And the location is a great base for exploring the Lot, Quercy, the area around the
Midi, etc. These two days were my favourite part of the trip.
- Saint-Cirq Lapopie
- A preserved medieval
village on a hilltop just a bit east of Cahors.
It makes for a
couple of hours of
ambling towards a good lunch in the middle of a day driving along the
André Breton lived there in his
- Puy l'Eveque
- Another charming old town, this one west of Cahors on the Lot river.
There's not a lot to do there, but I got two
and the town is the center for the local area. We had a
nice lunch there at Le Fournil De L'Opera Bouffe, on the main street.
- Yet another hilltop town, on the drive north into Perigord,
This one is remarkable for its amazing view over the Dordogne.
Also a great place to
buy preserved foie gras.
- Les Eyzies de Tayac
- Our third home base on our trip, chosen mostly for its
restaurant and proximity to Lascaux.
I'm really glad we visited Lascaux: the reproduction is great and
the art is truly amazing. Les Eyzies is the center of research into
prehistoric man in France; the area is lousy with caves and
artifacts. The Museum of
Prehistory is a must see if you like seeing case after case of
- Sarlat la Caneda
- A compact medieval city that's also bustling with
real people going about their lives. Definitely worth an afternoon's
walking around; I may stay here next time. Life seems good there.
- The end of our time in the Southwest, France's third largest city.
I wish I could say I liked it more, but the crowds and busyness were
an unwelcome contrast to our bucolic ambles in the countryside.
It's a very lively city though, with plenty of interesting things to
do. I'd enjoy it more if I were in an urban mood.
Looking back on my notes, I see our trip was heavy with charming medieval
towns. I guess that's what I like to do best in France, just poke
around the area and find interesting architecture, views, towns, etc.
It seems to me people live pretty well in the countryside there.