From one bit of paradise to another
Connected to Nice Côte d'Azur airport twice a week, Bergerac airport is more than just a stopover. Stepping out of the plane, you are transported to a wonderful setting. From medieval towns to castles, vineyards to gardens, discover one of France's most beautiful regions: the Périgord.
Let us immediately debunk a legend... The famous Cyrano, man of letters and swordsman who inspired Edmond Rostand, never showed his face, or, indeed, his nose - his rock! his peak! his cape! - in Bergerac. The city nevertheless made use of his colourful character to build its reputation. From the Grappe de Cyrano, a renowned motorcycle competition, to the "Botte de Cyrano", a fencing tournament, through "L'Assiette de Cyrano", a gourmand gathering in midsummer, Roxane's secret lover is everywhere. The city centre even boasts two statues to his memory, much appreciated by the tourists, who vie with each other to pose at their feet, and turn to give the camera... their best profile!
While they are a required stopping point for any visiting tourist, these two sculptures are not the town's only assets - far from it ! A town steeped in art and history, Bergerac has much more to offer visitors. Beautiful walks, to begin with... Here, the squares, streets and alleys will take you back in time. Going out for a stroll, the timbered façades of medieval houses and the turrets, arcades and cross windows of Renaissance homes catch the eye, and lead you on to the bank of the Dordogne, stronghold of the gabares. These flat-bottomed wooden boats were used until the mid nineteenth century to transport a large part of the goods sold in the Bergerac shops. Now motorised and shaded by large white awnings, they offer pretty river cruises to explore nature and enjoy the calm.
From the town to the vineyard
Another historical site very popular with tourists is the "Cloître des Récollets". This cloister is visited less for the beauty of its walls than for what they harbour : the flower of the 900 native vineyards. This 16th century building is in fact the home of the Hose of the Bergerac Wines. You will find there the nine Protected Designations of Origin (PDO) that surround the city. For instance, Pécharmant, whose slopes give rise to powerful and generous red wines, which after being laid down for a few years, will delight the most exacting palates. Another one is Montbazillac. This is the world's biggest sweet wine designation. Its wines can be paired ideally with foie gras, poultry in cream sauce or Bleu d'Auvergne cheese. Laid down for ten or twenty years in a good cellar, this suave white competes with the best nectars of its kind, developing sublime aromas of peach, honey, acacia flowers.
The charm of old stones
In addition to its wine road, Bergerac offers guests many other picturesque routes. The hometown of French singer Pascal Obispo is the doorway to one of France's most beautiful regions : the Périgord. It is also the capital of the Perigord Pourpre (purple, after the hue of its vines in the fall), one of the four perigourdine counties. Among its main jewels : the English bastides , these new cities born in the 13th century of the will of the Kings of England, anxious to establish their authority in Aquitaine. These medieval towns today some of the many tourists' top destinations... British Like Tony Blair, their ex-Prime Minister, the subjects of Elizabeth II love the region, to the point where 2000 of them have actually moved here. What do they seek? What everyone expects from travel: pleasure and emotion. And they can be found in the thousand details that delight visitors along their strolls: in the archways, the timbered houses, the battlements, the churches, abbeys and castles.
More pleasure and emotion… The Bergerac country and its neighbour, the Salardais, also called the Black Perigord (because of its holm oak forests, dense and dark, that cover the area around the town of Sarlat, a jewel dating back to the Middle Ages) appeal to holiday-makers' palates with a particularly delectable cuisine. On the menu: foie gras, truffles, duck magret and confit goose, among other joys of the palate. Food so rich a little effort is required to keep your figure. But all's well since the region offers many sports activities! There's 600 kilometres of water courses for canoeing, many leisure resorts featuring lake or river bathing, and 7000 kilometres of signposted paths you can hike or ride on a horse or bicycle. The less active can stroll through outstanding gardens, visit feudal or Renaissance castles and visit the Périgord caves - Tourtoirac, Le Grand Roc and Proumeyssac- to admire stalactites and stalagmites, or gaze in wonder at the cave paintings in Rouffignac and world-famous Lascaux, which are proof, should anyone need it, that the region has been inspiring mankind for many millennia!
Must-see in Bergerac and its surroundings :
The Maison des Vins de Bergerac : to discover local vines, their nine designations and taste some of their best ones with local oenologists.
The Bastides trail : for the charm of the old stones of these medieval villages. Some must-see places: Lalinde, a village surrounded by the waters of the Dordogne, Trémolat, nestled in one of the river's meanders, Limeuil, voted "One of France's Most Beautiful Villages", and of course Monpazier, considered the most beautiful bastide in France, with its fortified gates, its Place des Arcades and the Market on Place des Cornières.
A gabare cruise : sail serenely along the Dordogne river in a wooden boat to discover the region, its natural beauty and its architectural heritage from another angle.
Gouffre de Proumeyssac : this is the largest cave open to visitors in Perigord. Nicknamed the Crystal Cathedral, this immense vault displays a formidable concentration of crystallizations. Stalactites and stalagmites made all the more impressive by a lights and music arrangement.
Sarlat-la-Caneda : the capital of the Perigord Noir has preserved its medieval heritage, one of the most beautiful in France, yet open to modernity as demonstrated by the works of Jean Nouvel, born in the area and one of the best architects in the world.
Lascaux Cave : its polychrome cave paintings are renowned throughout the world. Their fame was such that the breath (and consequent carbon monoxide) of the hundreds of thousands of visitors almost caused their destruction. Consequently, today visitors must go to Montignac to admire a faithful reproduction of the one known as the Sistine Chapel of the Périgord.
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