Southwest France: Dordogne’s Chateaux & Bastide Towns

The best part about this past month in Southwest France has been the opportunity to take the car out and explore the area around us. We’re in a tiny place called La Grande Font (which is the name of the property, the areas around here don’t have street numbers, just names), which is close to a microscopic town called Saint-Capraise-d’Eymet.
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The best advice we got was to get a detailed map of the area, then follow the Dordogne River, and decide where to veer off the road into a town. Around this area are Bastide towns, which are towns built in the 1200s or early 1300s that changed hands several times (between French and English rulers) during the 100 Years War. So, basically, they are very old, very traditional, very pretty little towns.
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We didn’t follow specific directions or anything, if something looked interested, we’d pop over to that town. Here’s a few of our favorite places we discovered – in no particular order!
Lauzon – My favorite part of this town was Restaurant Le Lion d’Or. We went on Friday nights for a set 5-courses (I never saw a menu) and a live jazz band that filled the place with amazing music.
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La-Sauvetat-du-Dropt – Another small town, another favorite restaurant. Restaurant Ma Maison has the most charming courtyard and delicious food.
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Monpazier – Although we didn’t go inside, this little restaurant called Galerie M, covered in multi-colored ivy was my favorite part of the center square. My other favorite thing was the Hotel Edward 1er, which is this gorgeous chateau type hotel with a fantastic view and shimmering pool. If/When we’re back in this area, I’d love to stay here. Monpazier is often referred to as the classic example of a Bastide town.
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Biron – The best part about this town is the Château de Biron. It’s up on a hill and huge. And just inside the outer wall was this amazing building, once again covered in multi-colored ivy. I am OBSESSED to say the least.
From the chateau looking down!
From the chateau looking down!
Multi-colored ivy inside the walls of Château de Biron.
Multi-colored ivy inside the walls of Château de Biron.
Lalinde – This was just a drive through town, but there was a little pull off on the side of the road by the river, where I took this picture perfect photo.
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Castillonnes – This town was really close to Saint-Capraise-d’Eymet, where we were staying. We went there very often, to go to the vet, to grocery shop, and to go to the markets, which were fantastic. They had flowers and baskets and truffles and trinkets and so many types of meats and cheeses. The #1 stop when we wanted amazing fresh food.
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Bannes – Another just-pull-off-the-road stop was Bannes, because there was a sign for a château, which we always followed. The château turned out to be a private house, but out front we met these guys and just enjoyed the view.
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Sarlat-la-Canéda – One of my favorite stops, this town was built overlooking the river and the roads are steep, going straight uphill. The views were incredible, and just walking around made your legs seriously burn. But then you get to reward yourself with crumbly French pastries.
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Castelnaud-la-Chapelle – The site of Les Château des Milandes, which was the legendary Josephine Baker’s residence with her 12 adopted children from all over the world, who she called “The Rainbow Tribe.” The home is gorgeous and totally worth a visit. If you’re into gardens, this is absolutely your place.
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Périgeaux – This was one of my favorites. It was a charming town, a little bit bigger than the Bastide towns, but filled with personality. They also had a beautiful large cathedral, which we had a great time exploring. Also, the fact that they were decorating for Christmas in late October is a win in my book.
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Bergerac – This is one of the biggest cities in the region, but honestly, I wasn’t a huge fan of it. They have a huge Intermarche (supermarket), but the rest of the town was too big and modern, when I wanted small and charming. But it is a place to go to go if you want to shop or need to hit a chain store.
Monbazillac – This was my personal favorite. You round the corner leaving Bergerac, and you’re greeted with what seems like endless rows of grape vines. Château de Monbazillac is the crown jewel on the top of the hill, It’s a working vineyard you can tour, but since we don’t drink, we just explored the outside and took in the incredible views.
Outside Château de Monbazillac
Outside Château de Monbazillac
DSC01190DSC01202Please, I’m really begging you to take a tour of this area. Stop in my favorites towns if you want, but just get out there and explore. This whole part of France will take your breath away!

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