We asked Jackie to dish on a few more local insider tips off air. Here’s what she shared.
Share some of your favourite seasonal rituals of the Dordogne.
Depending on what time of the year it is, there are always interesting things to experience. For instance, in December and January, you can go truffle hunting with Monsieur Aynaud and his loyal truffle dog Farah.
During this period, there is also the world-famous truffle market every Monday in the quaint village of Ste. Alvère, as well as the weekly market which offers locally produced foods (one of which is the well-known foie gras au truffe). Take your time at the market and savour all the sights, smells, and sounds. The local growers are always happy to talk with great pride about their produce. Strike up a conversation with the shopper next to you and exchange recipes—if you hit it off, you might even end up going having coffee with them in the local "bar!"
The spring and autumn months are ideal for hiking and biking, as the temperatures are still mild (around 20°C) and the colours of the blossoms in the spring and the changing leaves in autumn are second to none. The Dordogne becomes one great, beautiful “bouquet.”
In the fall, another local specialty is harvested—walnuts. The Dordogne is the largest walnut-growing area in France. You will be able to see how farmers traditionally pick walnuts by using a stick to hit the branches and then collecting the walnuts once they’ve fallen to the ground. Some modern farmers even have a machine that shakes the tree trunk for them and picks up the fallen nuts using a roller.
The Dordogne's most famous product is, of course, duck, in every shape and form. Entire ducks for roasting, duck breast for grilling/barbeque, duck liver for foie gras or in patés—every inch of the duck gets used. You will come across duck farms along quiet country lanes, where the ducks enjoy their time in the pastures. You can often stop in at these farms as they usually have small shops where one can taste and buy their produce.
The summertime is ideal for canoe trips on the Dordogne and Vézère rivers. There is nothing so idyllic as a gentle meander down the river with landscapes changing from fields to woods and the occasional medieval castle appearing on a hilltop, right at the river’s edge. The summers are sunny and warm, so it's a good idea to stay in accommodation that offers a swimming pool for a nice cool dip after a day of activities. Accommodations with a barbeque area are also ideal, as they allow you to enjoy a local aperitif before a meal, including fresh, local market produce and a lovely bottle of Bergerac wine.
Tell us more about the history we can explore in the region.
History—where do I start? The Dordogne is the cradle of human art in Europe with a plenty of spectacular cave art still visible. Some of it is as old as 25,000 years. The centre of this era is the famous Lascaux cave in the town of Montignac. The newly opened Lascaux IV is set in an award winning building and houses cave art that has been painstakingly copied from the original.
Another centre of prehistoric art is Les Eyzies, where the famous Font de Gaume cave and many, many others are located. What is most remarkable about prehistoric art and the life of prehistoric humans is that there is so little known about either. Historians have been able to determine a lot of things about this era, but as there is no written history, we can only guess at prehistoric man's reasons for venturing deep into caves to paint their fascinating artwork.
History in the Dordogne runs from prehistoric through the Roman empire, the medieval era, English occupation, the route de Santiago de Campostella, the reign of French and Spanish kings, and World War II all the way to the present. It is an endless source of wonder and offers boundless opportunities for exploration.
What are your favourite villages in the Dordogne?
My absolute favourite is Limeuil, the riverside village where the Dordogne and the Vézère rivers meet and flow as one to the Garonne before emptying into the Atlantic at Bordeaux. This little village harbours many artists. One is a glass blower who works on site—you can buy his beautiful art in his shop. I love sitting by the riverside, looking at the canoes paddling past and the sun's reflection on the water. It makes you feel lazy in the best possible way.
My second favourite village is Monpazier, which is a pretty "bastide" town with a large village square surrounded by arched passageways. Each façade has a different architectural style. You will find many galleries selling art made locally.
Bergerac is a lovely town to visit with its little cobbled streets. The town has an interesting wine museum and tobacco museum side by side. Until not long ago, the Dordogne was a major producer of tobacco.
Also of note, in 2017, the Tour de France comes through the Dordogne—specifically Montignac, Les Eyzies, St Cyprien, the Bergerac area, and Eymet—on the 11th and 12th of July.
What more can you tell us about your favourite food in the Dordogne?
Food is one of my favourite things to talk about, as I love food made from locally-grown produce. The first thing you need to do is go to a local market, see what is in season, and make your menu according to this. We are very spoiled here for choice. We have "land" produce like free-range chickens, quails, ducks, geese, wild boar, deer, and a wide variety of mushrooms, fruits and vegetables, as well as "sea" produce brought in every morning from the Atlantic coast. There are freshly-caught fish, mussels, and oysters from Gujan-Mestras. A fairly new food venture is caviar from Les Eyzies, which has been receiving many awards.
Here are a couple of my favourite recipes:
Salade de cabecou (great as a starter)
- On individual plates, prepare a mixed-leaf salad with freshly made dressing (made with local walnut or hazelnut oil, raspberry vinegar, pepper, and salt).
- Cut a baguette into slices (one or two slices per person).
- Top each slice of baguette with local goat cheese (cabecou) and grill briefly in the oven until just melted.
- Place the slices of baguette with cabecou on top of the salad.
- Drizzle good quality honey over the slices and decorate the cheese with halves of walnuts.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!
Omelette au cèpes
- If available, buy fresh cèpes (a kind of boletus mushroom found wild in the woods and only for sale early at the farmers market). If not available fresh, most foie gras shops sell cèpes in glass jars.
- Clean by wiping (don't wash them with water) and chop coarsely.
- Fry the cèpes in a hot pan with a bit of duck fat (or olive oil/butter) until crispy.
- At the last moment, add chopped garlic and finely chopped flat leaf parsley.
- You can eat the fried cèpes as a vegetable side dish, OR
- Whisk eggs to make an omelette and add the cèpes. Cook to your liking.
- Decorate with flat leaf parsley or chives. Serve with crusty baguette.
In Monbazillac there is a Michelin-starred restaurant called La Tour des Vents. They have amazing food and lovely views of the vine-clad valleys and the town of Bergerac in the distance.
Tell us about the local vineyards.
Until the 19th century, the Dordogne was a wine-growing region. The Phylloxera disease brought an end to this. The neighbouring Bergerac area has now been fully replanted with vines and is producing high-quality wines, from whites and rosés to reds, all with their own distinctive blends. For example, there’s the sweet white Monbazillac wine which is delicious with foie gras, or the Pécharmant red wine which is full-bodied and excellent with meat or cheese.
A good starting point for visiting the vineyards around Bergerac is the Château de Monbazillac, where one can visit the wine museum and the tasting room. The museum gives you a good overview of the history of wine growing throughout the ages. There, you are surrounded by vineyards—on all the small country lanes you will see signs which indicate their entrances.
Other vineyards not be missed:
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