Carnet de Voyage: from Dordogne Châteaux to Saint-Emilion Wines

Carnet de Voyage: from Dordogne Châteaux to Saint-Emilion Wines

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After many years of holidaying in the Loire region of France, we decided to change direction and venture into the Dordogne area for our summer 2022 holiday. Mainly due to our love of French châteaux and good wines, we decided on a ‘two centre’ holiday, firstly to the Dordogne, followed by a holiday in the wine region of Saint-Emilion. 

We had read many articles about the Dordogne, which referred to the area as “Brits’ second home” so we were unsure what to expect, and hoped it was in keeping with all the French culture that we adore – we were not disappointed! We decided to stay in a French castle (with a pool which is essential for our love of swimming after a hard day visiting the other beautiful châteaux of the region!). We plumped for Domaine de Monrecour, a very elegant place that we can highly recommend. The approach to it is magnificent, driving from the main road from Bergerac to Saint-Vincent-de-Cosse (the nearest village), you catch a first glimpse of the imposing building and as you turn into the long driveway it feels as if you are visiting some great French nobility, not actually going to stay there for your holiday!

The village of La Roque-Gageac © shutterstock

Domaine de Monrecour consists of the main elegant château building, with beautifully furnished French classic rooms, and one of its two swimming pools. There is an annexe building with elegant town style houses and another pool, so we were spoilt for choice. There is also an excellent restaurant on site. However, we do like to explore the region and do lots of research prior to our holidays of recommended restaurants in the area. Nearby Beynac-et-Cazenac and La Roque-Gageac, both beautiful villages on the banks of the river, are well worth a visit. River boats cruises depart from both villages and are a must to appreciate the history and landscape of this beautiful area. Our favourite place to eat in Beynac-et-Cazenac was the restaurant La Petite Tonnelle. 

We also visited the village of Domme, perched high in the hills with exquisite views and a beautiful hilltop hotel and restaurant L’Esplanade – one for a future holiday! 

Château des Milandes, home to Joséphine Baker © shutterstock

A visit to the Château des Milandes is also a must. A 15th century castle, once the home of Josephine Baker, the legendary jazz dancer / entertainer and aide to the French Resistance during the second World War. There is a magnificent display which traces her life, shows her original stage show costumes, and details her work with the French Resistance (she was awarded the ‘Resistance Medal’ by the French Liberation Committee). The gardens at Milandes are very beautiful with water features and elegant planting, and there is a superb restaurant on site. 

The medieval city of Saint-Emilion, near Bordeaux © shutterstock

After a wonderful week in the Dordogne, promising to return, we set off for Saint-Emilion, a medieval city and UNESCO heritage site, famous for its vineyards. We stayed at the Logis des Remparts hotel, chosen for its location in the heart of this undulating cobbled stoned city, which has its own car park and a swimming pool. The village itself has many wine shops where you can sample the wine and the staff are all well versed in explaining the grape variety etc. I tasted my first Saint-Emilion Grand Cru and was hooked thereafter! Several bottles were purchased to take home. Our favourite restaurant was L’envers de Décor, owned by the Hôtel de Pavie where the chef James Martin trained in their famous restaurant La Table de Pavie. The food here was excellent and more reasonably priced. 

If Saint Emilion isn’t enough for your wine journey you can also take the train to Bordeaux, about 40- minutes away. A thriving city with a multitude of shops and restaurants. However, after spending the day in the busy city we were pleased to return to the sanctuary of Saint-Emilion. 

Sadly, after our two-week holiday, we returned to the UK, but the car was fully loaded with excellent wines! We felt we had only touched the surface of these fabulous regions and vowed to return to continue our explorations in future years. 

Rowena and her husband have many happy memories over the years of their wonderful holidays in France. They will have been married 50 years next year, and the one thing they both have in common is their love of travel, especially France. She says that is “perhaps the one reason they have lasted this long!”

Lead photo credit : Beynac-et-Cazenac in Dordogne © shutterstock

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