Carnet de Voyage: Personal Pilgrimage

Carnet de Voyage: Personal Pilgrimage

Travel notes from the real France. Carnet de Voyage is a weekly personal travel story in France sent in by readers. If you’d like to write a story for Carnet de Voyage, head here for details on how to submit.

I’m sitting on the terrace of an old stone cottage, surrounded by the lush greenery and the gentle hum of the Dordogne River. I can’t help but marvel at the magic that has drawn me back here after three decades. This whole trip, I’ve been stepping into a cherished memory, a reunion with a long-lost friend. I explored the Dordogne area with my old Citroën ZX some 30 years ago and I’ve returned, with a slightly more modern vehicle, but no less enthusiasm.

The quaint villages and medieval towns that adorn the region remain frozen in time, preserving the essence of their medieval charm. My first visit, all those years ago, left an indelible mark on my soul, and returning now is like flipping through the pages of a well-loved novel. Sarlat-la-Canéda, with its honey-hued buildings and narrow cobblestone streets, feels like a stroll through a living history book. The bustling markets, vibrant with the colors of fresh produce and local crafts, are as captivating as ever, whisking me back to the vibrant tapestry of my initial encounter.

The food scene, a highlight of my memories, has not only sustained its excellence but has also evolved. Duck confit, a local specialty, remains my all time favourite and I tuck into the hearty dish with delectable pleasure. The truffle-infused dishes are a testament to the region’s commitment to gastronomic excellence. Each meal is a celebration of the terroir, a love letter to the rich bounty that Dordogne generously offers.

The landscapes that once took my breath away continue to do so, perhaps even more profoundly. The rolling hills, vineyards, and limestone cliffs stand as eternal witnesses to the passage of time. The Dordogne River, meandering lazily through the valley, reflects the azure sky like a liquid mirror, inviting contemplation and serenity. Exploring the region’s troglodyte caves and prehistoric sites feels like unlocking secrets hidden in the folds of time, a thrilling adventure that transcends generations.

In this rustic haven, technology takes a backseat, allowing the soul to reconnect with nature. As I was 30 years ago, I chose to explore without my phone on me, leaving it at the gîte for the day. The absence of constant notifications and the serene rhythm of daily life create a space for reflection and appreciation. As I wander along the riverside in La Roque-Gageac, I am reminded that the beauty of Dordogne lies not only in its heritage treasures but also in the intangible moments of tranquility and introspection it generously offers.

The warmth of the locals, their genuine smiles, and the unhurried pace of life add an extra layer of nostalgia to my journey. It’s heartening to discover that the spirit of hospitality, which made my first visit so memorable, has not waned but has, if anything, deepened with time. I loved talking to Marc the waiter, Sylvie the flourist and Jean-Yves the art gallery owner. Marc even offered me a free glass of locally produced Bergerac wine!

As the sun sets over the rolling hills, casting a warm glow on the charming villages, I can’t help but feel grateful for this reunion with Dordogne. It’s a testament to the timelessness of its allure, a place where the past and present seamlessly intertwine.

I hope to be able to visit much more over the next three decades.

Read our other Carnet de Voyage entries here.

Lead photo credit : Sarlat © shutterstock

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