Posted by: ankneredelstein | June 6, 2009

Dordogne Region (SW France): Montignac Area

LaLicorne1We spent 4 nights at the wonderfully quiet and charming La Licorne Chambre D’Hotes in the tiny village of  Valojoulx – Lascaux in the Périgord Noir region of Southwestern France along the Vallee de la Vézère.  Just a few minutes away from the larger town of Montignac, Volojoulx consists of not much more than a few buildings and a crossroads, but is quiet, charming and beautiful.

Courtyard at La Licorne

Courtyard at La Licorne

La Licorne is a wonderful place to stay with cute, quiet, comfortable rooms, a swimming pool, nicely kept gardens and a gracious breakfast each morning with home-made fruit preserves.  The staff is helpful, friendly and everything you could want.

The Vallee de la Vézère river area is filled with too many tour-able Chateaus to mention, tons of prehistoric caves, tiny charming villages, dozens and dozens of outdoor-tourism things to do, all without being an obviously overwhelming “tourist destination”.  The Vallee is a very popular summer vacation region with canoe rentals, randonees, camping and many, many other attractions in a rural setting.  Tranquil and relaxing, the Vallee is a definitely interesting and wonderful place to spend time in France if you are looking to escape the “big city” experiences and hustle-bustle of Bourgogne or Bordeaux regions without going to the Alpine or Jura regions.

Paintings at Lascaux II

Paintings at Lascaux II

We took the kids to see the reproduction of the prehistoric Lascaux cave drawings at Lascaux II.  Lascaux is a cave discovered by children in 1940 which contained vivid prehistoric drawings of approximately 600 animals created nearly 17,000 years ago, widely regarded as an international treasure. After years of visitations by archeologists and sightseers, the original drawings began to degrade because of exposure to human breath and outside contaminants, and the original site was closed to public viewing.  An exact replica of the cave and its drawings was created as “Lascaux II” in the same hillside  in 1983 which is viewable today.  The tour guides describe details and characteristics about the drawings you would normally never discover for yourself. It is an amazing place to visit.

Grand Staircase at La Roque Saint-Christophe

Grand Staircase at La Roque Saint-Christophe

The other amazing place we visited was the La Roque Saint-Christophe, an ancient cliff-dwelling village nearly 1 km long and 80 meters high where groups of people have lived since 55,000 years ago.  Five different levels of living, working, trading and defensive spaces are carved into the mountainside. Very cool.  Pictures are in the gallery below.

The small town of Montignac has many charming sidewalk cafes, restaurants and shops to keep you busy and fed as you venture out into the neighboring countryside for daily adventures, and is great for children since it is small and you can walk from one end to the other in a few minutes.  Cafes along the river are especially nice.  We would definitely go back for more visits and to see more of the attractions.  As described in some of the history of the region, “When the great Chateaus were being handed out throughout France, a hole appeared in the bag and 1,000 fell out into Périgord.  The area is littered with and endless variety of castles nearly everywhere you look. Fascinating.

Cafe at L'Auberge du Pont in Saint-Léon sur Vézère

Cafe at L'Auberge du Pont in Saint-Léon sur Vézère

Our best meal was at the cozy under-arbor cafe “L’Auberge du Pont” in Saint-Léon sur Vézère, one of the “most charming villages in France”.  Great food in a great atmosphere at their outdoor cafe along the river.  Canoing, hiking and touring are the great activities here, and Saint-Leon sur Vezere is one of the smallest, narrowest-street villages you might ever see. Cute as can be. Definitely worth a visit, and try the local sweet wine “Monbazillac” made from Sémillon, Sauvignon and Muscadelle grapes subjected to the “Noble Rot” before processing (more links here and here). Delicious, elegant and not as sweet as it smells.  A great local tradition.


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