What to do - Out and About
St Barthélémy de Bellegarde - our local village is only small but has a very good bar/restaurant which offers a lunchtime or evening service. The lunchtime menu is excellent value at a cost of around €13 including 0.25L/wine per person; they also offer a selection of homemade burgers or tortillas wraps with the best chips you will ever taste! The owners speak English and are happy to cater for vegetarians (with prior notice). There is also a butcher and a boulangerie/village shop which has freshly baked baguettes, croissants, chocolatines, pain au raisin, etc.
Lac de La Jemaye
Just a few kilometers up the road is the village of La Jemaye which has a huge public lake looked after and monitored by the local council and entry is free. There is a designated (& supervised) swimming area, as well as a playground, picnic area, forest walks (one with an activity theme which the kids love), restaurant, snack bar and shop. It makes a really good day out for the kids and will definitely keep them occupied. They even provide free kayaks for you to take out so you can really tour the lake!
The larger town of Montpon is about 10 minutes away and here you can find all the usual shops, banks, tourist information etc. as well as a fishing tackle shop. There is a free leisure lake with sandy beach, playground, water slide, snack restaurant and lifeguards in the summer.
The market is held every Wednesday morning where you can peruse a fabulous display of stalls which offer a wide variety of food and local produce, clothes etc.
In July and August there is a superb night market held every Tuesday evening by the flood-lit church in this little village which is about 15 mins away. The stalls are mainly food orientated and so the biggest decision is choosing what to eat e.g. duck, paella, roast pork, spit roast lamb stuffed with couscous, mussels, snails...... There is no entry fee even though there is live music and dancing. It is a truly French experience and highly recommended for a fun night out.
Périgueux (regional capital of the Dordogne) is under an hour away and well worth a visit. The centre of the town is an area of cobbled alleys lined with little shops, café terraces, shady squares and magnificent Renaissance houses.
It is a marvellous venue for open air events, festivals, or the free evening jazz concerts (held in July and August), as well as more traditional events like the marché au gras (markets for fattened duck and goose products) during the winter months.
The farmers’ market, on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, spreads out around the central boulevard, into the squares in the pedestrian precinct and next to the cathedral. As with most French markets, it is a great place to buy fresh fruit, plants and vegetables, traditional breads, crêpes (pancakes) and pastries etc.
The city has indoor and outdoor swimming pools, theatres, a cinema, with films in English (‘VO’), as well as museums and art galleries.
Brantôme is a beautiful town on the edge of the Dordogne river and has excellent restaurants, caves, an ancient abbey and monastery gardens.
Bourdeilles and the Bourdeilles Château are also worth a visit at the same time as they are just 7km to the south of Brantome, on the River Dronne.
Bergerac is an attractive market town which was once an important port for the wine trade. The old quarter and the old harbour are particularly delightful boasting late-medieval houses and drinking fountains on street corners. The town comes alive on market days (Wednesday & Saturday) when you'll see an array of excellent local produce on display.
There is a great Go-Cart track on the outskirts of Bergerac and a large aquarium park at Le Bugue which is also worth a visit.
Bordeaux is very easy to get to and has a very efficient (& cheap) 'park and ride' system where you park on the outskirts and catch a tram into the centre. The 18th century centre is possibly the showpiece with chic boutiques and cafes lining the pedestrianised streets. The gigantic Cathedrale St-Andre is also worth visiting and is now deemed a Unesco World Heritage Site. Another must is a stroll along the Quais Louis XVIII lined with graceful buildings and views of the river.
Arcachon is a bit further west on the coast and is famous for its oyster beds which produce 60% of all oysters eaten in France. There is also the immense Dune du Pilat which is the largest sand dune in Europe (3km long). If you manage the climb to the top you'll be rewarded with fantastic views out to sea.
St Émilion's history goes back to prehistoric times and is a World Heritage site, with fascinating Romanesque churches and ruins stretching all along steep and narrow streets. The town was named after the monk Émilion, a travelling confessor, who settled in a hermitage carved into the rock there in the 8th century. It was the monks who followed him that started up the commercial wine production in the area. You can have a guided tour of the monolithic church which rises up against the rocky backdrop of the town. It was constructed in the early 12th century and is partly subterranean as there as three naves and a small catacomb dug into the hillside.