The Dordogne in Summer – Travel Diaries Series Part 3
It’s the 21st July 2022 and we’re now properly starting our tour after arriving at Calais a few days ago. The Dordogne in Summer is typically French. It’s villages are full of charm in bucket loads, which is one reason why this part of France has appealed to so many British visitors.
For us, it’s nearly 20 years since we’ve visited. Back then, we were in our first motorhome but vividly remember how incredible the region was. I’ve no idea why it’s taken us so long to return, perhaps the simple fact of the world being a very big place has something to do with it.
First stop Terrasson
As Terrasson comes into view, we really feel as if we’re back to normal travel mode. More often than not, it takes us a few days to settle back to a routine of life on the road. Now, we’re ready for action and this historic town set above the river Vézere looks a great place to start.
Although there’s a sign for an Aire, we fail to find it, so instead park under the shade of a large tree on a quiet road. Later we find out the Aire has closed. It’s such a shame, but a sign of the times even in France, the home of motorhome travel.
As it happened, it’s market day so the entire length of the riverside quay is adorned with stalls. Unfortunately for us, we arrive too late, because just as we got to join the rows of local products, the stall holders are packing up their goods.
Never mind, I’m sure there’s plenty more French markets to come on this trip through the Dordogne. By now, we’re more bothered about the midday-sun. My goodness it’s so hot this Summer but as usual we’d rather it this way than dull and damp.
Historic Old Terrasson – The Dordogne in Summer
We can’t help admire the setting of historic old Terrasson, looking beautiful under the bright blue sky. Reflections on the river as we cross the 12th century Pont Vieux, along with floral displays lining the quayside, make this a town to be proud of.
There’s boat rides from the stone quay, but we opt for a stroll through the cobbled streets instead. These rise steadily behind the stone facades lining the waterside.
Stopping for shade and photo opportunities along the way takes time, because everything here seems so perfect.
What I love about France is the individual shops that still seem to thrive in these towns. Terrasson is no exception, with plenty of choice for browsing along the narrow streets.
Pavement Restaurants and Parasols
There’s the neatest pavement hedging I’ve ever seen. It’s trimmed into pristine shapes, whilst more floral displays undoubtedly bring a touch of sophistication.
Then there’s the pavement restaurants, spilling out onto the cobbles, where diners contentedly sip wine under the shade of extra large parasols.
You get the feeling, that people come here to experience a more lengthy, elegant lunch. Perhaps with a bit of people watching thrown in.
River Views – The Dordogne in Summer
One thing I love on our travels is a good fountain and here there are a few to make us feel at home. Heading to the Ramparts above a bustling, yet tranquil square, we come across a gardener trimming more hedging. This time his ladder is perched rather precariously, whilst he balances on the top rung – remember this is what life used to be like and we miss that in Britain. Yes, the joys of life before reflective jackets and health and safety manuals spoiled all the fun.
Steps lead up to a sort of viewpoint area beside a church, where another fountain awaits. There’s something about the sound of water spilling into a clear pool that’s so soothing.
From our vantage point comes lovely river views, stretching across the water to the new town. It’s a great introduction to this region and for once, we haven’t said “we’ve been here before”.
Montignac For The Night
Today is going to be a late lunch day and we fancy finding an Aire to park up where we can relax for the night. After returning to the campervan and a quick glance at Campercontact , we choose to drive to Montignac.
The Aire has some shade and is a sectioned off area of a mixed parking area. Entry is through a barrier with payment at a machine. We’re happy to park under a large tree where rows of motorhomes take every last bit of shade from the searing sun.
Although there’s a bit of road noise, no doubt come the evening this will subside, so we’re hoping for a quiet night. In the meantime, it’s time for lunch, of a baguette and saussison, our French favourites along with a slice of Compté. Ultimately, it’s a way of embracing the start of our trip through the Dordogne this Summer, getting us in the mood for the French way of life too.
Direct Access To Town
The Aire at Montignac has direct access into the delightful historic town, which sits beside the River Vezere. It’s famous here for the Lascaux Caves . These pre-historic caves and paintings are what the Dordogne region is so well known for.
We visited on that original trip 20 years ago, and although it’s a long time, we don’t really feel like going again. It’s well worth it by the way, but it’s not on our priority list this time.
After lunch, we follow the footpath sign for the town centre. Montignac is another historic town with plenty of artisan shops and outdoor dining opportunities.
It’s relatively low-key still here. So, it’s a good starting point before entering the more tourist-trap hot spots that the Dordogne attracts.
A Town of Two River Banks
Between narrow streets and attractive stone architecture lies a few small shops. As the road opens out we’re rewarded with a fine view of the adjacent river, along with a fine stone bridge.
We stop to take photo’s on the bridge before exploring the other river bank, which also has shops and restaurants. It’s basically a town of two river banks in an attractive setting.
The river is very shallow and crystal clear. Soon, we realise you can walk right round, taking a different path which leads back to the Aire from the opposite river bank.
Now though, it’s time relax back at the Campervan and just do a bit of research. Tomorrow we’ll be leaving Montignac behind. Then it’s a short drive South into the heart of The Dordgone in the glorious Summer sunshine. We can’t wait to re-discover the hidden gems of this spectacular region.