Domme and Sarlat The Dordogne
Leaving La Roque Gageac behind comes with excitement for the next locations on our route. So, welcome to our Summer travel diaries series, it’s July 2022 and today we reach Domme and Sarlat in this popular part of the Dordogne.
Our route follows the river before veering slightly inland to the hillside village of Domme. This is a Plus Beaux Village and fortified village, which prides itself on its magnificent views. It’s not long before we catch a glimpse either, as the winding approach provides countryside vistas all around.
Motorhome Parking in Domme
Luckily, motorhome parking is easy, with a good, paid Aire on the outskirts of the town. We arrive quite early and find last nights motorhomes have left but today’s visitors are yet to arrive. So, we basically have our choice of parking spots along the rows of free-style parking.
There are toilets in the parking area and a few Euro’s lets us park up to explore further. It’s about a 10 minute walk before reaching the stone arched entrance to Domme. Here, the walled town consists of earthy stone buildings, nestled between small streets where an array of local eateries and independent stores are found.
A hilltop town of character
Domme is an historic town, dating back to the 13th Century with a vast cave beneath its centre, which is open to visitors.
We soon see a petit train, perfect for taking tourists on a tour and starting from the main square by the tourist office. It reminds us of how we used to take the children and how it became a “must do” part of our travels.
For us, we spend a couple of hours walking around on foot, taking in the views from various view points. It’s the end of July now, so it’s busy with tourists as the morning goes on. It’s also hot, with temperatures in the 30’s and blue skies all around.
At the tourist office, we pick up a leaflet for a town walk, so set off to take in the recommended sights. This place is all about character and it’s setting high on a hilltop where the Dordogne River meanders below.
For now, we think we’ve seen enough, so head back to the campervan before setting off to the next Dordogne town on the list – Sarlat.
Sarlat pricey parking
The route from Domme to Sarlat takes us on a different kind of journey. Yes, Sarlat is busy, very busy. This town in the heart of the Dordogne is undoubtedly one of the most popular. For us, it’s around 17 years since our last visit in the motorhome, but even then we remember it being packed.
Around the outskirts are out of town shopping centres and a more industrial type feel. I’ll describe it as one of those towns where you can probably find anything. So, it’s a good service stop as well as the obvious “must see” location in the region.
When we stayed overnight here years ago, it was on a campsite, but remember there used to be an Aire close to the centre. It’s here that we head, only to find the motorhome parking to be crammed and full to bursting.
Today we only want to have a walk round Sarlat, the full name being Sarlat-La-Canéda by the way. So, we don’t want to stop overnight if we can help it. As we drive off the Aire we notice more motorhomes parked across the road, so head in that direction.
It’s really busy too, but we manage to find a space on the end of a row without realising it’s a set 10 Euro fee for 24 hours.
Oh well, sometimes you just have to bite the bullet, so we reluctantly pay at the machine. Over a spot of lunch in the van, we notice it’s not just us looking bewildered. Yes, most other motorists can’t understand the payment options either until the penny drops that it’s 10 Euro regardless.
Sarlat the busiest town ever
It’s so busy here with tourists and we’re soon in the midst of the crowds after walking the short distance to the centre of town.
If anything, this is too touristy, but Sarlat is a beautiful place and it’s July after all. There’s an intoxicating mix of narrow alleyways which are filled with restaurants and souvenir shops.
It’s an arty kind of place too with art, craft shops and stalls scattered around the streets. Sarlat is the kind of place that’s difficult to get a good photo of, without people’s heads coming into shot!
There’s no denying it’s still worthy of a visit, because it’s full of everything you’d expect from the region. For instance, there’s the foil gras connection. Like it or loathe it, this is an intricate part of the culture of the region.
Then there’s the medieval architecture and historic core where the Cathedral sits within the maize of tiny streets. There’s enough here to do in an afternoon. For us this means wondering, taking photo’s and a minute or two to watch street artists perform to the crowds.
As the theatrical effects of a giant gorilla on stilts, rampaging through the hot square comes to an end, we choose to call it a day too.
Sarlat and Domme busy but a ‘Must”
To be honest, for first time visitors to the Dordogne or newbies to France in general, both Sarlat and Domme will undoubtedly be a huge hit. Don’t be fooled by the photo’s which took ages to take to avoid people in shot!
You can see why visitors return to these parts year on year. After all, it’s probably just the same now as it was in the mid 00’s when we first came here in our motorhome.
Today, a couple of hours actually walking round the centre is enough. In the heat of peak Summer, our patience with the crowds is wearing thin.
So, despite paying for the obligatory 24 hour parking, we still choose to move on. Now it’s time for another big name location on the Dordogne – Rocamador.
That’s for next time. In the meantime thanks for reading “Domme and Sarlat in The Dordogne” and look out for the next part of our Travel Diaries series.