Dordogne Travel Guide

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Serge Hugounet

The Dordogne is known to the French as the Perigord. It is divided into four regions: the black perigord, the purple perigord, the green and the white.

The most magical of all the Périgord and also the most visited is the Périgord Noir, the black perigord. It has beautiful rivers, pretty golden stone villages, fabulous chateaux and extraordinary prehistoric caves. It takes its name from the very dark colour of the oak trees but some people like to believe it was the truffle (sometimes called black diamond because of its price on the open market) which gave it its name. The town of Sarlat is one of the highlights in this region, as is La Roque Gageac and Domme.

Situated to the South around Bergerac the Purple perigord is named after the colour of the vineyards which cover the hills.

This part of France was brought to the English Crown by Eleanor of Aquitaine when she married Henry II who became King of England very shortly after their wedding. Aquitaine remained English for many years, until the French King, Philippe Auguste, decided to take it back after the death of Richard the Lionheart.

Most of the villages in the Périgord Pourpre are "bastides" or fortified market towns. The "bastides" were built in the 13th century, by Edward I, Eleanor's grand-son, to consolidate his position in Aquitaine. The French soon realised how useful the "bastides" were, so they started building their own.

Deceivingly peaceful today these tiny golden stone villages in their strategic positions were the scenes of many gruesome battles, first in the Hundred Years War between the English and the French and later, in the Wars of Religion, between the Protestants and the Catholics. Bergerac is the nicest town in this region.

The Périgord Vert (Green) takes its name from the emerald forests of the area. It is situated in the North of the Dordogne and it is the most unknown part of the Périgord. Bordered by the Limousin in the East and the Charentes in the West it is a lovely unspoilt area, ideal for tourism.

The biggest town is Nontron but it is a little dull by Périgord standards. However, it has a Toy and Doll Museum.

The Périgord Blanc takes its name from the grey and white limestone present in the area around Périgueux. It is the most industrial of the four areas of the Périgord. The town of Perigueux is the best place to start your visit.

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