Our Region

Our Region
Holiday villas south west France | Gîte Loups d'Or Dordogne

Lusignac is a rural commune in the west of the Dordogne department, 3 km east of the river Lizonne, which forms the border with the Charente, 5 km south-west of Verteillac, 17 km north-east from Aubeterre-sur-Dronne and 12 km north of Ribérac.

The village is situated at an altitude of about 135 metres, in a hilly limestone region of Cretaceous* type. It is also situated between the valleys of the river La Sauvanie to the east and the La Cendronne, a small stream, to the west, both tributaries of the Lizonne, or Nizonne.

The church, the ‘Eglise Saint-Eutrope’ has a Romanesque bell tower with a belfry, a structure enclosing bells for ringing. The church consists of a single nave with a flat chevet, a curved sheltered ambulatory behind the altar, which is used for walking.
A deep well, dating from the foundation of the church, is adjacent to the chevet, between the corner buttress and the sacristy. Periods of construction: 12th century, 13th century and the 16th century.

Saint Eutrope, or Eutropius, became the first bishop of Saintes, in the Charente-Maritime and died as a martyr in around 250. He converted Eustella, the daughter of a Roman governor, to Christianity. He was furious and condemned him to have his head split open with an axe. His Saint’s day is celebrated on 30 April.

The fortified Castle of Lusignac was almost certainly built by the La Porte family, a noble family, in the 13th century. The current castle, erected in the 15th century, then belonged to the Brianson family until 1654, then again to the lords of La Porte and Lusignac. In 1714, the castle passed to Pierre de Lageard (or La Geard), Lord and Count of Cherval, Grand Seneschal** of Angoumois.

The Lageards remained in possession of the lands of Lusignac until 1855, the house probably suffered deterioration during the Revolution, so the battlements of the curtain walls have disappeared. In 1880 a fire destroyed the northern flank, replaced by the extension of the surrounding wall.

The castle, built on the basis of a rectangular wall punctuated by four towers, consists of a 15th century dwelling, in freestone and limestone rubble. Its bays were probably enlarged at the end of the 16th century. It turns out that the mullions and braces of the towers are made of wood. This part of the castle is joined by a polygonal*** turret completed by a conical roof and protected by flat tiles.

The long curtain wall, forming the south-eastern flank, is punctuated by two square towers, undoubtedly intended for residential use, and is pierced with mullioned windows and gunboats. These firing openings are made, either in the window sills, on the sides of the towers, thus allowing grazing firing along the curtain wall, or directly in the wall.

To the south-west, the portal has a large restored bretèche****. The 1665 datestone crowns the carriage door. The pedestrian gate, below, is accessible by a small staircase. Overlooking the interior courtyard, the Renaissance door with bosses (stonework blocked out for later carving), degraded during the Revolution, is crowned with a pediment, a triangular gable, undoubtedly decorated with the arms of the La Porte.

Lusignac is the village, but we live in the hamlet La Roussie Ouest, a 15 min walk south of the village, where we have our luxury holiday house in the Dordogne. In the village is a café restaurant, and that’s it. For bread we go to Saint-Séverin or Verteillac.

 

*During this period, that lasted from about 145 to 66 million years ago, oceans formed as land shifted and broke out of one big supercontinent into smaller ones. The name ‘Cretaceous’ comes from the Latin ‘creta’, which means chalk.

**Seneschal is the highest (major) person, steward, of a noble household.

***A polygon is a closed shape with straight sides and with many angles.

**** A bretèche, or brattice, is a small balcony with machicolations*****, usually built over a gate and sometimes in the corners of the fortress’ wall, with the purpose of enabling defenders to shoot or throw objects at the attackers huddled under the wall.

***** A Machicolation is an opening between the supporting corbels of a projecting parapet or the vault of a gate, through which stones or burning objects could be dropped on attackers.

Cycling

> There are tens of cycle routes in the area. The Dordogne is a cyclist’s dream. Whether you simply jump on your bike to get a coffee in the village or spend the day exploring medieval villages with your friends or family. Remember, you are in the GREEN Périgord after all!

> The nearby Charente has something for all cyclists as well, basically the same as in our part of the Dordogne. The gently rolling countryside, shattered with lovely villages, castles, small streams and the vineyards of the Cognac region.

Geocaching

There are millions of geocaches hidden around the world, and there are more than one million in France. Two of the near hotspots are near Aubeterre-sur-Dronne and Ribérac.

Geocaching is an outdoor recreational treasure hunting game where you use a GPS or mobile to hide and seek the caches, the containers.

Geocaching is an exciting outdoor adventure for the whole family. It’s an activity for the digital generation, where you can enjoy the freedom of being outside and discovering new places. Once you’ve found the treasure box, you leave a message in the logbook. Often you will also find a strange array of trinkets that people have left to swap. If you take a treasure out of the box, you should leave another trinket in its place, so come prepared.

‘Geocache’ is derived from ‘geo’, which means earth, and ‘cache’, which means a hidden item or treasure, a bit like Letterboxing.

Golf

There are golf courses in Aubeterre-sur-Dronne (16 min), 9 holes, Angoulême (50 min) and Périgeux (45 min), both 18 holes.

> Manoir de Longeveau, Golf d’Aubeterre, is set within the grounds of the Longeveau estate. The nine hole course offers a challenge to golfers for all abilities, within the scenic setting of the Charente / Dordogne countryside. The club is approved by the FFG, the Fédération française de golf.

> Golf de l’Hirondelle near Angoulême, is an 18-hole Parkland course in a lovely setting, where some of the holes are cut through the woods.

> Périgueux Golf Club is an 18-hole course suitable for all levels, demanding for good players and fun for beginners. A 9-hole compact course, a chipping zone and a driving range complete the playing facilities.

> Miniature golf course at Golf Bohème, Saint-Paul-Lizonne, a 5 min drive

Horse riding
> There are stables in Villetoureix, Bors-de-Montmoreau and Verteillac for lessons and rides in the surrounding countryside.

Tennis
> Tennis courts in nearby Saint Séverin, Saint-Martial-Viveyrol and Ribérac

Walks
> Forêt de la Double is a 5km route located south of St.-Martin-de-Ribérac and is rated as easy.

> La Rizonne is a 12km route located near Siorac-de-Ribérac and is rated as medium.

> Laurier Road is a 27.5km route located near Saint-Méard-de-Drône and is rated as hard.

> Allée de la Martinie is a 13km route located near Segonzac and is rated as hard.

> Des Vergnes Creek is a 12.5km route located near Montagrier and is rated as medium.

> Passage of the Washerwomen is a 11km route located near Saint-Astier and is rated as hard.

Water sports
> The rivers Dronne and Lizonne are great for swimming, kayaking, canoeing, fishing and rafting. The river Dronne is one of the loveliest rivers in France. Its clear waters are a delight for canoeists and swimmers.

> Sandy river beaches near Aubeterre-sur-Dronne and Saint Aulaye.

> A 25 min drive south, is the Grand étang de La Jemaye, a large lake and nature reserve set amidst 210 ha of unspoilt forest, with a lakeside beach, bars and restaurants.

This is the capital of our neighbouring département Charente, is only a 50 min drive and definitely worth visiting. The beautiful town is built on an old volcano and overlooking a meander of the river Charente, hence the nickname ‘balcony of the south-west’.

Angoulême has a dynamic cultural life which you can witness by walking down the tiny, cobbled streets. The town is the world’s comic-strip capital, ‘the town of cartoon’, and hosts more than 800 cultural events throughout the year, in a wide variety of fields including music, film and car racing. A vast choice of creative and cultural activities brings the city to life all year round.

The town is a bit of a food Walhalla, and there even good places for us as vegetarians. The Carré des Halles, the covered market, is a feast and is more than 100 years old. I particularly liked the cheesemongers and seafood. It’s right in the old town.

Art & Culture is made by people and is therefore a representation of people, in whatever form, and we are more and more aware that art and culture increase historical awareness, and they realise how important they are. Art and culture make us think about our society and contributes to a better social environment and a better understanding between cultures.

Contemporary and modern art is very much represented at our Loups d’Or and is more than just decoration. For us, and we hope for our visitors as well, art inspires, gives energy and leads to new ideas.

The Dordogne and the Charente, have a lot to offer. Take for instance the approximately 17,300 years old Lascaux Palaeolithic cave paintings, only an hour and a half away from Lusignac, explaining the civilisation’s culture and history in painting.

> In Périgueux, the Museum of Art and Archaeology presents more than 45,000 works around four large collections, apart from temporary exhibitions. There is the Prehistoric Collection, the Medieval Collections, the Fine Arts Collections from the 16-21st century and there is the Non-European Collection.

> Brantôme has a rich architectural and cultural heritage, and very much worth a visit in every season.

> Angoulême hosts more than 800 cultural events throughout the year, like music, film and contemporary art exhibitions. A vast choice of creative and cultural activities brings the city to life all year round.

> In nearby Aubeterre-sur-Dronne, you can enjoy roaming through the twisting narrow streets and visit the leather workers, ceramists and potters, the little streets are filled with them.

> Bordeaux, with its surprisingly avant-garde building projects on the skyline and public spaces like the new Bordeaux wine museum. The important and famous CAPC Museum of Contemporary Art, housed in a former colonial warehouse, the Bernard Magrez Institute of Contemporary Art, show that contemporary art is a big part of the culture in Bordeaux.

The Dordogne and the Charente are sprinkled with historical castles, medieval fortresses, and Roman remains. But you can also discover many museums dedicated to gastronomy, livestock, crafts, wine, Cognac ……they’re all over the region.

Just over the border in the South-Charente and just a 15 min drive, is Aubeterre-sur-Dronne, which was given the prestigious ‘Most beautiful village in France’ award in 1993, one of the about 160 other villages in France.

The attractive village has welcomed pilgrims on their Camino to Santiago de Compostela, for over 1000 years. Three important historical monuments add to the cultural status of the town, the extraordinary, monolithic, underground Church of St Jean, the Romanesque Church of St Jacques, with its stunning façade and the Château d’Aubeterre.

Visitors and tourists can enjoy roaming through the ups and downs of the narrow streets, popping in to admire the many specialist shops, like the many pottery shops. Settle down in the Place Ludovic Trarieux, at one of the cafés or restaurants, comfortably shaded by ancient lime trees. Aubeterre-sur-Dronne has been designated a ‘Station Verte’ for over 25 years, the first label of Ecotourism in France.

The subterranean church of Saint-Jean was hewn in the 12th century and is the tallest subterranean church in Europe. Its original purpose was to conserve religious artefacts in a series of pits, inspired by the Sepulchre in Jerusalem, which was discovered during the First Crusade at the end of the 11th century. Nobleman and crusader, Viscount Pierre de Castillon, used the church to hide the religious relics he had looted from the Holy Land.

The church was hidden for centuries by a rock fall, and only rediscovered in the 1950’s. The absolute scale of this edifice with its nave 20 metres in height, its surrounding gallery, and the hundreds of stone tombs in the necropolis, says everything about the importance as a sacred, religious place.

Pilgrims, on their way to Santiago de Compostela, would take time to pray in front of the religious relics which, they believed, possessed protective powers to protect them on their journey. Long before Christian pilgrims, the cults of earth and water nourished the faith of humans at such sacred places. This aura of magic and mystery remains obvious today for all those who enter this natural wonder.

The Romanesque collegiate church of St. Jacques, consecrated in 1171, was built to welcome pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. In 1562, the nave, choir loft and bell tower were completely destroyed during the religious wars between Protestants and Catholics, but the beautifully carved façade was fortunately left undamaged.

The limestone Church was completed in 1710, inspired by the cathedrals of Angoulême and Poitier. The triple Saintonge style archways show a combination of the oriental and western influences which are the signature of Romanesque Architecture.

The carving, the symmetry, the elegance and the many symbols illustrating cosmology, were a vision of the beauty of the world created by God. Medieval man, often illiterate, would visualise these images and colourful carvings, which were his bible, the spiritual message which would lead to his salvation.

The privately owned Château d’Aubeterre, which was built in the 11th century, was an important stronghold surrounded by the lower town, while the upper town was built around the abbey. The castle was built on the white chalk cliffs above the monolithic church. During the Hundred Years War the castle was taken and retaken several times. Between 1356 and 1412 the lordship of Aubeterre changed hands seven times between the English and the French. The main remnants of the chateau are the gatehouse and the Renaissance chapel. The enclosure and the Saint-Jean tower were registered historic monuments on 1 March 1973.

No, not the tv series but Bergerac, the lively, dynamic and charming town nestled along the banks of the Dordogne, with its many half-timbered buildings. The town is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is officially a City of Art and History.

Bergerac, an hour south of Lusignac, was born from the advantageous encounter with the powerful river, in the heart of a rich and nourishing countryside. Remains of a Neolithic village dating from 3,500 to 3,000 BCE were discovered in the Vaures district of Bergerac where more than twenty dwellings were uncovered. Also found were preforms of axes and polished axes, scrapers, drills, knives, sharp arrowheads made from Bergerac flint, fragments of ceramics, grindstones, polishers and bone tools.

In Bout-des-Vergnes, north of the town, the burials of a Merovingian necropolis from the 5th and 6th centuries were discovered.

Bergerac has its origins in the existence of a castle, built at the end of the 11th century on the banks of the Dordogne, and attracted a population that had previously been scattered in the plain.

The castle town grew to become a stopover for travellers, pilgrims and merchants a century later and in 1254, Bergerac became an autonomous town. In the 13th century, the development of viticulture and the growth of trade led to the construction of a bridge over the Dordogne. Involved in the municipal movement, the town acquired freedoms and franchises, conditions of its fortune, since it could now export its wines, the town expanded, and vines dominated the hillsides from this period onwards.

On 24 August 1345, at the beginning of the Hundred Years’ War, the town was stormed by Henry de Grosmont, Earl of Derby, but it managed to preserve itself as a free and independent city through its diplomatic strategy. However, it lost half of its ‘tax’ population.

Bergerac, having owed its fortune to the opening that the Dordogne gave it to the Atlantic towards which it sent the wines of its great vineyards, it remains the small capital of this southern Périgord. A happy land of wheat, vines and orchards with a history shaped by ancient and close trading relationships with the British Isles, the Netherlands and the Baltic. Anchored in this tradition of trade bequeathed by its past as a city of great commerce, its airport has today taken over from its former river port so that it remains one of the gateways through which the fertile Aquitaine region opens up to the European area.

Today, Bergerac is an active town, and tourism and viticulture are now two major poles of its economy. On the barges, visitors have replaced the wine, the town now lives to the rhythm of the seasons, embellishing its permanent commercial dynamism with a whole range of summer events.

Restaurants, cafés and of course the wine bars are all over town!

La Musée de la ville de Bergerac du vin et de la batellerie, The Museum of the city of Bergerac, wine and shipping, is located in a half-timbered building. On the ground floor, you’ll find photographic documents, rare archives and selected objects from medieval origins to the 19th century. The first floor is dedicated to the wines of Bergerac and the history of winegrowing, where you’ll discover the evolution of the great vineyard that surrounds the town and the history of the great wine trade to the British Isles and the Netherlands, so important to the town’s economy.

The Tobacco Museum is unique in Europe. Smoking has been hardly critisised, but it has left its mark on every civilization sociologically, economically, culturally, artistically, and politically. Discover the history of tobacco’s use, and objects related to its consumption. The Tobacco Museum is located in the Maison Peyrarède, also known as the Henri IV Castle. The architecture of this building, constructed in the 17th century in the heart of the historic centre of Bergerac.

Since the opening of Bergerac Dordogne Périgord airport (EGC) in 1910, there has been quite an evolution: airlines now link Bergerac to numerous British cities (London, Edinburgh, Bristol, Liverpool, Nottingham, Birmingham, Exeter, Southampton,) and Northern European cities (Brussels-Charleroi and Rotterdam) without forgetting Paris. The historical link with Northern Europe is thus extended in an unexpected way.

On the banks of the river Dronne lies the idyllic town of Brantôme-en-Périgord. You will often see that the place is referred to as the ‘Venice of the Périgord’, but that is a far-fetched comparison we think. Of course, there are a few bridges, five to be precise, but that is about it. The centre of the town is an island, surrounded by the river Dronne, and has a nice mix of medieval and renaissance architecture. We go to Brantôme regularly and find it almost a must to visit it and have lunch there in one of the nice restaurants.

Brantôme is surrounded by parks and gardens and the many traditional Périgord houses are built of the local stone with tiled roofs.

At the foot of the cliffs, thrones the Benedictine abbey, has its origins in the 8th century and was founded in 769 by Charlemagne, who allegedly donated the relics of Saint Sicarius, one of the children massacred by Herod, becoming a popular place of pilgrimage. The Saint can refer to five different figures in Christian tradition.

The original abbey was destroyed by Vikings, mainly to weaken the Carolinian rule and then rebuilt in the 11th century by Abbot William, and again in the twelfth and fifteenth centuries. It was then radically restored in 1850 by the architect Paul Abadie, so the abbey we see today span a period of almost 800 years. One of the oldest parts is the bell tower which dates officially to the 11th century but may be even older and is one of the oldest in France.

A chance for locals to meet locals and to buy the best possible local produce available, is on the Dordogne markets, an important part of daily life in France.

Vegetables, wines, cheeses, colourful fruits, pastries, bread and other seasonal delights like nuts and mushrooms/truffles, to eat and cook when you get back to your gîte. If you’re not vegetarian, fresh meats, homemade sausages, pâtés and the speciality of the Périgord Vert, the foie gras and there is certified organic foie gras available on all the markets.

Especially in summer, try to get there early as it can get very busy. Most market are open from early morning until 12.00 or 13.00

Monday markets
> Tocane St Apre: morning market in the centre of town – general goods and food.
> Chalais: is a well-attended year-round market that winds through the streets of the chateau-topped town.

Tuesday Markets
> Brantôme: mid June to mid September mornings – fresh farm produce.
> Mareuil-sur-Belle: mornings – fresh food.
> Riberac: May to September morning market at Place de la Liberté – fresh farm produce.
> Saint-Aulaye Dordogne: last Tuesday of the month.
> Barbezieux-Saint-Hilaire: a delight for everyone who enjoys searching for the very best of local produce. Only 45 min away and you’re right in the Cognac area.
> Angoulême: fresh food markets, including fish, meat, vegetables and cheese, are normally held in the morning from 8am – 12 noon.
> L’isle d’Espagnac: local produce, vegetables, fruit, cheese etc.

Wednesday Markets
> Angoulême: fresh food markets, including fish, meat, vegetables and cheese, are normally held in the morning from 8am – 12 noon.
> Perigueux: mornings at Place du Coderc, Place de la Clautre, Place de la Mairie – fresh farm produce.
> Perigueux: all day market at Place Bugeaud and Place Francheville – arts and crafts and fabrics.
> Perigueux: mid November to mid March, mornings at Place St Louis – marché au gras (duck and goose produce) and truffles.

Thursday Markets
> Saint Astier Dordogne: mornings – general market held year round.
> Saint-Aulaye Dordogne: mornings – fish market.
> Angoulême: Fresh food markets, including fish, meat, vegetables and cheese, are normally held in the morning from 8am – 12 noon.
> Ruelle-sur-Touvre: flowers, vegetables, cheese, fruit, poultry, fresh meat, fish and oysters.

Friday Markets
> Brantôme: mornings – general market.
> Brantôme: July and August, farmer’s market selling local specialties.
> Brantôme: December to February, mornings – truffle market.
> Brantôme: 1 November to 15 December – morning nut market.
> Riberac: mornings, throughout the city centre – general market. The biggest market of the Perigord.
> Riberac: 15 November to 15 March, mornings in the Salle Polyvalente – marché au gras (duck and goose produce).
> Riberac: Autumn in Place André-Pradeau – morning nut market.
> Angoulême: Fresh food markets, including fish, meat, vegetables and cheese, are normally held in the morning from 8am – 12 noon.

Saturday Markets
> Mussidan: mornings – fresh farm produce.
> Nontron: 2nd Saturday of July, evening in Place Alfred Agard – African market.
> Perigueux: mid-November to mid-March, mornings at Place St Louis – marché au gras (duck and goose produce) and truffles.
> Perigueux: mornings at Place du Coderc, Place de la Clautre, Place de la Mairie – fresh farm produce.
> Riberac: 3rd Saturday of August, all day – antiques market
> Saint-Aulaye: mornings – fresh farm produce.
> Angoulême: Fresh food markets, including fish, meat, vegetables and cheese, are normally held in the morning from 8am – 12 noon.
> La Couronne: escargots, poultry, fresh meat, honey, vegetables, milk products, cheese etc.
> Barbezieux-Saint-Hilaire: a delight for everyone who enjoys searching for the very best of local produce, including the very local Pineau de Charentes.
> Brossac: local produce and general goods

Sunday Markets
> Riberac: May to September, mornings at Place du Relais – fresh farm produce.
> Ruelle-sur-Touvre: flowers, vegetables, fruit, cheese and milk products, poultry, fish, oysters, fresh meat, coffee, leatherware, honey, clothes and shoes.
> Aubeterre-sur-Dronne: which is at its best between June to September as it can be a little quiet out of season. Vegetables, fruits and brocante.

Brocantes
These are the famous French second-hand markets, and they are all over the place in the Dordogne and the Charente, you’ll find one somewhere near almost every Sunday.

On the 1st Sunday of every month, and throughout the year, our favourite brocante in the area is in Verteillac, a 10 min drive from us. The cafés and restaurants are all open for the occasion.

And remember: the brocantes are no ‘haggle free zones’!

Aubeterre-sur-Dronne

> Crêperie de la Source | 4, Rue St Jean | +33 5 45 98 61 78

> Au vin d’abord | 2, Place Ludovic Trarieux | +33 5 45 78 88 05

> La Taverne – 2, Rue Barbichon | la-taverne-aubeterre.fr | +33 5 45 98 15 53

> La Tapazzeria | 2, Chemin de l’Hôpital | +33 6 84 26 79 51

Ribérac

> Bar du Midi | 35 Place Nationale | +33 5 53 90 02 96

Salles-Lavalette

> L’Envie Gourmande | Le Bourg | +33 6 20 35 47 43

Saint Astier
> La Table du Marché| 26, Place de la Republique | +33 5 53 07 66 80

Saint-Aulaye
> L’Hacienda Loca | La Poste – Puymongou | +33 5 53 90 33 94

Périgueux
> L’Espace du Sixième Sens (Lunch) | 6 Place Saint-Silain | +33 6 32 24 44 65

Cognac
> Crêperie l’Olympia | 34, rue du Canton | +33 5 45 32 01 72

Cherval
> Chez Hannah | 1, Place Saint Martin | + 33 7 67 25 19 67

> Decroix Cognac by Jean-François Decroix, from organic farming, is a 25 min drive east. On his vineyard, Mr. Jean-François Decroix has been producing organic Cognac and Pineau since 1979. All the resources are there, in nature. It is up to the winegrower to make the best use of them to reveal the beauty of his terroir.

The grape, nourished by its soil, contains the yeasts that will naturally transform its sugar into alcohol during the vinification process. The resulting wine, distilled using the Charentaise method, will be transformed into eau-de-vie. Slow ageing in oak barrels from our forests will then give the cognac a natural sweetness.

Through team research on blending methods, Jean-François Decroix has succeeded in rediscovering the flavours of yesteryear of a ‘natural’ Cognac.
A Cognac that respects and exalts the magic and beauty of life.

And then this: what is the difference between Cognac and Brandy? Jack Charlton, former manager at luxury London 5 Hertford Street Club, once said ‘Cognac is to brandy what Champagne is to sparkling wine.’ By that, he meant that Cognac must be made in the Cognac region of France, while brandy can be made anywhere in the world.

Individual guided tours on request.

 

> The Cognac house of Château des Plassons in Bors de Montmoreau in the Charente is the nearest vineyard and is a 20 min drive from Loups d’Or. Although small, Château des Plassons Cognac produces a full range of cognacs, from the Château des Plassons VS Cognac through to the Château des Plassons XO Cognac. Château des Plassons Cognac also produce a Pineau des Charentes, a delightful aperitif and a true regional speciality.

The town of Cognac is a 1hr15 drive from us.

Many wine tours are offered in the Bergerac (1hr) and in the Gironde/St. Emilion (1hr10).

Do you have any specific questions? Please ask us.