The Dordogne all year round
….the month of foodies, the time to enjoy the ‘Diamonds of the Périgord’, the most fragrant winter truffle. There are many truffle markets around, like the ones in Ribérac, Aubeterre-sur-Dronne and Brantôme.
January in the Dordogne also means fresh and crispy winter air, we have the purest air in France, and the days that you have to rub your hands are countable. Usually, the skies are blue, great weather for long and stimulating walks and energising hikes, to explore the area. January in the Dordogne is relaxing, calming and stress-free and don’t forget to look for the stars coming out in the early evening.
Like the number of restaurants and bars, many sites are closed but many are open on reduced or restricted hours, the weekly markets in the villages are open though, maybe with a couple of vendors less than a bit later in the year.
Last but not least, the French winter sales start, the ‘Soldes’, so, time to hunt for bargains!
This winter month is a bit like January, like the markets and like the weather. The landscape freezes under a cerulean blue sky. In the lovely villages, no one is around, the little streets are empty, so if you are a photography enthusiast, there are plenty of opportunities of shooting locally: churches, markets, wildlife in the forests, the landscape etc. Take advantage of this quietness and discover the exceptional heritage of all these villages, whether it is one of the ‘most beautiful villages in France’ or not.
Valentine’s day, also in France on 14 February, but here, la Fête de Saint Valentin, is only for people in love and the most popular thing to do is to invite your loved-one for a weekend away. France is a beautiful country full of opportunities for romance, but Valentine’s day is not a big thing here.
Smell the smoke from someone's fireplace or wood stove and sniff the fresh smell that comes in with someone who has been outdoors. Once inside after a good walk, have a nice warming bowl of soup you prepared the day before and cosy up in front of the wood burner.
The month where the winter leaves us and finally makes way for spring and the days are getting longer. The trees are budding, nature is cautiously showing its nose. The truffle market stalls are still around but you still have the Périgord for yourself, more or less.
Apart from some agricultural vehicles, the roads will be almost completely empty during this month and the lush spring scenery just as beautiful, so if you're a keen cyclist, this can be an excellent time to visit.
Nature is reborn, and it’s Easter soon of which the egg became a symbol. A symbol of life and which embodies the idea of rebirth and rejuvenation in the cycle of life, reflected also in its shape, with neither beginning nor end. The weeks before Easter, there are egg hunting events all over the area.
April, the month of transhumance, the periodic migration of a part of the cattle to their summer pastures. And what about geocaching, there are more than one million caches in France and two of the nearest hotspots are around Aubeterre-sur-Dronne and Ribérac.
April, admire the spring flowers of this beautiful season, eat outside again on the lovely terraces and forget the cold of winter.
Also, in April, all over the world are the school holidays, in New Zealand, Australia, the USA, Canada and all European countries, so, come and visit our Loups d’Or in the Dordogne!
If we wouldn’t live here, we would visit this part of the world in marvellous May, lush, green, fresh, fragrant countryside, wildflowers all over, a special time for all those who love nature, hiking, cycling, golfing and beautiful gardens.
A perfect time actually, since the summer can be rather hot for activities. A perfect time also, to visit some of the towns and villages that get especially busy in the summer such as Brantôme, Aubeterre-sur-Dronne, Angoulême, Périgueux and Villebois-Lavalette, a ‘Petite Cité de Caractère’.
Summer, but not just yet, an ideal month to appreciate the relative quietness of the Dordogne, for walking, swimming, cycling, golfing, canoeing, running, playing, fishing, climbing, a month far from the summer crowds.
The days are longer now so that you can enjoy the activities more, and there are more and more activities every day.
If you want to cook your own food, the small markets are full of fresh products, and you will love the vibrant colours and seductive scents which will go on until the end of summer…….. it’ll be difficult to leave!
The month of village fêtes, street parties and out-door festivals ……. let them begin! Every weekend a village comes alive with music, dance and local food stalls.
Enjoy yourselves in one of the rivers or lakes for swimming, canoeing, kayaking. The rivers Dronne and Lizonne are basically around the corner and Le Grand Etang de la Jemaye, a nature reserve with forests, a lakeside beach, bars and restaurants and is only 25 minutes away.
Also, during the summer season, many concerts of classical or folk music are scheduled in the Dordogne and Charente. In Aubeterre-sur-Dronne for instance, the ‘Nuits Musicales’ festival in the underground church Saint-Jean, the feast of the musical nights.
A bit similar to July and the cheerfully glowing sunflowers are the best flowers to help you hang on to that summery feeling, bright yellow and teeming with energy. Markets, all activities related to water, in rivers or lakes, and cultural events all over to enjoy.
In our more rural corner of the Dordogne, quiet country lanes and the roads are a lot less busy than more to the south. Definitely not isolated with tourist magnets like Brantôme and Aubeterre-sur-Dronne.
Around the first weekend in August, Nontron hosts its annual Knife Festival which brings artisans and collectors from all over the world together. In late August you can enjoy Baroque and Renaissance music in Périgueux during the Sinfonia en Périgord.
According to the local people, this is the best month of the year. The light is warm, the temperatures ideal, the water of the many rivers and lakes is still soft to swim in, and the calm is slowly returning after the summer frenzy, an excellent time to explore the region.
The grape harvest, from mid-September to mid-October, is a perfect time to visit with bustling vineyards in the hillsides and the quiet pretty cobbled streets in villages and towns. It’s not only the grapes which are harvested, also the ‘tournesols’, the sunflowers, will be harvested around this time of year. Because the land around us is mainly agricultural, it might happen that a farmer is busy harvesting his sunflowers or wheat. The harvesting attracts many locals and foreigners to the area, not only to work but also for the fun.
During this month, morning mists give our landscape the atmosphere of being part of a fantastic fairy tale. The harvests go on and in October, and especially the vineyards of Cognac, are extremely busy.
October is the month of the two great products of the Périgord, the walnuts and chestnuts, which are both harvested in this month, still often done by hand. On the still warm days of early autumn, nothing can match the flavour of a fresh walnut that you pick up while walking along the paths. The markets are full of both of them, especially during the ‘Aux saveurs de l'Automne’ markets.
In this month, the Dordogne is a pretty different place to that known by most visitors who come in Summer. Overall, the weather can still be warmish, but there is an increased chance of rain and cooler weather. Nevertheless, another great month for long walks or cycling tours and a perfect time to explore the towns and villages. Or maybe inside, near the fire of the wood burner, while you’re playing the piano or getting together for a game of bridge. November is also the beginning of truffle hunting! The black Périgord truffles are the most expensive food in the world and can be bought on the tens of village markets from mid-November.
If you want peace and quiet, this is the month. But having written this, the Christmas markets fill the air with illuminations and wonder for young and old. The Marché de Noël has become a popular tradition with stalls serving mulled wine, ‘vin chaud’, great selection of truffles, sausages, cheese, candy, pastries and other local delicacies and the last-minute gifts.
It is the month for gourmets. The rich cuisine of the Périgord is much more appealing, satisfying and comforting to eat now, than it is in the heat of summer.
New Year’s Eve, in France called Le Réveillon de Saint-Sylvestre or Réveillon de Nouvel An, is typically celebrated with friends, champagne and fireworks. A ‘réveillon’ is a luxurious and festive supper, and comes from ‘reveiller’, meaning ‘to awaken, arouse’. Our holiday cottage, with the wood burner, is the perfect location for this, for yourself or for you and your relatives or friends.
Bonne Année en bon santé!
Pimm + Marcel