About Perigord Dordogne - Aquitaine France
Perigord, the Cradle of Western Europe humankind
Dordogne department corresponds to the historic County of Perigord and its the Baronies of Beynac, Biron, Bourdeilles and Mareuil.
King Henri IV re-attached the county to the Royal Estate in the 16th century.
It is now part of the Nouvelle Aquitaine region in the South-West France.
This region considered the Cradle of Western Europe humanity.
It has indeed been inhabited since the Lower Paleolithic.
Neanderthal men settled in the natural shelters the Vézère River hollowed in the limestone cliffs.
Homo Sapiens, the first early modern humans anatomically similar to us, appeared about 40, 000BP.
Cro Magnon men decorated, engraved and painted the countless rock shelters in the Vézère Valley.
The sophistication and specificity of their art is known as Magdalenian Art after the initial discoveries made in La Madeleine Shelter.
These earned the Vézère Valley to be listed World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The Vallée de l’Homme indeed boasts 147 prehistoric sites and 25 painted or engraved caves dating from the Paleolithic.
The department of Dordogne's outstanding archaeological sites generate today a thriving tourist industry that attracts thousands of visitors each year.
The Four Perigords
Dordogne spreads over the North-East of the sedimentary Aquitaine Basin.
A great variety in soil, vegetation and cultures therefore led the locals to divide their Perigord into four distinct areas.
The north of the department or Perigord Vert - Green is a huge checkerboard of fields and meadows delineated by hedges and woods.
The centre area around Périgueux or Perigord Blanc -White has a chalky limestone soil that gives a light colour to the land.
The south-west or Bergeracois (Bergerac) or Perigord Pourpre - Purple is renowned for the vineyards planted on the south-facing banks of the Dordogne river.
The prestigious Perigord Noir - Black spreads around its capital Sarlat and takes its name after the density and dark green of its oak forests.
The Land of a Thousand Châteaux
Perigord is also known as the Land of a Thousand Châteaux.
It was at the heart of the territorial conflict that opposed French and English during the Middle Ages.
Countless bastides or walled cities and fortified castles and their villages were therefore built on the rocky spurs overlooking the rivers.
Builders erected them with the beautiful local golden limestone.
Many buildings are still traditional roofed with limestone slabs locally known as lauzes.
Some of them, such as dovecotes, are a specific architectural feature of Perigord.
Most were built during the 18th-19th century in order to reflect their owners' social rank as peasants were not allowed to own them.
Exceptional villages of Perigord
Dordogne -Perigord is a splendid region that boasts 8 villages ranked among Most Beautiful Villages in France:
Other towns and villages were granted the label Picturesque Villages in Perigord:
Montagrier and Varaignes in Perigord Vert, Biron, Liorac-sur-Louyre and Issigeac in Perigord Pourpre and Carlux, Castelnaud-la-Chapelle, Paunat, St-Amand-de-Coly, St-Geniès and Salignac-Eyvigues in Perigord Noir.
And of course, the Dordogne also boasts 18 bastides or walled cities:
Beaumont-du-Périgord, Beauregard-et-Bassac, Bénévent, Domme, Eymet, Fonroque, Lalinde, Molières, Monestier, Monpazier, Puyguilhem, Roquepine, Saint-Aulaye, Saint-Barthélémy-de-Bellegarde, Saint-Louis-en-l’Isle, Vergt, Villefranche-de-Lonchat and Villefranche-du-Périgord.
Products from Perigord
Perigord-Dordogne is a region of dark oak forests, limestone plateaux and vast alluvial plains.
This diversity in landscapes and soil allows it to specialize in cereals, fruits, wine and tobacco cultures and cattle breeding.
Truffle is an underground fungus or mycelium.
It matures during winter among the roots of oak trees and some hazel-trees.
The dry limestone underground and the micro-climate of the region are ideal conditions for its development.
In the old days, farmers trained their pigs to find the truffles.
These animals indeed have a very acute sense of smelling.
Today, farmers use dogs!
Truffles obviously enter the composition of many local dishes such as Foie Gras - Goose liver pâté.
The region generates 80% of the French production.
Perigord is the 2nd French producer of walnuts with 36 000 tons per year.
The Romans planted the first walnuts trees in the 1st century AD.
The trees are very resilient and can live up to 300 years in a temperate climate.
Walnuts produce a beautifully flavoured oil, while the wood is mainly used for manufacturing of high quality furniture.
The irregularities of this hard wood or knots, is called loupe.
It is, however, rare and therefore expensive; it is used to produce small ornamental boxes or luxury car boards.
Dordogne is also the 1st French producer of strawberries with 44 000 tons per year.
Well, the Dordogne and neighbouring department of Lot-et-Garonne share the first place!
Strawberries are highly sensitive to variations in weather.
They are therefore cultivated under long plastic sheets fixed on arched metallic armatures.
Finally, tobacco growing is an essential part of the local agriculture, especially in the Bergerac area.
Imported from America during the 16th century, it was initially cultivated for its medicinal virtues.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons: Four Périgords by User:www.arachnis.asso.fr is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
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