Perigord, the Cradle of Western Europe humanity

Dordogne-antique-shop

Antics shop in the Dordogne

The Dordogne département is located in Aquitaine in the South-West France.

This region considered the Cradle of Western Europe humanity.

Indeed, Southwest France has been inhabited since the Lower Paleolithic.

Men settled in the natural shelters the Dordogne, Lot and Vézère hollowed in the limestone cliffs.

UNESCO listed the beautiful and untamed Vézère Valley as a World Heritage Site.

Dordogne corresponds to the historic County of Perigord and its four 11th century Baronies of Beynac, Biron, Bourdeilles and Mareuil.

King Henri IV re-attached the county to the Royal Estate in the 16th century.

Dordogne is one of the five départements of Aquitaine; it spreads over the North-East of the sedimentary Aquitaine Basin.

Its préfecture is Périgueux.

The Four Perigords

PerigordS

The Four Périgords

A great variety in soil, vegetation and cultures therefore led the locals to divide their Perigord into four areas.

The north of the department or Perigord Vert – Green is a huge checkerboard of fields and meadows delienated 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 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

Abbaye-de-Cadouin-Porte-Saint-Louis

Medieval building

Perigord is also known as the Land of a Thousand Châteaux.

Châteaux, manor-houses, towns, village houses, simple dwellings, dovecotes, shepherds huts were built with this rich yellow and ocher coloured limestone.

The stones’ colours vary in intensity and shades from sunrise to sunset.

So are their roofs covered with lauzes.

In fact, most of the local dry-stone shepherds huts or bories and dovecotes have retained their original lauzes roofs.

Dovecotes are an architectural feature of Perigord.

Mainly built during the 18th-19th century, they reflected its owners’ social rank as they were always owned by the local lord.

Exceptional villages

Dordogne -Perigord is a splendid region that boasts 8 villages ranked among Most Beautiful Villages in France:

Belvès, Beynac, Domme, Limeuil, Monpazier, La Roque Gageac, St-Jean-de-Cole and St-Léon-sur-Vézère.

Market-day-in-Sarlat

Market day in Sarlat

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:

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, main French producer of black truffles

The Black Diamond is an underground fungus or mycelium.

Geese-in-Perigord

Geese in Périgord

It matures during winter among the roots of oak trees and certain 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 their dogs!

Truffles obviously enter the composition of many local dishes such as Foie Gras – Goose liver paté, another specialty of the region.

Geese and ducks are bred in local farms.

Perigord, 2nd French producer of walnuts

Perigord-walnuts

Delicious walnuts from Perigord

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, 1st French producer of strawberries

Strawberries

Strawberries

In fact the hillsides of the Dordogne and neighbouring department of Lot-et-Garonne valleys 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.

Map of Dordogne

Photo via Wikimedia Commons: Four Périgords by User:www.arachnis.asso.fr is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0