By Annick Dournes & Frederic de Poligny
Bergerac is a charming old town built on the banks of the Dordogne River, surrounded by vast vineyards producing supple and powerful red wines as well as soft and fruity white wines. It also is the best starting point to visit some of the most beautiful French bastides. With landscapes designed by vines, this area is an ever-changing feast for the eyes.
Bastides are walled towns built in southwest France at the end of the Middle Ages, that time has left unscathed, as beautiful or even more beautiful than ever before, thanks to careful restoration. Over a period of 100 to 150 years dozens of bastides were created to welcome a growing population, traders and craftsmen. Initiated at the beginning of the Hundred Years War by French or British Kings, religious orders or local feudal lords, they were an immediate success. No less than ten bastides surround Bergerac and are among the best preserved and most beautiful ones.
Discover Monpazier bastide and its outstanding central square centred by a wooden covered market and lined with archways. Next Lalinde that was the first bastide built by the British, will charm you with its castle toped with turrets overlooking the Dordogne River. This year the Tour de France will go through this lovely village on July 11. In Cadouin you will discover a large Cistercian monastery and its extraordinary cloister, masterfully restored. Every Wednesday in summertime, a candlelit night tour makes it even more mysterious!
Perched on a 150 metres high cliff, Domme still is today entirely surrounded with high thick walls. The view over the Dordogne River down below is absolutely wonderful. You will get to the bastide of Saint Aulaye walking on the old stone bridge spanning over the river dwarfed by the high ramparts of the village. Take a stroll through the small cobbled streets and visit the castle and the roman church. Beaumont-du-Perigord was founded by Edward I of England in 1272 and the large fortified church still is in very good condition. Close to Bergerac you can also go to several other beautiful bastides such as Eymet, Vergt, Villefranche-de-Lonchat or Molieres… they all are worth a visit and it only takes a 30 to 45 minutes drive to reach them from Bergerac (except for Domme bastide that is a little further away, 46 miles east of Bergerac).
Anne and Christophe opened their B&B, L’Ostal de Pombonne, six years ago in a centuries old priory with a simple yet ambitious goal: make their guests happy and comfortable. Anne will warmly welcome you and do her very best to make you feel at home in her beautiful house filled with sunshine and lovingly decorated with local furniture and handicrafts. There are four large rooms for two to four people with king size beds, tea and coffee set, complimentary organic toiletries and free Wi-Fi. For holidays with friends or for a large family you can also rent the five-bedroom cottage next to the house. With four bathrooms, a kitchen with a dining area and a lounge there is enough room for 12 persons. All guests have free access to the swimming pool and children are welcomed to play in the garden.
Christophe is a schoolteacher but his true vocation is cooking! You will enjoy lush breakfasts made with local products, mostly organic. Of course cakes and jams are all homemade. Several times a week Christophe cooks diner for his guests. He loves trying new recipes and will surprise you with a fusion style cuisine always made with fresh products. He also will make you discover his favourite local Bergerac wines and tell you where to go if you would like to visit wineries. To visit their website (in French) go to http://www.ostaldepombonne.fr/ , but they speak English and you can phone them (+33 5 47 56 01 13 or on their mobile phone +33 6 83 24 79 68).
The Ostal de Pombonne is only 2 km away from Bergerac city centre. Even if Cyrano de Bergerac was not born here, the town proudly took ownership of this flamboyant figure and walking through the lace of medieval streets you won’t be able to miss his statues! But the real star in Bergerac is wine, celebrated in the Wine Centre of Bergerac. This wine centre is located in former cloisters on the Dordogne River bank and you will find there a museum and a shop.
The staff is competent and can help you set up an itinerary through the different vineyards according to your own wishes and tastes. All summer long winemakers come to the Bergerac Wine Centre to share their passion with tourists. Everyday you can meet a different vintner, taste his wines and discover the wide range of Bergerac wines: Côtes de Bergerac, Montravel, Monbazillac, Pécharmant, Saussignac… whether red, white or rosé each one of them has its own qualities and uniqueness, waiting for you to make your choice!
More about Bergerac area and Périgord: http://www.dordogne-perigord-tourisme.fr/
Text ©Annick Dournes
Photos ©Frederic de Poligny & Annick Dournes