The twin stars of Dordogne fare are foie gras and truffles, and sampling these are a highlight of any tour here. But don’t limit yourself just to these – this is a region of huge culinary diversity and adventure, one of France’s great regional cuisines. At turns rugged and hearty – think goose neck stuffed with sausage meat and duck liver – and then delicate, such as river trout cooked with truffles. Above all, the plate closely reflects the land: salads are drizzled with oil from the region’s ubiquitous walnuts; ducks abound on any trip along the Vezere Valley’s waterways, and are a staple of menus here as well, often served with stuffed cepe mushrooms. Vineyards populate upper slopes of the Dordogne, and the Bergerac wines are a suitably robust accompaniment to the food.
Nowhere does riverside villages as adroitly as the Dordogne. Invariably perched above a particularly picturesque section of river, the streets built for wandering, with a castle or two nearby, the villages have a relaxed, unvarying appeal. Domme, for example, is an ancient bastide town of cobbled streets and perfect ramparts that look out on scenes of pastoral perfection. Further downriver, little La Roque Gageac is cut into steep wooded honey-coloured cliffs, a river port where canoeists splosh about, and the rest of the hamlet watches over coffee or citron presses. Try to tear yourself away from the Dordogne, and catch St Leon sur Vezere, a few kilometres north, nestled amidst forests on the banks of the Vezere River, a village of quaint quiet streets boasting not one but two castles.