“Don’t think of a visit to this region without booking Steve as your guide – his insight and knowledge never fails to amaze us. This is our third visit and once again we have realised that there are still plenty more things for us to do in the area”.
These are words left in our Visitors Book and were written by a family after their third visit to Les Rosiers. It gives us a lovely buzz when people comment so favourably, whether it’s about a self-catering holiday based here at Les Rosiers with days out guided by Steve or a full board, fully guided Caves & Castles Tour based here.
So what is it all about? Why the excitement?
Well, the Vezere Valley is one of the most important areas in the world when it comes to the history of man. Our species, Cro-Magnon man, was discovered here and named after an easily over-looked site down at Les Eyzies. Most people wouldn’t even know to look for it, never mind where to find it, but Steve can take you there.
How do we know this? Through painstaking archaeological excavation, hours of post-excavation work and, very often, sheer luck! Evidence from the past can be extremely fragile and easy to overlook.
As well as prehistoric sites, the area is renowned for it’s castles – or chateaux as they are called in French. There are over a 1000 – ranging from magnificent Castelnaud-la-Chapelle which towers over the Dordogne river dominating the landscape to Le Petit Marsac above La Madeleine troglodyte village Chateau Milandes, the former home of Josephine Baker and her adopted “rainbow” family is a favourite with all ages. The poignant story of her life and the thrilling raptor flight displays in the grounds of the magnificent chateau make an unusual combination.
So much has gone on in this region for so long – the Hundred Years War has left many a mark. The Dordogne was often on the front line and the region was frequently pillaged and burnt. The bastide towns with their uniformly laid out street patterns were laid out by the French or English kings as territorial markers, when they attempted to extend their kingdoms.
There’s so much else to do to – gardens to visit, museums, exhibitions, walking, riding, cycling, canoeing – the list goes on. The area is also known for it’s gastronomy – our neighbours produce the most wonderful walnut oil – and foie gras is a favourite with many. The local markets are great for buying fresh, colourful local produce – ideal if you’re on a self-catering holiday and, of course, there’s dozens of local restaurants to try.
So often we’re asked to show people ‘the Dordogne’ in 24 or 48 hours! It’s a huge department – the 3rd biggest in France! You just can’t do it justice in this time and it is such a shame when people come on ‘whistle stop tours’. Ok, so the Dordogne box has been ticked – but what can you really see in such a short time? Holidays shouldn’t just be about ‘ticking boxes’ – so much time is spent travelling from place to place, that the time to actually see places, to stand and admire, and ‘get under the skin’ of the area is drastically reduced.
A Day Tour is a great way to ‘whet your appetite’ but please don’t think you can see it all in just one day! By all means come and have a ‘taster’ but bear in mind you are only just ‘scratching the surface’. The philosophy of the Slow Travel Tours group is to travel slowly, stay a while and use a local guide. It’s a good investment. You save time and fuel and really get the most out of your visit – and that’s what it should all be about surely?
Everyone in the Slow Travel Tours Group joins with us in wishing you all the very best for the Festive Season and the New Year – and if you have a break from work, we hope you’ll take the opportunity to plan your 2012 travels!
Steve and Judie Burman live in the beautiful Vezere Valley in the Dordogne region of South-West France. Together they run Caves and Castles, specialising in prehistoric Cave Art and medieval Castles Tours. You can join a small group (up to 6) 4 night/5 day Tour based 2 nights each in the medieval towns of Sarlat and Montignac-sur-Vezere or book a custom Tour for a day or more.
Professional archaeologist, Steve loves to share his passion for the ‘Cradle of Humanity.’ World famous sites such as Lascaux, the ‘Sistine Chapel of Prehistory’ and Font de Gaume are close by. Coupled with gastronomic meals and superb wines, your Caves & Castles Tour is really special.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.