France’s Fairest

Anne & Kirk Woodyard – Music and Markets Tours

There are 156 of France’s fairest – the Plus Beaux Villages – selected for their situation and beauty. We recently spent a week in the Dordogne, which has more than its fair share of these lovelies. This special designation of villages began not too far from here in 1982, when the mayor of Collanges-la-Rouge (truly a beauty with its rosy cluster of buildings) was inspired by a Reader’s Digest book about the 100 most beautiful villages in France. He noted the many charming old villages that were falling into decay, many nearly uninhabited, and did not want to lose this valuable and beautiful patrimony of France. 06041404 tiny roadside village could be another plus beauxSo Les Plus Beaux Villages de France was founded, beginning as an association of 66 rural villages, and has since become a hallmark by which visitors can discover some of the most beautiful and off-the-beaten-path sites in France.
Beynac-et-Cazenac, on the banks of the Dordogne, boasts an imposing castle, once besieged by Richard the Lion Heart, around which “lauze” stone slab-roofed houses with their creamy façades are built. Cobbled lanes winding up to the castle are lined with charming houses, inviting a peek inside, or a stop for lunch. 06041401 beynacTucked beside the river, our next Plus Beaux Village is La Roque Gageac,06041403 la roquewith church, houses, and even a fort built right into the cliff.
06041403 maisons built right into cliffFrom the riverside, we zigzag up, up and around to Domme, perched on a breathtakingly high cliff that allows it to enjoy an exceptional view of the Dordogne valley and the neighbouring Most Beautiful Villages of La Roque-Gageac and Beynac-et-Cazenac, highlighted above. This creamy-stoned “bastide” or fortified village boasts the typical central market square of this type of city-planning.06041404 dommeBelvés is another of these bastide towns, featuring that central market hall…06061401 Belves market centerdramatic views of the surrounding countryside, 06061401 hilltop viewsand, they’re proud to note, seven bell towers.
Wind along the sinuous Vezere river to discover more Dordogne treasures, such as tiny St. Leon sur Vezere, with it’s rosy Romanesque church, site of the Music Festival of the Périgord Noir. Wouldn’t this be a lovely spot to enjoy a pre-concert snack?06061403 if we werent so full Martin Walker reco do Amazon monetize firstJust one more, out of the whopping 35 in the Perigord region (the most of any of France’s regions), the well-known cliff-top village of St. Cirq la Popie, 03211301 dramatic perchfilled with galleries and boutiques. 03211301 narrow lanesOnce more there are breathtaking views of the river valley below,
03211302 climb up church and river on one sideand photo-worthy houses lining the winding lanes.
Have you seen some of these treasures? Or do you have a favorite to share? ************************************************************************************
The best way to describe us (Kirk and Anne Woodyard) is that we’re interested in the stories that make the places we visit come alive.
We’ve visited Europe more times than we can count, learned some entertaining stories there, and met some warm and helpful people who also enjoy the wonders of music and life in Europe.
Between our music-related travels, we split our time between our homes near Washington DC and the south of France. We look forward to sharing these stories and friends and experiences with our Music and Markets guests.
While both of us have experience in organizing travel and music groups Kirk’s background is in project management and competitive writing, and Anne is an accomplished pianist with over thirty years of teaching experience, and a travel and food writer specializing in France and Italy.



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