Every day in my travel research I come across the terms hidden gem, off the beaten path, unspoiled, authentic, undiscovered . . . The Dordogne region of France is the only place I have been to date, where it is actually true. Castles sit like crown jewels along the river banks.
We often found ourselves beating our own path through the oak forests toward the river bank. The countryside looks much the same as it has for hundreds of years with emerald-green farms held down by Peridgord chateaus.
As far as authenticity, the gas station shop sells local pâté and foie gras and on more than one occasion, we were greeted by villagers going about their daily routines. Although the Perigord Noir region we explored has been well-known for decades by the English, Dutch and Belgians as a summer home locale, there is still a preserved peace that settles over the region even its most popular corners.
Each day was a feast for the senses. The earthy aroma of the dewy mornings gracefully gave way to the gentle spring breeze kissing the endless fields.
As we rowed past castles dreams are made of, the whoosh of the crinoline from days gone by was almost audible. We found hermetic places to beach our boats where the aroma of goose-liver pâté, truffles and wild walnuts perfumed the banks we picnicked.
From Beynac to Limeuil we were surrounded by ochre fields set against new spring leaves and butterscotch colored stone homes that looked like they had graced the hillside forever. The deafening birdsong at sunset was the perfect accompaniment for our efforts to take in every last moment of light offered.
I could not help but think that the Dordogne felt like one of those places that people hide from others once they discover it. I could not think of another reason for it not being flooded with people from every corner of the world. It is unique, timeless, affordable and precious. It was everything we wanted it to be and so many things we could not have imagined.
“France may one day exist no more, but the Dordogne will live on just as dreams live on and nourish the souls of men.” ~Henry Miller