Our intrepid photographer, Laeti, just got back from another tour. This time she has been around rural southern France taking pictures of our lovely French chateaux. She’s our go-to oracle for foodie tips (you could call it an obsession) and is also a lover of art and all things French. Read on for some tips on the area, and her top tips for where and what to eat in the Dordogne and Aquitaine.
Tell us where you’ve been…
A bit of everywhere! Most of the time I spent in the Dordogne as it is such a popular area but I started from Lyon, where I toured around, and I finished in Toulouse. Overall it was around a 4,000-5,000km drive.
What was the highlight of the trip?
I had quite a few highlights. Travelling with my colleague Kyra for the trip in the Dordogne was great. I usually travel alone and having good company makes such a difference! One of our best memories was after a long drive and a very busy day of sightseeing. We stopped at Pizza Mia in Mouleydier and bought two take away pizzas – one Tartiflette and one with artichokes and veggies marinated in duck fat – they were absolutely brilliant. We took them back to Chateau les Oiseaux, where we stayed for the week, and ate them while watching old episodes of Friends. Tartiflette pizza is made with Reblochon, which tastes like heaven, but I must say it’s a very strong smelling cheese and we had to hide the leftovers in the bathroom in order to get to sleep!
Other highlights were visiting cute little villages in the middle of nowhere. France’s villages are a must. They are all different and beautiful, I simply cannot get enough of them.
I also loved meeting the amazing villa-owners and other people on these trips, like artists, painters and really interesting characters.
The owner of Chateau le Brun used to be a stock trader who would wake up at 4AM just to buy shares earlier than others but then she completely changed her career to follow her heart. She became an amazing painter instead and has exhibited in several galleries. Her art can be seen throughout Le Brun and I loved it!
I met another painter in Vendee & Charente. She was brilliant, very different style to Le Brun’s owner, but just as incredible. She uses oil paints in the same way my grandpa used too. She takes the photos first, draws in pencil on the canvas and then paints with the photo attached to the canvas. It reminded me of when I was younger, going in into the living room in Pepe’s house smelling the paint and seeing him completely absorbed in his work. It’s crazy how smells can take you years back. This painter has a huge canvas with the streets of Valencia, beautiful warm orange colours, with red flowers and a lamp in the left corner. I cannot believe I didn’t take a picture of it, but this canvas cannot leave my mind. If my suitcase was big enough it would be in my little room in Streatham right now. I might have needed to throw away the wardrobe to get a big enough wall but it would have been worth it.
Another amazing painter was the owner of Chateau de Seyres (pictures below). She does caricatures of society using horses and it’s brilliant! Bright colours, very passionate owner, just great really.
Ooh, and this reminds me of something else! We had tea and jam together, and their jam was fantastic. They gave me the address of the place that makes them – Les Jardins du Bandiat. They do jam tasting, syrup tasting, and their products are all organic, made with juicy fruits and veggies that they grow themselves. So I went there, glad to be alone because my boyfriend or friends would have stopped me (I have a little addiction with jam – every time I go to France I bring at least 4 new jams or compotes back with me). I did a little taste session with a group of school children and bought 7 pots without feeling guilty whatsoever.
What and where was your best foodie moment?
Apart from our pizza night and my jam tasting, we had some great foodie moments are the restaurants we visited on our trip:
Chateau les Oiseaux had a brilliant chef and open kitchen, which is great to observe and learn some new tricks.
Chateau du Campe was a great restaurant, with a great chef, great food and it was so french!
La Bastide – Eymet had brilliant food, tiny prices and amazing service.
Le Moulin des Saveurs, Nerac, had a great interior with rustic stone walls, very nice atmosphere, and amazingly tasty food. Everything was perfect.
Le Rouge et le Verre, Bergerac had a Their Fois Gras which was delicious! Their mushroom soup smelt amazing and tasted even better!
Finally, we had a foodie moment at Les Canelés de Bordeaux! If in Bordeaux, yes there is the wine, but there are Canelés everywhere. Buying them fresh is a completely different experience than getting them from the supermarket, and the people of Bordeaux are the creators, the magicians, of les Canelés. They have a secret recipe that will never be revealed to the public.
Favourite property that you saw and why?
Chateau de Seyres – Dordogne
The owners are amazing, the interior is splendid, they have tasty jams and loads of space to explore. They also have a brilliant view from the bottom of the field of the Chateau. It’s a wonderful property. They have everything you need and could dream of.
Manoir du Decorateur – Loire Valley
The owner is an interior designer and he has done his best work in this house. Every time you turn your head there is something to look out and learn from – where did this piece come from? Why is it there? Who painted it? Who sculpted it? He kept the French touch and history present throughout the house and I loved it. And, the owner makes brilliant eggs.
Any stand-out traditions or cultural observations made in the area you stayed?
The food, the food, the food. Oh and the wine, the wine, the wine. The villa-owners always recommend a foodie place to go, or gave you some food to take for the next drive just in case you’d get hungry. It is impossible to starve in France, and you simply can’t resist the scents in the air even if you try.
For anyone travelling to Dordogne, what can’t they miss?
The villages, the restaurants, the tasting menus or the menus. Restaurants love set menus. They usually come out cheaper and much better as you can taste more dishes. If you are looking for good food, big plates and small prices, a great place to stop is The Routiers. If you see this sign and you are hungry, stop. The atmosphere is great, it’s a la bonne franquette, as the French say, and the food is usually amazing!
Hungry for more? How about a local’s guide from a Dordogne expert, or the best foodie experiences in Dordogne or Aquitaine? As always, if you need advice on finding your perfect villa, our concierge team can help!