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Report 2068: Going for the Gold in France. Part 3: Dawdling in the Dordogne

By Roz from California, Summer 2013

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Page 4 of 12: Monday June 24, 2013: Explorations in the Dordogne, Plus Our First Night Market

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Night market in Beaumont-du-Perigord

Weather more of the same -- cool and cloudy.

Maureen, still feeling under the weather, was not inspired to venture out into the chilly gray morning to join the rest of us on a walk to town. We got coffee there and brought home pain au chocolat, which seemed to be good medicine for what ailed Maureen. At least she claimed to be feeling well enough to climb into the car as we headed out for our first excursion of the day -- a Bruno pilgrimage.

Our favorite series of books set in this area is the novels about Bruno, chief of police, so evocative for their tales of adventures in a small town in the Dordogne. The author, Martin Walker, lives part of the year in Le Bugue, which is a partial model for Bruno's home in the fictional town of St. Denis. So Le Bugue was our first destination of the day. We walked around the town a bit, noticing places that reminded us of locales in the novels, and spotting some of the Bruno books in a bookstore window. Unfortunately, since it was Monday morning, most of the shops were closed.

We had hoped to have lunch at Oscar's in Le Bugue, which I'd read had good tourain soup -- something Mike was on a quest for, in hopes of recapturing his fond memories of that dish a few years ago in Domme. It sounds so simple -- a soup of chicken or duck broth with white wine, duck or goose fat, and lots of garlic. But he remembers it as the best soup he ever ate. Unfortunately, Oscar's was closed until July. We found that several restaurants in popular vacation spots in France were closed the last week in June, as the owners had their own little vacations to rest up before the July and August onslaughts.

So we decided to try L'Auberge Medieviale in Audrix a few km away. It had been recommended by Martin Walker, but we concluded he was a better writer than restaurant critic. Or maybe Monday was the chef's day off. The tourain soup was served lukewarm, and none of the food was hot enough. It was all okay, but I wouldn't go back. The best part of the lunch was people-watching the long table of senior citizens next to us. They were having a fine old time, several of them well into their cups.

After lunch we stopped at La Roque-Gageac for M&M to see the town, but we moved on quickly since it was very crowded with tourists. We left M&M to climb up the hill, as we drove to Domme to check out if the restaurant of Mike's fond memories, Le Pot au Fer, was in fact closed. Sad but true, it is no more -- and Domme, like La Roque, was jam-packed with tourists. Fortunately we had previously been to both those towns off-season, so we had much better memories of them and didn't linger in either one.

The good thing about traveling off-season, as we've always done before, is that the popular spots are less crowded. But one advantage to coming to the Dordogne in summer is that you get to experience some events that aren't going on in other seasons. A good example is the night markets (marchés nocturnes) held in many villages around the region. These differ from the regular markets in that they sell food to be consumed on the spot. Long tables are set up in the brightly festooned village square, and a lively band is usually playing, or perhaps a DJ with recorded music. You bring your own place settings, choose your food from any of the various vendors, and settle down for an entertaining, tasty, and very inexpensive dinner. Most dishes, for example, are well under €10, and a bottle of the local wine goes for €5.

The first such night market we went to was in Beaumont, just up the road. One photo is above; there are more in my Dordogne photo album.

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