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Cities in the southwest France: history, tourist sites, activities.

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Eight suggestions for touring the southwest of France.

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Traditional dish recipes from southwest part of France.

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France in facts and figures! Interesting less known facts about France

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"Dordogne - The Valley of 1000 Castles" Suggested Travel Itinerary

Belves the medieval town so called of the 7 bell towers is a member of the "Les Plus Beaux Villages de France" organization.
The written history of Belvès starts in the 9th century - even though the region was inhabited since antiquity - when a monastery is built of the site of the actual Notre Dame de Montcuq church. In the 11th century the village is fortified - from the old fortifications there still exist one of the gates and the tower of the "Auditeur".
During the Franco-English wars that followed the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine to King Henry II Plantagenet for the supremacy over Aquitaine Belves was one of the important points of conflict and did change hands several times.
One of...

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Beynac Village and Castle
Beynac Castle is situated in the 'Beynac-et-Cazenac' village which is a member of "Plus Beaux Villages de France" association. The castle origins are not exactly known - but possibly it dates from the 8th century when a fortress was built on the location.
The castle that can be seen today was mainly built in 12th century by the Beynac family and it became the seat of one of the four baronies of Perigord. Its location is almost surprising for the modern eye: it sits atop of a calcareous cliff that descends abruptly to the Dordogne river.
In nine centuries of history Beynac castle had many owners the most famous being the English king Richard the Lion Heart and Simon de Monfort...

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Castelnau Castle
Like the majority of medieval castle Castelnau is perched on the top of the hill, in its case overlooking the Dordogne.
Its first structure was built in the 12th century.
During the cathar crusade, the castle belonging at the time to Bernard de Casnac, a cathar sympathizer, was partially destroyed by the armies of Simon de Montfort, who for a short time took possession of it.
Towards the end of the crusade the castle was burned down, by the order of the Bishop of Bordeaux Guillaume Amanieu de Genève, but shortly rebuilt.
The square keep that can be still seen today dates from the 13th century.
During the Hundread Years War between France and England the castle changes sides...

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Château Biron - The Haunted Castle
This impressive 1000 year old castle was initially in the possession of the Gontaut-Birons - one of the most powerful noble family of the old Perigord.
In the 12th century it became the seat of one of the 4 baronies of Perigord.
During the crusade against the cathars it was occupied in 1212 by Simon de Montfort who took it from its owner Gaston de Gontaunt a heretic supporter. The 100 Years' War saw the castle passing constantly from French side and English and back.
Since 1978 is the property of the department of Dordogne.
In its complex architecture it reflects the different historical periods it witnessed.
The legend says that the castle is haunted by one of its former owners Charles de...

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Château de Vayres
The castle of Vayres with his Italian renaissance architecture and his gardens "à la Francaise" is one of the most important monuments of Aquitaine region. It was a property of Henri III de Navarre future Henri IV de France from his mother side.
The castle was in the property of d'Albret family since 1287 when Rose de Bourg brought the castle as her dowry at her marriage with Amanieu VII d'Albret.
King Henri stayed in the castle several times unti 1583 when the castle was sold to Ogier de Gourgues, a member of the parliament of Bordeaux. The new owner rebuilt it with the help of the famous architect of the time Louis de Foix.
At the end of 17th century Jacques...

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Commarque Castle
Commarque Castle is now a romantic ruin that dominates the valley of Beune.
The site is a repository of layers of archaeological traces that date since 100,000 years ago. For at the feet of the the medieval fortress there is a neolithic troglodytic village that was build on top of prehistoric caves that still preserve carved animals on the walls, including a beautiful life-sized horse (the cave is not open to the public).
In the 12th century the castle was donated by its owner of the time Gerard de Comarque, at his departure to a crusade, to the Templars.
The castle was abandoned in 16th century and only in 1970 its actual owner Hubert de Commarque decided to buy the...

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Domme Hilltop Village

Plus Beaux Villages de France
Domme Hilltop Village
Domme, member of the "Les Plus Beaux Villages de France" association is a medieval village fortified by the King Philippe III in 1280 during the last years of the Cathare crusade.
Between the years 1307 and 1318 some parts of the fortification were used as a prison for around 70 Templars. Their writings on the prison walls are still visible today in the two entrance towers.
Domme village offers also an exceptional panorama of the Dordogne valley and meander bend of Montfort....

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Fenelon Castle
Fenelon Castle is a feudal fortress that overlooks the Dordogne and Bouriane valleys.
It preserves intact all its defensive system as well as its original stone roofs.
The castle, a private property that can be visited and is still inhabited by its owners, features important collections of furniture, art and ancient weapons dating from the Middle Ages until Napoleon times.
There is also a "curiosities" room that presents all kind of believed legendary objects: a giant's tooth, a small piece of the Trojan horse, centaur hoof etc.
The oldest vestiges of the castle belong to the 13th century. The castle played its role in the Cathare Crusade , the Hundread Year War and the Religious...

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La Roque-Gageac village
Member of the "Les Plus Beaux Villages de France" association la Roque-Gageac village is situated at 8 km of Sarlat.
The small village built against a steep cliff that descends to Dordogne river is still dominated by the Tarde manor tower - former property of Tarde family whose member Jean Tarde was a the chaplain and friend of King Henry IV and friend of Galilee from whom Tarde receives the first telescope of Perigord.
The little church carved into the stone in the 14the century is located next to an exotic garden - that takes advantage of the natural hot house conditions of the south exposed cliffs - where one can admire all year long Lemon, Banana and Pomegranate ...

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Lascaux Caves

UNESCO Heritage List
Lascaux Caves
Lascaux Cave was discovered in September 1940 by a mechanic apprentice called Marcel Ravidat.
He and three other youngsters from the village of Montignac descended in the cave on the 12 of September 1940 and were the first visitors of the modern times to see the paintings left by the Cro-Magnon human (Homo Sapiens Sapiens) - the anatomically modern humans - who came to Europe between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago in an age called Upper Paleolithic!
In 1950 Lascaux Cave was one of the first archaeological sites to use the new - at the time! - dating technique of Carbon 17, and its artifacts were date more precisely to around 17,000 years BC.
Due to the quantity and the quality...

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Limeuil village stands out not only as one of the member of the "Les Plus Beaux Villages de France" but through its history. One of the most remarkable points of interest of Perigord is Limeuil old parish church.
Situated near the entrance in the village, this simple style chapel was built in 1194 on the order of King Richard 1st the Lionheart. It is dedicated - as written on one of the stone tablets still preserved on the left interior wall and that was laid on the 30th of January 1194 - to many saints including Thomas Becket, described as Archbishop and Martyr, the priest killed by Richard's father King Henry II.
The second church of the village is the Saint Catherine church...

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Marqueyssac Gardens
The most visited gardens in Dordogne.The gardens offers 6 km of walking paths and an exceptional panorama of Dordogne valley. All Thursdays evenings during the months of July and August the gardens,opened to th public until midnight, are splendidly illuminated by 2,000 candles, that give a magical feel to the place....

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Montaigne Castle
The Castle of Montaigne situated in Perigord close to Bergerac and Saint-Emilion is the birth place of Michel Eyquem, Seigneur de Montaigne (1533-1592), French writer, philosopher - he said "Fortune, seeing that she could not make fools wise, has made them lucky" and "Confidence in the goodness of another is good proof of one's own goodness" - and political figure, elected 2 times mayor of Bordeaux.
During the last years of his life Michael de Montaigne was a close friend of Henry III of Navarre, later to be King Henri IV of France, who visited the castle at least 2 times: in December 1584 when the king was battling catholics and he had to flee close to the protestant cities...

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Puymartin Castle
Situated at around 30Km from Sarlat-La-Caneda on the road to Les Eyzies - the home of National Prehistory Museum - the castle of Puymartin draws your attention with its crenelated towers.
The castle was built around 1270 by the Sarlat abbots but destroyed completely towards the end of the Hundred Year War (1358).
The castle was rebuilt by Radulphe de Saint-Clar in 1450 and was used by his grandson Raymond de Saint-Clar as a headquarter for his fight against the protestants in the Wars of Religion of the 16th century.
At the time of the French Revolution its owner François Roffignac de Carbonnier de Marzac is put in jail and the castle is abandoned.
Only at the end of the...

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Saint Emilion

UNESCO Heritage List
Saint Emilion
Saint Emilion and its jurisdiction - located in the department of Gironde - was added in 1999 to the UNESCO's World Heritage List.
While the region has been inhabited since the Neolithic era - more then 10,000 years ago - the name Saint Emillion comes from a Breton hermit named Emilian who settled here in the 8th century. Not many things are known about Emilian. We know only that he lived the cross-shaped cave - cave that can still be visited - until his death in 767 AD.
Being situated in the Aquitaine region Saint Emillion came under English rule after the marriage of Eleonor of Aquitaine to king Henry Plantagenet of England on the 18th of May...

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Sarlat - Old Town
Sarlat, the American writer Henry Miller was fascinated by the town, calling it the "paradise of France".
With a population of just under 10,000 inhabitants Sarlat is situated in the department of Dordogne region Aquitaine of the South West of France. It is the "capital" of the old region of Perigord Noir. The little town has however 74 buildings on the register of historic monuments and in on the tentative list of UNESCO's World Heritage.
Sarlat grew around the Benedictine abbey where the relics of Saint Sacerdos were kept - the nowadays Sarlat Cathedral is still Saint Sacerdos Cathedral!
The 100 Year War waged from 1337 to 1453 between the...

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The Gardens Of Eyrignac Manor
One of the most beautiful gardens in France and recognized by the Ministry of Culture as "Remarcable Garden". The initial garden was designed in the 18th century as a "Jardin a la Français" - type of symmetrical garden first designed by André Le Nôtre for Louis XIV. The garden, with its more then 300 green sculptures spread on 10 hectares, is considered the most beautiful in Perigord and it has been in the same family for 22 generations....

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The village of Saint-Amand-de-Coly
The history of Saint-Amand-de-Coly member of the prestigious association "Les Plus Beaux Villages de France" is the history of Saint Amand and of the fortified Abbey.
According to the legend Saint-Amand-de-Coly village is situated on the place where in the 6th century AD, a young aristocrat called Amand chose to live a hermit's life in a cave at the foot of the hill.
The young eremite preaches the word of God to the peasants from the villages around, peasants who declare him a saint.
Saint Amand dies at the end of the 6th century. On the site of his modest refuge a monastery is built and a villages is born.
The abbey that can be viewed...

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