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Explore The World

Over 50s Holidays: Explore the Dordogne Valley

Over 50s Holidays: Explore the Dordogne Valley

by Ann Evans

Writer Ann Evans shares with us her highlights of this picturesque region of France, including the best gardens to visit in the Dordogne.

Imagine mile upon mile of unspoilt green forest, deep fertile valleys and towering granite cliffs.

Imagine fairytale castles, enchanting gardens and picturesque villages all threaded together by a wide ribbon of the blue-green waters of the Dordogne River.

That was my introduction to the Dordogne Valley, which combines the Corrèze, Lot and Dordogne areas; and it has to be one of France's most natural and beautiful regions.

We arrived in Brive, France's newest airport, situated in the heart of the South West of France and were soon out on the quiet winding roads and enjoying the magnificence of the surrounding landscapes.

Our guide told us that this part of France has never been heavily industrialised, which accounted for the vast expanses of unspoilt countryside and delightfully preserved towns and villages, including several of the Most Beautiful Villages in France an award not given lightly.

The Dordogne Valley is rich in history, architecture, culture and cuisine. Local produce includes wines, oils, cheese and fois gras. Walnuts too are a speciality of the area. You should eat five every day, madame Marie-Claude Castagnė told me as she cooked our delicious lunch in her rustic upstairs restaurant ferme Auberge. Her family have been making walnut oil from their walnut groves for six generations. And as evidence of its goodness, her father, 84 year old Andrė grinds walnuts for their oil daily, not just for his own walnut grove but others in the vicinity.

Nearby is the distillery Denoix à Brive la Gaillarde, another family run business stretching over the last 170 years. Here, the owner, madame Denoix demonstrated the art of making liqueurs from walnuts in large copper vats, infusing them with chocolate, herbs or fruits and then storing in oak barrels for years before selling. Potent and delicious! 

There is no shortage of wonderful places to dine whether you're looking for a shady courtyard or a Michelin starred restaurant and lots of opportunities to walk off the excess in one of the region's fantastic gardens.

Gardens to visit in the Dordogne

Les Jardins de Colette

One of the many large pictures of the writer Colette in Les Jardins de Colette

In celebration of the famous early 20th century French author Sidonie Gabrielle Colette or as the French call her, Our Colette,' are the Jardins de Colette.

Opened in 2008 in the town of Varetz this five hectare contemporary flower garden is divided into six different gardens that represent six important periods of Colette's life and the French regions where she lived. Information boards and large photographs of the writer tell her story and give extracts from her books. Each garden shows her love of nature and flowers, roses especially, through its structures and its planting.
  

Les Jardins d'Imaginaire

More than just a garden, this is a sensory experience. A place to stroll and daydream and set your imagination free. Les Jardins d'Imaginaire is a six-hectare terraced park situated on the banks of the River Vézère in Terrasson-Lavilledieu created by the French-American artist Kathryn Gustafson.

Looking down at the Forest of Fountains in Les Jardins d'Imaginaire

Following the guided path you get the impression of softness and sensitivity. There's a sacred woodlands where trees and mosses provide a magical fairytale atmosphere. There's shady arbours, rose gardens, tinkling waterfalls and the dramatic water garden with its 'forest of fountains' and the pool that makes its own rainbows. 
  

Les Jardins Suspendus de Marqueyssac

You'll enjoy breathtaking views of the Dordogne as the gardens stand 130 metres above the river. Within its 22 hectares are 150,000 boxwoods planted and clipped to give a spectacular rounding and rolling aspect. 

Les Jardins Suspendus de Marqueyssac

There are six kilometres of pathways, allowing you to explore to your heart's content, or you could take one of the three principle routes the cliff walk, the high walk and the great walk.

Something here for the whole family, including candlelight evenings in July and August where the grounds are illuminated by a thousand candles.

UNESCO

In 2012 the Dordogne Valley was designated a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.

When Ann Evans is not off exploring gorgeous locations, she's a full time writer of non-fiction and fiction. She writes children's novels and adult romance. Take a look at her website at: www.annevansbooks.co.uk  and her blog: http://annsawriter.blogspot.com

    The town of Rocamadour clinging to the cliffs. Take the zig-zag path down to the St Saviour Basilica. A boat trip on the River Dordogne The perfect place to dine out! Ann Evans in Les Jardins de Colette Castel Novel Castle 12th century Cistercian Abbey linked with Coco Chanel's childhood H</p>

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