Tuesday, 4 August 2015

La Vieille Auberge restaurant, Souillac, The Dordogne, France

Serving beautifully presented local French cuisine, La Vieille Auberge houses a traditional hotel restaurant with a surprising amount of flair. Although the two dining rooms tend to be pretty full, the food overshadows the ambiance - the neutral decor is elegant, but unremarkable, while the table cloths are white, crisp and conservative. If you are hungry, the four course Menu Tradition (36 euros) begins with an amuse bouche, such as cold carrot and fennel soup. You then get to choose from several starters, main courses and deserts.  Among the starters, the parmesan biscuit, served with a creamy cheese, is very salty and full of flavour.  For a main, the saddle of lamb is a little fatty, but is served with a fine vegetable cake. The duck breast, skewed and resting on young carrots swimming in a red wine and shallot sauce, is also rich and succulent.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Hotel Le Troubadour, Belveyre, near Rocamadour, France

  1. Secluded, quiet and boasting extensive grounds overlooking rolling countryside, Hotel Le Troubadour is both comfortable and well-equipped. Next to the original farmhouse, which dates from the 18th-century, is a relatively new, but sympathetic, two-storey block with a tall slate roof. Built in stone and wood in keeping with local architecture, this well-designed block has a large terrace, ideal for watching the sun set, and houses ten en-suite guest rooms. Although they aren't very spacious, these rooms are both tasteful and robust. They have oak floors, solid furniture, WiFi access, good showers and overlook the heated outdoor swimming pool. In the grounds, you'll find a barn converted into apartments and another ancient farm building, now hosting a pool table, alongside its original bread oven. 

Restaurant of Hotel Le Troubadour, Belveyre, near Rocamadour, France

If the weather is good,  Hotel Le Troubadour serves dinner outside on a very pleasant outdoor terrace surrounded by well tended gardens. You sit in comfortable wicker chairs at sturdy round tables with the old farmhouse as a backdrop. The set menu offers a choice of four or five dishes for each of the three courses. To start, the precisely poached egg on French bread tastes good, while the goats cheese with a well-dressed salad is also delicious. Among the main courses, the cassoulet (containing bacon, sausage, goose and white beans) is rich, liquid and full of fine flavours, while the veal can be a bit dry and less impressive. For desert, the lemon meringue pie hits the sweet spot or you might prefer the mouthwatering warm goats cheese on bread, served with local walnuts. You can enjoy a respectable bottle of local red wine for 17 euros, while the table water is cold and the bread is fresh. Serving mostly fine food in a fine setting, Hotel Le Troubadour's restaurant is a good place to dine. 8/10

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Rocamadour, the Dordogne, France

Tumbling down the side of a gorge above a tributary of the Dordogne, Rocamadour is a precipitous and virtually intact medieval village in the shadow of a monastery, below the shell of the chateau at the top of the cliff. Although the village's paved and pedestrianised main street is lined with absorbing and ancient  medieval houses, it can be difficult to admire them. In the summer, the area inside Rocamadour's well-preserved stone gateways is awash with tourists milling around the cafes, restaurants and the inevitable souvenir shops.  You can escape the commercialism by climbing the 216 steps of the Grand Escalier (on your knees if you want to follow the pilgrim tradition) up to the shrines, chapels and churches above. You'll find a confusing maze of atmospheric stone alleyways, stairwells and diminutive squares that seem to belong in some fantasy epic. The sanctuaries include the Chapelle Notre Dame, which is famous for its medieval statute of the Black Madonna. From here, a path winds its way up through the woods, past some gaping caverns, up to the chateau. If you continue following the trail towards the neighbouring village of L'Hospitalet, you'll be able to take in the timeless views of Rocamadour enjoyed by millions of visitors over the past few centuries. Although the crowds may mar your visit, Rocamadour is quite a sight. 8/10

Château de la Pannonie, La Pannonie, The Dordogne, France

Dating from the 15th century, Château de la Pannonie is a fading, yet beautiful, landmark in the hamlet of Pannonie, in the Lot department of France. Inhabited by the same family for 350 years, the  Château offers guided tours on summer afternoons.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Souillac, The Dordogne, France

The Abbaye Sainte-Marie
A pleasant historic town with a smattering of restaurants and bars, Souillac is a good base from which to explore the eastern end of The Dordogne. It's most famous sight, Abbaye Sainte-Marie,  is a large and curvaceous building dating from the turmoil of the 12th century and originally designed by the Benedictines for both defence and worship. But it is also worth exploring the warren of old streets north of the abbey, which house a mixture of handsome nineteenth century buildings and ruined remnants from Souillac's time in the front line of the Hundred Years War.

La Vieille Auberge, Souillac, The Dordogne, France

Well situated near the heart of the attractive old town of Souillac, La Vieille Auberge is a traditional French hotel with half-a-dozen rooms and a fine restaurant.  Although the rooms have en-suite bathrooms and have recently been refurbished, they are still fairly basic, lack air conditioning and can get very warm. There are ceiling fans, but they are pretty noisy. The bedrooms are reached by a tired old staircase and are flanked by communal toilets and service rooms, including one marked "lingerie". Still, the rooms have small fridges, the WiFi works quite well and there is a garage in which to park your car (seven euros a night) or secure your bike. Moreover, La Vieille Auberge does a decent, albeit continental (read cold), buffet breakfast, featuring respectable coffee, cheeses and meats, plus an appealing fruit salad and excellent pastries. 7/10