The Top 5 Hidden Travel Gems in South West France

Why should southern France be next on your travel bucket list?

If you are a lover of beautiful scenery, locally sourced wines and cheeses, endless sunflower fields, and small towns filled with cobbled streets, then southern France in the region of Aquitaine will be a dream destination for you. I have visited South West France over at least 10 trips, but on this one in particular, we found lots of gorgeous spots that were a bit less on the tourist’s radars, perhaps due to being in more rural locations and which were not heavily advertised. In this post I have collated the top 5 discoveries of our trip this year, including the most beautiful water mill and lake, markets to peruse through, and food that you simply can’t miss.

For a brief travel introduction, we flew from Birmingham airport (England) to Bergerac airport. The flight was just two hours, we flew with Flybe and booked the flights almost a year in advance which is a great idea if you are looking to save some money! It was incredibly easy journey, we have used Flybe for this journey many times in past years and we have had a positive travel experience every time. We then stayed in a hamlet named ‘Cerisiers’ which was a 10 minute drive from the town ‘Duras’. It was around a 45 minute drive from Bergerac airport.

 

1. Saint Pierre sur Dropt- The Most Beautiful Water Mill and Lake

This was a very small village, very near to a house we had stayed in on a previous trip to the area. At first glance, it doesn’t appear that there is much there to do. However we found some information suggesting there was a water mill in the village that was open to the public for just a couple of days a week.

We did indeed manage to find this beautiful spot named ‘Moulin de Cocussotte’. It was just a short drive from where we staying in the hamlet of ‘Cerisiers’. There is parking available here (there is no public transport to it due to its very rural location).

This was the beautiful lake on which the water mill and its grounds look out upon. The views were utterly gorgeous, and it was a very tranquil place. The sounds of the running water made for a very relaxing scene.

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This is the water wheel here, set against the luscious green leaves growing up the side of the stone house.

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This is another view of the building which the water mill is attached to. It’s surrounded by vibrant baskets of flowers, and small ponds with walkways across them. It was refreshing to be in such a naturally beautiful environment.

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There were also these magnificent wooden sculptures featured across the gardens, depicting various animals. This one of the horse was one of my favourites, it was life size too!

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This photograph below shows the interesting display of items which have been found in the river. The sign states the phrase ‘gifts of the river’. It’s very sad to think that so many plastic and glass items like these end up in beautiful stretches of water such as this one.

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There is a website for this lovely place but it is in French, it is linked here for you. You can also book to stay in the lovely house, it seems to have great reviews on Booking.com.

To visit the water mill and its grounds it costs $4 each for entry. There was also a guided tour by the man who lives in the house by the water mill and whose family have lived there a long time. We didn’t stay for all of the tour and were able to wander off on our own to explore. But if you are a speaker of French then I’m sure the tour probably had some very interesting information in it!

 

2 & 3: Taillecavat- The Village Full of Character and the Most Gorgeous Animals

Taillecavat was a beautifully small village, about a fifteen minute walk from the villa we were staying in for the trip. Despite being a very small area, it was a very interesting place to explore. We wandered down the winding country roads to the village every morning after sunrise to pick up croissants and a baguette from the small boulangerie named ‘Madame and Monsieur Raymond’. We enjoyed supporting their local business, it was also fun to practice our French and refreshing to not have the locals speak English to us.

There is also a small yet magnificent church that stands in the centre of the village which we included on our morning route.

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One of the other highlights of the village was certainly these two gorgeous animals…

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These were the two donkeys who lived in an old moat surrounding a chateau that has been converted in to a field. We named them Delilah and Daphne, and we fed them an assortment of fruit or veg every morning as we walked past them. As you can see here, carrots were a firm favourite!

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The village is surrounded by endless rows of lush green grape vines and fields of gold from the sunshine coloured sunflowers. I have more sunflower field content and information on our accommodation from this trip in my Best of Bergerac series which can be found here.

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4. Sainte Foy la Grande- A Good Ol’ Traditional French Market

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We visited the day market in Sainte Foy la Grande, which was predominantly a food market. We did try some great street food, which is always a great experience. We tried some ‘pomme de terres sautée’, which was fried potatoes that were cooked with mushrooms and lots of garlic. It was absolutely delicious, we ate a lot of it!

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The market had a great atmosphere to it as it was quite busy, a mixture of locals and tourists it seems which was a nice balance. There were rows and rows of fresh fruit and vegetables, cheeses, seafood and meats. It’s great to see people out supporting local businesses where the produce is fresh and local.

There were also these gorgeous bunches of flowers on sale, the colours were incredibly eye catching.

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There were also lots of cafes and places to eat surrounding the market squares, which is great if you want to stop off for a drink and watch the hustle and bustle of the market go-ers. We sat by the market and wrote some postcards, which we bought from a small shop in the town. There is a post office here which is handy if you want to do the same.

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The shops along the streets of the market are also worth a look in, this one was a deli and was full of interesting foods, spices and types of coffees.

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5. Duras: Hotel de Ducs- The Must Visit Restaurant

The town of Duras was about a 10 minute drive from where we were staying. This restaurant was a particular food highlight of the trip, so if you are in the area and looking for excellent food and good service then Hotel de Ducs would be a brilliant choice.

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These small aperitifs were given to us when we arrived (they do not charge you for these extras they include). These were delicious, flavoured with fresh smoked salmon, walnuts and chutney. It was details like this which added a lovely touch to the meal.

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This was also another aperitif given to us after we had ordered our meal. This was a bread roll with a goats cheese and chive mousse, which was also lovely.

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I thought I’d try a meal which I had never had before, I always think it’s great to do that when you’re away somewhere different. This was melon soup, with salad and parma ham on toasted bread. I was surprised to find that I loved the soup! Due to being served cold, it was light and refreshing. I’m glad I tried something new!

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This was the view from inside the restaurant, it looked out on to the garden and pool of the hotel, it was nice and cool because of the canopy above us too. If you want some more information on places to eat in the region of Aquitaine then click here for my French Food and Drink Guide.

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The staff who worked here were very friendly and the service was extremely efficient. It’s a family run business, I also liked how again they spoke to us in French and not English even when they knew we were tourists. I would highly recommend this restaurant if you are looking for a fabulous meal, it would be great for a special occasion.

I have written about some of the other French market towns that are well worth seeing in the area in my French Market Town Guide if you would like some more information and travel inspiration!

Hope you are having a great day where ever you are in the world,

Mol x

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