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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The Best of Bergerac: The French Market Towns You Will Fall in Love With

Welcome back to my Best of Bergerac series, the final instalment is here gang! So far we’ve covered the fabulous food, and some of the more rural scenery, today I am sharing with you the two market towns which made our trip; Duras and Eymet. So if you love a bit of travel photography and an insight into somewhere new, grab a coffee and enjoy. 

Duras

Duras was only about a 10 minute drive from the village of Taillecavat where our villa was located, so we went to this town frequently over the two weeks we were in Bergerac. Everything we needed was here…

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This display of flower bouquets just sums up how gorgeous the market stalls are!

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(This photo above is of the BEST restaurant we have ever eaten in, and yes that is a big claim, there are more details in part one of this series if you want to hear about the place with the best food and the shots of gin they give you between courses! Find it here!)

Duras is a truly beautiful and quaint little French town, think cobbled streets and brilliantly bright shutters. To me, this town is like the ones you think of when you imagine a classically authentic French town.

The town comes alive on market days, it was fascinating to see how it transforms from seeming like a small sleepy settlement, to a hub of  excitement. Suddenly, the colours brighten, the cafes liven up, and scents of spices, cheese, fresh fruit, and pastries fill the warm air.

The locals are out and catching up over a coffee, while the ex-pats are also out in force and making the most of the sunshine.

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The chateau placed grandly on the hill behind the market streets acts as a splendid backdrop for the event (the tallest building you can see in the background of this photograph).

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There is something more exciting about buying fresh food from a local who makes their livelihood from selling their delicious produce at markets like these, compared to buying it from a supermarket. As you can see from this garlic display above, the rustic displays make it all look even more appealing. Any fruit of vegetable you can imagine was on offer at the market. Huge selections of cheeses were also displayed, wheels of yellow and white, and the roast chicken cooked fresh on the rotisserie also smelt incredibly inviting!

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This was a small charity clothes shop just off of the main market streets, again everything seems so full of colour, everything about this town feels vibrant and full of life.

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Another great feature of the markets is that so many of the food stalls give out free samples, who doesn’t love a freebie, especially one you can eat?! A discovery we have made over a few trips to Southern France is that fresh olives are fab when you buy them from a market stall than a shop. Olive tapenade is one of the best things we’ve ever bought from the market, it’s a type of savoury dip made from olives, we’ve also tried one made from sun-dried tomatoes before which was perhaps even better! Pair it with a fresh baguette and this is something you must try if you see it abroad.

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One evening we went to the night market in Duras, it was around 38 degrees Celsius, I have never felt heat like it! The covered square that is in the centre of the market was lined with tables and chairs, we decided to go so we could try even more of the delicious food. We bought a selection of dishes from various stalls to share between all of us. We tried the calamari, olive and anchovy pizza, this was beautiful because it was fresh and made there and then. We also tried what we think was some sort of sausage curry, our lack of French meant we were not completely sure what exactly we were trying at times, this actually made it even more exciting!

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Eymet

Eymet was slightly further out from our villa so we only visited once, which was to go to the night market. We had stayed near this town on previous trips to France so we knew it was somewhere we wanted to re-visit.

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The street art on this building gives a very striking entrance to the market, it made me think of Paris with its romantic artwork and flower lined balconies. The town dates from 1270, as you can see, the old buildings with their slanted beams and slightly wonky roofs ensure that the town maintains its original character.

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There was also another huge selection of food at this market, mussels and chips seemed to be the most popular option! The pizza was also available from the same people from the Duras market, another firm favourite.

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The crepes from this cute little stall were the BOMB. If you want to hear more about them and the other incredible food we ate on this trip then this is also featured in part one of this series!

This display of greenery and flowers was outside one of the houses on one of the side streets…

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This is a view of the River Dropt, a tributary to the Garonne river, which runs on the outskirts of the town. This was taken from the little bridge above where lots of people were sat feeding the birds and enjoying their food from the market.

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And that marks the end of the Best of Bergerac series, France you have been fabulous! (Wow you’d think I’d at least be a little bit tanned but clearly not).

If you have not visited the South of France I would highly recommend putting Bergerac and the Aquitaine region on your travel bucket list!

Credits to my Uncle as he took a lot of the photos featured in this post! Check out his Instagram for some incredible photography @spresly

Thank you so much for reading, have you seen part one and part two of this series?!

Part One: The Ultimate French Holiday Food Guide

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Part Two: Sunsets, Sunflowers and the BEST Villa

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Hope you are having a fab day where ever you are,

Mol x

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The Best of Bergerac, Part Two: Sunsets, Sunflowers and the BEST villa

“The French air cleans up the brain and does good – a world of good.” – Vincent Van Gogh

Welcome to the second instalment of ‘The Best of Bergerac’ series! Please visit my previous post if you would like to see some of the incredible French food and restaurants we visited on this trip (including the best restaurant we have ever been to, yes it was that good!)

This time round we’re focusing on the dreamy scenery that Southern France has to offer and also the incredible villa that we called home for two weeks.

But let’s start with the wonder that was the sunflower fields because they were such a brilliant photo spot…

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“The road to freedom is bordered with sunflowers” – Martin Firrell

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Most of these beautiful sunflowers were almost as tall as me and I am quite a tall gal!

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“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. It’s what sunflowers do” – Helen keller

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It was lovely to be in a field filled with tones of sunshine and burnt orange, sunflowers are one of my favourite flowers and being in a place surrounded by fields and endless rows of them was perfect. This specific field was on the outskirts of a town called Eymet which was about a half hour drive away from where we were staying, but the the whole area around Bergerac was covered in sunflower fields too.

The BEST villa

Le Bonheur, Taillecavat, Aquitaine, Southern France

The name of the house which translates to ‘happiness’ just sums up how stunning this villa was, a beautiful 18th century restored farmhouse in the rural village of Taillecavat. There was very few houses in the village, most houses in the area looked like they were attached too the farms as the main business in the area is sunflowers and the vineyards used for wine. The villa was about a 40 minute drive from Bergerac airport, we hired a car from the airport with the company Avis, so the journey was so easy and enjoyable on the route through the sunflowers and vineyards.

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The striking contrast between the sapphire of the shutters and outside details against the scarlet flowers made the villa look so vibrant, it really was the perfect summer escape. There were various colours and sizes of salamanders that would climb up the stone exterior and explore on the veranda which is not something we ever see in the UK!

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This was the garden of the villa, which looked out on to the vineyards. Also the building which you can vaguely see in the distance was a boulangerie, we went here every morning at 8am to collect our fresh croissants, pain au chocolat (these were my faves) and a baguette of course. Monsieur and Madam Raymond who owned the boulangerie did not speak English which made each morning collection even more authentically French, we actually liked that they let us try out our speaking skills (which were sadly lacking on my part, luckily my Grandpa had us covered).

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Just look at the pool… what I would do to be back here! We got up every morning and did 50 lengths before breakfast, every day I did 150 or 200 lengths which for me is pretty impressive! The weather for most of our two weeks was as high as 37 degrees Celsius so we spent a lot of time in here cooling off and reading our books by the poolside.

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This picture is of the vineyards that were just outside of the villa, we did try some of the grapes but they were extremely sour and obviously are better off for wine than eating on their own!

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The mist across the fields in the morning at about 6am was mesmerising, the sunsets and sunrises were also stunning, the open space creates plains of shadows where colours would change so rapidly. We also witnessed a pretty cool thunder storm on our last night, watch the lightning forks strike across the fields was also a very exciting experience.

More sunset exploring just outside of the villa…

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This picture also shows one of the coolest experiences with nature I have ever had! These murmurations of starlings would pass over the villa and the fields each night at about 9pm, the noise was intensely loud, you could hear each of their wings beating, it was breath taking to watch.

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These gorgeous fellas were in a field made out of what used to be a moat surrounding a large house, just a couple of minutes drive from the villa. They were incredibly friendly and seemed to really enjoy the carrots that we brought them, I never realised donkeys were this cute!!

Some of the photos in this post were taken by my Uncle who is a fab photographer so credit to him! His Instagram is @spresly if you want to see any of his amazing photography!

Have you seen part one and part three of this series?!

Part One: The Ultimate French Holiday Food Guide

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Part Three: The French Market Towns You Will Fall in Love With

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Thank you so much for reading, hope you enjoyed this post and are having a fab day wherever you are,

Mol x

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The Best of Bergerac: The Ultimate French Holiday Food Guide

Bonjour from the UK!

I’ve now landed back in rainy England after the most incredible holiday in the Aquitaine region of Southern France. After sitting down and looking at all my holiday snaps and places I’ve been exploring, I’ve realised that we packed so much into our 10 day trip that one post may not be enough to share the beauty of Bergerac with y’all. So this is the first post which is dedicated to one of the BEST things about visiting France, the incredible food!

Who doesn’t love wine, croissants and French patisserie delights, am I right folks?

I have broken this post down into the three French towns that we spent the most time in, enjoy!

1. Duras:

Don Camillo- The prettiest place for a drink and a rest

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Orangina always tastes better in France, definitley my drink of choice for the majority of this holiday!

We came here a few times after visiting the Duras market as it is in the square just beside the hustle and bustle of the rows of market stalls (more on this in my next post which will be coming soon!)

We never actually had a meal here but the pizzas that they were serving looked delicious and seemed to be high in demand!

 

Hostellerie des Ducs- Our favourite restaurant (possibly ever!)

The first time we came here was for lunch and we loved it so much that we also had dinner on our last evening here too, such a fab way to end the holiday. Wait until you see the food!

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Even the table settings were gorgeous…

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Before our starters we were given a selection of amuse-bouche, these are bite sized starters you eat before your meal. These included tiny buns with fresh smoked salmon, cheese and chutney crackers with walnut, and tomato bread which were such a lovely touch to the meal.

Fresh lobster- starter

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Tuna steak with avocado and salad garnish- starter

(You can probably tell that me and my family love a bit of seafood!)

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After our starters we were given a small shot glass filled with sorbet and a shot of gin! Apparently this was to cleanse the palette before our main courses, it was incredibly strong but if you are a gin lover then you’re in your element!

Roast duck with poached pear and carrot tart- main course

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Not only did the food look and taste incredible but the aesthetic of the restaurant was lush too. (I didn’t take any photos inside when we were eating as it was not the kind of place where people were using phones or cameras)

There is the most gorgeous display of flowers outside on the terrace where we were served our coffees at the end of our meal, which came with a mini crème brûlée each much to my delight!

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Even the more simple dishes came so beautifully presented… Ananas- fresh pineapple and sorbet- dessert

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The palm leaves hanging over the white wash walls and the rustic shutters on the terrace added even more to the summer vibes of this lovely place…

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Lemon tart served with lemon sorbet and merangue with a candied lemon slice – dessert

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Coffee choux bun and cream served with coffee ice cream and merangue- dessert

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This was about the tenth trip to Southern France that my family and I have taken so we have eaten out in a large range of French restaurants but we all agreed that this was the best we’d ever eaten at in France, perhaps even in general!

2. Eymet:

Eymet Night Market: Crêpes

How can you go to France and not have a crêpe?!

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My flavour of choice was La Chocolat, divine! My family also had L’Aciduleé (lemon and sugar) and La Miel (honey) and really enjoyed these also!

 

3. Monségur:

Les Colonnes- The Pizzeria that you MUST try

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The pizza I chose was La Rein- a cheese and tomato base with olives and mushrooms, which was freshly made and the base was incredibly thin and crispy. We also shared a salad and home made chips between us which were also delicious. They had a lot of other choice as well as their amazing pizzas, my family also recommend the calzone and the chicken burger!

My next post will have more pictures of the stunning French scenery from the vineyards and sunflower fields to the market scenes and the beautiful villa we stayed in so look out for that!

Thanks so much for reading, please let me know if you enjoyed this post! Also let me know if you have any similar posts about holidays and food you loved this summer!

Have you seen part two and three of this series?!

Part Two: Sunflowers, Sunsets and the BEST Villa

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Part Three: The Market Towns You Will Fall in Love With

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Au revoir!

Mol x

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