Paysage Périgord Dordogne

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A land, a world

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A land, a world

A land, a world

Vallée de l'Isle

From capital to capital

Périgueux, Périgord’s capital, dates back to the dawn of antiquity. Time stands still there, but history has left its marks. The old part of Périgueux is brimming with vestiges from the Gallo-Romans days all the way up to the Puy-Saint-Front bourgeoisie. It is also teeming with signs of cross-fertilisation and memories. Saint-Front Cathedral is half Byzantine and half Roman. It was restored by Paul Abadie, an architect, and indeed gave him a number of ideas he used when he designed Sacré-Cœur in Paris. Around it, you will find countless medieval homes, and ornate townhouse doors concealing often tortuous but nonetheless splendid staircases dating back to – and encapsulating the spirit of – the Renaissance.

People have always settled near waterways in order to live and communicate. Périgueux sprang up on the banks of the River Isle and is built during the Gallic days. The Petrocorii tribe settled in the lower part of town and the Romans then joined them to found Vesunna. Its Vésone Tower looks out onto 20 centuries of history. Today, that part of town is the ‘Quartier Gallo-Romain’ which houses the Vesunna museum featuring the remnants of a home at that time. If you go downstream like the boatmen of old you will find Saint-Astier, a village with a Romanesque church rebuilt around an old crypt, and a handful or preserved half-timbered houses.

The Musée des Arts et Traditions Populaires in Mussidan provides a reconstruction of this region’s typical homes. Before you get to Montpon, where the Chemin des Orgues (Organ Trail) begins, you can stop for a ride in a ‘gabare’ – a long rudimentary cargo vessel. Not far from there at Issac, the Renaissance château at Montréal with its amazing stained glass windows awaits visitors who prefer to be on solid ground.