Why the Dordogne?
We chose this part of France because its climate is ideal for us. When our children were young, we used to holiday in France each summer. As they grew older, we ventured further south each year, until we were within easy reach of the Mediterranean. Northern France has the same cool, changeable climate as SW England, and it absolutely packed with British holidaymakers. As we drove south, we could find the weather getting warmer. We found the south of France often excessively hot and dry.
The Dordogne was the happy medium. Normally the daily temperature is above 70 degrees Fahrenheit from the beginning of May through to mid-October. It does rain sometimes, but mostly in the mountains in the north and east of the region. The occasional rain, and the hundreds of rivers flowing down from the mountains to meet the ocean just west of Bordeaux keeps the vegetation lush. Immediately west and south of us are the best vineyards in France! Just as the summers usually avoid extremes of heat, so the proximity of the Atlantic keeps the winters mild.
The region has more to offer the tourist than any other in France, which is why so many northern Europeans have now made their homes here. There are rivers and lakes, forests, cave systems, mountains, fortified medieval towns and villages, markets, and some of the best regional food and wine in France. There are endless leisure facilities. We even have more chateaux than the Loire! And all this in a region no more than 100 miles across.
This does mean that, in high summer, places like Sarlat in the far east of the region become packed at the weekend. This is partly because that part has so many of the camp sites and caravan parks beloved of the British family tourist. Nevertheless, most of the country roads are almost deserted, even at the height of the tourist season. It is a long way to travel to get here, but we have found that by drawing a straight line down the map, we can get here in a day from the Channel Tunnel (just). The autoroute link which is conveniently being provided at the moment will bring the faster roads to within 8 miles of us by later in 1999. We can pop across to La Citadelle for the weekend, because there are several flights day from London to Bordeaux, with easy car-hire facilitites at the airport. There are even fast rail and Motorail links from Paris to Bordeaux just 40 miles away.
Now in 2001 we seem to be within reach of our dream. We are both free to take whatever time we want, so we currently plan to spend most, if not all, of the summer in the newly-converted Owl Barn at La Citadelle, looking after the guests who rent the main farm-house.