France is sprinkled with beguiling villages, many frozen in time that encapsulate much of what people love about this European cultural giant. Associated under the banner of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, these villages share the historic, gastronomic and enchanting nature of rural France. Part One explored villages in the south and Alps regions of France while today we explore Normandy and the Dordogne.
It is difficult to imagine anything more relaxing than sitting by the peaceful Sarthe River near a rustic old stone bridge chewing on a pate-laden crusty baguette and sipping a refreshing glass of red. This quiet Norman village of ivy-covered stone houses and narrow lanes has developed a pilgrimage following the creation of a church-side miracle spring associated with the cure of eye diseases.
In rural Normandy, sits the photogenic half-timbered houses of the village of Le Bec Hellouin. Painted in vibrant colours surrounded by verdant green footpaths and parks and bedecked with blooming flower boxes, the village charm is complemented by the wondrous ceramics of the 1000 year old abbey and its resident monks.
Overlooked by its imposing castle standngn guard over the Dordogne River in central France, the cobbled laneways of the tiny village of Beynac (around 500 people) is one of several Perigord villages that sit at the gateway to the extraordinary caves (including the world famous Lascaux) with their 20,000 year old Paleolithic paintings. Their rich gastronomic culture is highlighted with the squawking geese and ducks or the stalls that sell and sample the fine patés of the region. Hiking (randonnées) is popular on well-marked paths that link the villages and take in the famous limestone caves.
Guarded by a remarkable three castles, the picturesque Perigord village is near the historic caves and rock shelters of La Roque St Christophe occupied by Paleolithic or Stone Age people around 55,000 years ago. While there is a rudimentary understanding of life back then, much still remains unexplained. It is a remarkable feeling to stroll along the rock ledges trying to imagine people huddled over fires eking out their lives so long ago.
Join us for a final roundup of most beautiful villages in France.