The Heart of France

Shubh-yatra.in

, Travel

Plateaux – it opens into the picturesque valley of the River Dronne, where the island town of Brantome pegs down the green margins of the peaceful north. Together, these four regions – the purple, black, white and green faces of the Perigord, the ancient name now used to evoke the region’s deeply rooted history – make up one of the most popular destinations in the world’s most visited country.

Yet, the Dordogne’s greatest appeal doesn’t lie in its hilltop chateaux, or its caverns; it’s not in the honey-and-peach sweetness of Montbazillac’s wine, or the richness of the local fois gras. Instead, it’s in the quality of life – which is why I’d like to introduce you to Daniel Salvucci, who lives in Beaumont du Perigord.

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Beaumont is one of the Dordogne’s bastides – medieval towns that had long been fought over by the English and French to increase their social stability by creating centres of commerce which the local people were encouraged to join as freemen. Seven hundred years later, the bastides’ limestone-tiled roofs – which cluster atop honey-coloured buildings like heaps of oyster shells – still shelter communities of small businesses that serve everyday needs, from boulangeries (bakeries) and cafés to quincailleries, or hardware stores. Among them is Daniel, a woodturner and sculptor who moved to Beaumont from Paris.

Within the walls of a bastide, he explains, life is a kind of theatre. Here in Beaumont, they know everyone and everyone knows them – all together they’re a cast of characters in a timeless Perigordian play whose theme is what the French call the “douceur de vivre”, or the good life. And each new day brings Daniel visitors like you and I, who can play a walk-on part in the bastide’s life too.

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I also want you to meet Daniel because in the organic forms of his sculptures – made from single pieces of local timber such as ash, yew, pear, hornbeam, and the light-and-dark-banded Perigordian walnut – you’ll find many of the coloursand textures of the region, especially of the Black Perigord, whose oak-wooded dells resemble the whorls of walnut burr.

It’s a quality you can appreciate from the heights of Domme, another bastide overlooking the River Dordogne, but the best way to become part of this landscape is to go out on the water, gently canoeing the 29 km from Beynac et Cazenac to Limeuil.

And if that isn’t reward enough, the journey’s end – the beautiful medieval port of Limeuil, topped by ornamental gardens overlooking the confluence of the Dordogne and Vezere – is to discover the dark, velveted and still pristine heart of the Perigord.

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