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Dordogne Limousin Quercy France Dordogne

Dordogne Limousin Quercy France

The areas of France known as Limousin, Quercy and the Dordogne are all predominantly rural and share a similar history, but have different landscapes, cuisine and atmospheres. They are situated between the Massif Central and the vineyards of Bordeaux.

Limousin is the epitome of rural France, and has an abundance of green hills, churches, castles, rivers, springs and lakes. It is primarily an agricultural economy, and divided into three départements : in the west, Haute Vienne (87), which contains the town Limoges; in the north east, Creuse (23); and in the south east, Corrèze (19), which is reportedly the most beautiful of the three.

The British are very fond of the area that they call the Dordogne, although the name actually refers to either the département of Dordogne, which is slightly to the west of the British paradise, or to the river itself, one of seven rivers that flows through the region. The area is in fact called Périgord, and is divided into four further areas. Périgord Vert in the north and northwest is full of fields and forests. The capital, Périgueux, and its surrounds are known as Périgord Blanc on account of the limestone. The wine growing area of Bergerac is named Périgord Pourpre after the purple grapes. Périgord Noir is so called because of the dark forests full of ancient oaks and the châteaux that are found there.

The Dordogne has a fascinating history that began long before the Romans set foot in France. There are numerous caves containing prehistoric art in the region, such as Cascaux or the Grotte de Font de Gaume that is 14,000 years old and situated 1km north of Les Eyzies on the D47. In these caves you can see art that was created by the Neanderthal and Cro Magnon peoples.

There are also the bastides, which are fortified towns and villages, the significant features of which are a defensive wall and an arcaded market square with a church in one corner, for example Villefranche de Rougergue, Najac, and the perfectly preserved Monpazier.

The Dordogne has ten per cent of France's châteaux and, although they are not as chocolate box like as those in the Loire, there are some very impressive fortresses such as Carennac, and also later examples such as the neoclassical Hautefort, which is found 40km east of Périgueux.

In more recent times, these areas became a Resistance stronghold during WWII when hundreds of people were hidden from the enemy. The ruined village of Oradour sur Glane stands as a silent testament to the terrible things that happened during that period in history.

Quercy, whose main city is Cahors, is southeast of Dordogne and has a distinctly more southern feel to it: the Occitan language is quite widely spoken.