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Perigueux France

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Périgueux is the prefecture of the département of Dordogne and is useful as a base from which to explore the Périgord Blanc area, so called because of the bright white limestone used in so much of the architecture. This stone is evident in the restored medieval and Renaissance area of Périgueux town centre.

The town began over 2000 years ago on a hill near the River Isle, and the name Périgueux comes from the Gallic Petrocorii tribe that settled there. Later the Romans made the town a more important settlement and there are several Roman buildings to prove it. The last remaining arches of the 1 st century amphitheatre are on boulevard des Arènes (in La Cité to the west of the centre), the rest having been dismantled so that the stone could be used for the city walls in 3AD.

The old town is bordered on the west side by the tree lined boulevard Montaigne, and by the River Isle on the east. The Cathédrale St Front was overly restored in the 19th century, which means that the 1173 Byzantine church now looks more like Paris' Sacré Coeur than Venice's St Mark's, and the belfry resembles a pineapple. The interior retains it charm, however, built on the Greek cross structure and with interesting details on the altarpieces such as a puppy making off with the infant Jesus' bedclothes.

Périgueux really comes to life on Wednesday and Saturday mornings when there is a fois gras and truffle market on place St Louis in Puy St Front (November to March) and a food market near the cathedral on place de la Clautre. The best medieval street is the rue Limogeanne, where rows of restored Renaissance houses are now used as boutiques, which leads to the Musée du Périgord (€4), one of the best prehistory museums in France with Gallo Roman mosaics, portraits of the twelve Caesars and other such artefacts.

There isn't an overwhelming selection of hotels and restaurants in Périgueux, although the area around the gare SNCF has several decent hotels such as the Hotel du Midi with rooms from €30 40 and a good restaurant with €12 regional menus. The rue Limogeanne and place St Louis are your best bet for restaurants, including La Ferme St Louis (05 53 53 82 77) with a good €19 three course dinner menu. The Hercule Poireau at 2 rue de la Nation (05 53 08 90 76) also serves up top notch French food on menus from €16.60.