We just spent an incredible two week holiday in the southwest of France, and I’ve had quite a few requests for details, so I decided that rather than message everyone individually, I’d blog about it! Please feel free to share this with friends and comment if you have any other feedback or questions about what we did and how we did it.
Getting There & Back
We currently live in Yorkshire, so our trip to France from England was a road trip. We highly suggest doing the drive over two days. On the way down, we drove from Harrogate to Maidstone (approximately 4 hours, depending on traffic), where we stayed in a Premier Inn just off of the motorway. It costs around £40-50 if you book well in advance and pre-pay for the best rate. There is a restaurant and pub on site.
In the morning, we drove an hour to Dover and took a P&O Ferry to Calais. The ferry ride is easy and inexpensive if you book well in advance, and takes just 90 minutes. If priority boarding is available, we highly recommend it—you’ll be first on and off the boat. We experienced lengthy queues to get through French immigration, and recommend that you plan to arrive at least 2 hours before your ferry departs, especially during peak travel times.
From Calais, you are approximately 8 hours from Les Eyzies-de-Tayac. You’ll spend about 50 Euro in tolls, and we did have trouble with some machines taking our credit cards, so it’s best to have cash with you when you start the trip.
Returning, we break the trip up the same way, 4 hours the first day and the rest of the drive plus the ferry on the second. From Les Eyzies-de-Tayac to Orleans, we recommend the Novotel Orleans Le Source, just off the motorway. They have a restaurant and pool, and it is very family-friendly. They will only allow 4 in a room, so we had to get adjoining rooms on the way back.
Then the next day we drive the rest of the way to Calais (4 hours), take the ferry (90 minutes), and drive the rest of the way back home (5 hours).
If you are flying to France, the airport we’ve had recommended by other travelers to the region is in Limoges. You will need to rent a car, and you are approximately 2 hours away from our location in the Dordogne Valley.
We cannot recommend Le Banquet in Les Eyzies-de-Tayac highly enough. We have stayed their twice now, and their self-catering gites are well-appointed, the grounds are beautiful and immaculately maintained, and and the location is ideal for exploring the southwest of France whether you are a first-time visitor to the region or someone who travels there every year. There is so much to do within an hour of Les Eyzies, and you could quite honestly never travel more than 30 minutes away and still not be able to see and do it all!
We stay in La Forge, which is a two bedroom, one bathroom stone gite alongside the water. The gite can sleep 5, and we found it to be the perfect size for us, and would also recommend it for families of 3-4. There is a fully equipped kitchen, dining room table, comfy couches, Sky TV and a British-spec DVD player, and a bookshelf full of books. There is a dishwasher and washing machine.
On site, there is also a games room which my children absolutely love. Play pool, table tennis, darts, foosball, draw or color, play games, borrow movies…honestly, we didn’t even see our children most evenings! There is also a pool with lounge chairs and umbrellas.
British owners Rob and Karen are a pleasure. They’re knowledgeable about the area, eager to help if we have questions, and truly care about us having a wonderful time. We feel like we are friends instead of renters. That said, you have plenty of privacy on site, and they’re around if you need them.
What to See & Do
There is so much that you could see and do in the Dordogne Valley, and there’s no way that I can do justice to all of it. However, there are a few places we visited and things that we did that were absolute favourites, and we would be remiss not to mention them.
Rocamadour: Incredible town built into the hillside, and a popular pilgrimage site. It’s a little over an hour away from Les Eyzies and the drive is gorgeous. We weren’t super impressed with the dining options, but found a decent lunch and a pint. Allow at least 3 hours.
Sarlat-Le-Caneda: Beautiful French market town about 30 minutes away. One of Marcus’ favourite towns to visit. Allow 2-3 hours (more on market days) to walk around and sit outside with a glass of rose. Tons of wonderful options for food, too.
Domme: Walled hilltop medieval city with spectacular views of the valley below. Not very big and was a bit quiet the day we went, but the views alone were worth it. Allow 2 hours or so.
Chateau des Milandes: Lovely chateau about 30-45 minutes away. Birds of Prey display that we all really enjoyed (even though we didn’t understand what we were saying). Fabulous cafe on site. Home was owned by Josephine Baker and inside gives plenty of information on her life and family. Allow 3 hours or so and definitely stay for lunch outside.
La Foret des Ecureuils: Ziplining and climbing about 30 minutes away from Les Eyzies. This was so much fun, and not just for the kids. Children from as young as 2 can participate, and the site is very big and popular, but wasn’t too crowded when we went. Allow 2 hours (depending on the age of you and your children). Don’t forget the bug spray.
Le Bugue: We loved the market at Le Bugue (check for days before you go—sometimes it’s open on an evening) and this is also the town where we did most of our grocery shopping as they have a large Intermarche. It’s about 20 minutes away from Le Banquet.
As you can see, this is why we highly recommend two weeks. One week is simply not enough time to see the sites and take it all in, and build in time for relaxing too. However, if you can only go for one week, we suggest that you try to visit at least one French market, go to at least one beautiful town for exploring, and see one chateau. Those three things, combined with a couple of walks through Les Eyzies and plenty of relaxing time at the gite and the pool is the perfect holiday.
I simply cannot express to you just how beautiful this part of France was, how much we loved Le Banquet, and what an incredible holiday this was. We’ve been twice now, and fully intend to go back (even though that will mean traveling from the states). It is everything a holiday should be.
Whew! That’s it! Let me know if you have thoughts or questions, and I’ll do what I can to help! Happy holiday-ing!