With scant preparations, on the spur of the moment, we jumped in the car and drove for three hours SE through the sunny winterscape of Nouvelle Aquitaine to the Périgord Noir. This was our second visit to the Dordogne. In May of 2013, while we stayed in Périgueux for a week, we also visited the double-castles of Bourdeille.
This time we were aiming for Domme, one of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, which means the most beautiful villages in France. The villages undergo an elaborate and rigorous selection process, necessitating a continuous concerted effort of beautification and restoration by the villagers. After all, there are less than a couple of hundred such villages in all of France. In the Dordogne, however, we found out that the Plus Beaux Villages are unusually thick on the ground!
By mid-afternoon, we had arrived at our boutique hotel, the 1 Logis à Domme, which straddles the ancient ramparts immediately next to a village gate called Porte del Bos. The Logis is a meticulously renovated property, part of which, just like the Porte del Bos, goes back to the 14th century. The Logis offers an exceptional environment of collectibles, both antique and contemporary, presented in a warm, family atmosphere. Our room turned out to be an elegant, light-filled barn conversion with windows overlooking the vastness of the valley below the ramparts.
In western France, one can’t expect too much of a verdant garden, or an abundance of colorful flowerbeds in the middle of February. Nevertheless, the Logis’ courtyard presented itself in charming winter-disarray, where we enjoyed a glass or two of wine, relaxing in the warm sunlight after our excursions.
Per decree of King Philippe “the Bold” in 1281, La Bastide Fortifiée de Domme, the fortified village called Domme, was constructed on a plateau shadowing the southern bank of the river Dordogne. The high cliffs were, erroneously, as it turned out in 1588, deemed insurmountable and were thus left unfortified, while the more vulnerable limits of the Bourg were surrounded by sturdy ramparts, eventually pierced by three heavy gates. Yellow stone houses soon began to crowd the village within the ramparts, clinging to each other for support along the steep lanes. Despite continued warfare in Aquitaine, the village prospered as a lively marketplace.
We followed the walk on the ramparts toward La Porte de la Combe, where we climbed uphill to the village center and beyond to an overlook, Le Belvédère de la Barre on La Promenade des Falaises, the cliff walk above the river.
Steeply up- and downhill, that’s Domme!
I admired this splendid Renaissance window at the corner, ever so perfectly illuminated. Upon returning to our temporary home, we settled in the library in front of the lit fireplace where our hosts joined us in conversation. Such a pleasant first day in the Périgord!