No doubt some of your wedding guests will fly in for your wedding then head home the next day but others will want to take the opportunity to stay on and enjoy the many delights of rural France. When you’re looking for a venue, it often pays to find out what else there is in the area. So here’s a whistle-stop tour of what’s on offer in my slice of French heaven.
I live in the south west of France, north east of Bordeaux, on the border of the Dordogne and Charente. This region has lots of opportunities to experience the true traditional rural French lifestyle. The French like their food local and in season, so a lot of villages have a bakery, which supplies fresh bread twice a day. There may be a weekly market where you can buy local and seasonal vegetables and the larger markets offer fresh snails, fish, cheese, olives and all the usual goods like clothes, shoes, plants and hardware. In most small to large towns you’ll find a pharmacist, a butcher, a bank or ATM, a florist and a hairdresser, or two or three!
If you have a keen eye for a bargain there are lots of vide greniers (empty your attic) and brocantes (car boot sales)where you can buy anything, from the familiar to the very unusual. My best buy has been my three D lamp!
If you still have energy left in the evening there are events like the amazing night markets. At a night market you take your own plate, cup and cutlery and from various stalls you buy local foods cooked by the producers. Then you sit at a communal table to eat your chosen delights and soak up the atmosphere. There are also: music concerts; les moules frites (mussels and French fries); les soirees entrecote (a full five or six course meal including steak and French fries); and the chasse meals, which is an eating extravaganza. Each chasse, a group of hunters, is responsible for maintaining the balance of wildlife in their commune (much like game keepers )and they provide and cook the meat for the chasse meal. This ‘meal’ consists of six or seven courses, all served with copious quantities of alcohol. These evenings are often accompanied by music and dancing and aren’t for those early-to-bed sorts, as soirees usually go on well into the early hours of the morning. The French really know how to party!
So where are these things all happening you may ask. Well the town nearest to me is Chalais – a small château-topped town. Our local market is every Monday morning and there are also two supermarkets. There’s a pretty fountain in the village centre with seats and shade for the summer. If the sunshine does get too much then you can take a dip in the local swimming pool. We also have a sports stadium or maybe you prefer to take advantage of the variety of cafés, restaurants and bars to relax and replenish your energy and rehydrate! More info here.
Then in the opposite direction we have the famous Aubeterre-sur-Drone – a beaux village i.e. one of the prettiest villages in France! This is a lovely village to just walk around and soak up the atmosphere. It has a charming centre with a variety of restaurants and cafes but make sure you walk up the steep side streets to find those interesting independent shops and of course the potter’s studio and shop. Although we’re a bit of a hike from the sea, towns along the rivers create their very own river beach where you can take a dip, build a sand castle or just work on your tan. In Aubeterre you can also rent canoes or play a game of tennis. It has a local market on Sunday morning and a not-to-be-missed ancient subterranean church that was hewn out of the rock. to find out more click here.
Not far away is pretty Saint Aulaye – a small town with a range of activities. Here the beautiful river beach has a café and you can also hire canoes or across the road there’s an adventure park with zip-wire rides. You can play a game of tennis and the in the evening take it easy at the small cinema (movies in English are shown every Monday evening). Saint Aulaye also has the usual restaurants, bakers, a crêperie, a pharmacy, a pizzeria, bank and ATM, a small Carrefour supermarket, and the obligatory hairdressers. More information can be found here.
If you’ve a keen nose for a bargain or interesting trinkets and baubles then the various markets I mentioned before will delight you. In Verteillac there’s the usual local market each Saturday but on the first Sunday of every month the village is flooded with stalls, stands and stages and sometimes with local musicians. At this brocante you can buy absolutely anything and if you’re canny, grab a bargain! But if you’re not a shopper then have a coffee in one of the cafés whilst watching the world go by!
One of the most visited towns and hence also busiest, is Brantôme. That said it’s visited because it’s such a very pretty town. It’s nicknamed the Venice of Périgord because it’s encircled by the river Drone. Here you can canoe along the river but beware there’s a tricky weir to be negotiated. For those who do attempt this feat there is often a gaggle of spectators watching as they approach the weir. It’s high entertainment to watch canoes careering over the weir and discharging their people into the river or sometimes the canoes get stuck on the weir and someone has to get out and pull the canoe free without getting too wet! However, if you make it, pride and clothes intact, you’ll almost certainly be given a roaring cheer and an enthusiastic round of applause! For a bit of history and culture you can explore the stunning Brantôme Abbey or wander the town’s streets littered with interesting shops, bars, cafés and restaurants. More information can be found here.
Another not-to-be-missed town is the world famous Saint Emilion. This is the home of red wine and another beaux village with a wide range of shops, restaurants, cafés and bars. You can do a tour around the town on foot, by bicycle, or an electric Tuk Tuk Tour and if you have time, you can take an area tour around the local wine producers too. This is a great place if you’re a wine lover and want to indulge your passion or a novice and just would like to learn more about red wine.
For those who like somewhere a little bigger, why not visit Riberac with its not-to-be-missed farmer’s market every Friday morning. As a riverside town, you can of course hire canoes and explore the countryside from the river but if you need to cool down, there’s also an outdoor swimming pool to take a dip in. If you prefer drier activities, then you visit the cinema or the variety of restaurants and cafes, or maybe wandering around the independent shops is more to your taste. There are also several large supermarkets. If you need more information click here.
A bit further afield we have the cities of: Limoges, famous for its porcelain; Bergerac, a delight of river cruises and riverside cafes set in another wine producing area; the beautiful and historic Angouleme; you can take a tour in a le petit train around historic Perigueux; and of course there’s also the very beautiful Bordeaux, with everything a city has to offer and a whole lot more.
Eh voilà! That’s just a small taste of what you can find in my little corner of France.
Wherever you chose, I hope you have a fantastic day and if you need a celebrant, please get in touch. I’d love to help you celebrate!