The Dalai Lama once said the Dordogne is an exceptional place in the heart of Europe. He visited in 1991, invited by some holy local Buddhist. I don’t recall his holiness’ exact words, cannot find them online, but it was something along the lines of mystical, having a wonderful soul. I have to agree.
My parents bought a property here, sixteen years ago, an old farmhouse, sunny sandstone, tick walled and a grand roof typical in these parts. When they asked me recently whether I want to keep the house, I answered no. I wasn’t interested. It has been two years since I last was here, in Cladech, a one street hamlet in the Perigord Noir, between Sarlat-La-Caneda and Bergerac. And I am starting to doubt. Should my family ever sell this place?
The old farmhouse itself is charming of course. Stables turned into studio’s, for sleeping of painting, wooden terraces, wisteria covering the roof.
The countryside, the age old architecture, and the atmosphere coming from some unseen, magical source. It is all quite exceptional. A mellow going ghost hovers over the hills and over the villages, over the marketplaces and castles.
The trees, oak and planes, are old and everywhere, filling the landscape with their energy. And the energy is inspiring, the river flowing with creativity, artists and artisans putting up shop along its borders.Sculptors, painters, masters of ceramic, potters and woodcarvers. But also less conventional, Marcel Du Champ-ish originals creating works of art with whatever they find: thrown away manikins, parts of a refrigerator, cutlery, an old teddy bear, the insides of a computer. They sell their stuff on the market, between the honey farmer and the fishmonger. The odd tourist buys a piece, but mostly not.
They rather buy ceps from the local witch woman, who sits there silently, her two small boxes of self gathered mushrooms at her knees. The Dordogne boasts a big international community, drawn in by the charming surroundings: Americans, Brits, Germans, A South African, some are right out rich, some live on their pension, sometimes renting out their house when the ends don’t meet. They fix Solexes and send them off to China by the batch, they gather for walking, tea and yoga. They smile and laugh. It’s another world, another life. They have time on their hands, and no obligations tomorrow, except for more walking, more tea, more yoga.
We visit Le Bournat, a theme park, takes you back to the 1900’s, artisans on display, a herdsman and his dog. Old merry-go-rounds going back to the 19th century… worn out faces painted on the carrousel.