For 12 days in November, a house-sitting assignment took us to Tremolat, a small village in the Dordogne department of France. Our visit to Tremolat also allowed us to see some of the nearby towns and villages and the beautiful scenery around the Dordogne River.
Our Home and Hosts
Our home for the stay in Tremolat was a converted 400 year old atelier (workshop) that is owned by our hosts, Andrew and Karen Calvert. Karen and Andrew rent out the atelier in the summer, along with two other gites. Information on the properties can be found at this link.
Andrew and Karen also operate a mobile fish and chips van called Dordogne Chippy. So, on our first night, we enjoyed authentic British fish, chips and mushy peas, courtesy of Andrew and Karen. On this particular night, the fish & chip van was located in the village of Sainte Alvere, but they travel to different locations in the area on specific nights (listed on their website).
The food tasted delicious and the portions were huge. Andrew imports his fish and potatoes from the UK to ensure an authentic taste, and it shows. And the food is served wrapped in paper, of course. As a bonus, they can even provide gluten-free batter for those who are gluten-intolerant and Halloumi cheese for vegetarians
According to ancient legend, St. Cybard was born in Tremolat in they year 504. He subsequently became a monk and lived as a hermit. During the 9th century, the first church was built in Tremolat, in the location where St. Cybard is thought to have spent his childhood. That church was fortified to defend against the Norman Invasion but was subsequently destroyed. The church was rebuilt in the 11th and 12th centuries with a fortified nave that was designed to protect the villagers and pilgrims should the village be attacked. The church was dedicated to St. Nicholas and became the site of a monastery. The Church of St. Nicholas now towers above Tremolat’s central square. The interior of the church is rather plain, but there are remains of some old frescoes on the walls and some attractive stained glass windows.
There is another old church in the village, located in the cemetery. The Chapel of Saint Hilaire was built in the 15th century but was abandoned in 1790. Thanks to generous donations by Alsacians who were sheltered in the village in 1940, the chapel was reburbished. It was designated as a historic monument in 2010.
The village has some lovely old buildings and a handful of restaurants, including the Michelin starred Vieux Logis.
We happened to be in Tremolat on November 11, so I got to experience the village’s Remembrance Day ceremony when a roll of honour was read out, listing locals who had died for France in various conflicts.
The Dordogne River provides beautiful scenic views, just outside the village. Tremolat is located close to the Cingle de Tremolat, a long bend in the river. This can best be viewed from an overlook above the river. One such overlook is accessed by taking the road out of the village that passes the Bassin Nautique water-sports centre. The road continues up the hill until it reaches the disused Hotel le Panoramic. There is a carpark next to the hotel and across the street from the hotel is a small viewing area with tourist signs that offer a view. But that is not where you’ll get the best view.
Continue to walk away from the road, on a well-worn dirt track that runs through the trees. Continue walking for a few minutes until the trail ends at a large flat rock. From that rock, the views are unobstructed by trees. The flat rock would be a great spot for a small picnic whilst enjoying the views.
According to the tourist signs, the area is frequented by Peregrine Falcons, Black Kites, Common Kestrels, Buzzards and Montagu’s Harriers.
It is also possible to walk along the banks of the Dordogne and enjoy some peaceful scenery. One afternoon, I headed out of the village towards the railway station. Upon reaching the station, I turned right, across the tracks and continued along the road for a short distance until I started to pass some walnut plantations on my right. I turned right and walked down a track, adjacent to a walnut plantation, and found myself on the bank of the river. At that point, I turned left and continued to walk along the river. Along the way, I came across a stand of trees where the ground was totally covered in stinging nettles. Not a problem for me as I was wearing boots and long trousers, but I wouldn’t want to walk through there whilst wearing shorts. A little further and I came to one of the railway bridges that cross the river. At that point, the river divides as it flows past an island in the middle of the river. I continued walking but came to a thick section of trees that were impassable, so I turned around and retraced my route back to Tremolat (see the route marked on the map below).
The walk took 3 hours and covered over 10km. The river bank was very peaceful, as I didn’t see another person once I got off the paved road. There was a lot of birdlife, including buzzards, and some lovely scenery.
There is a shorter, easier walk along the river that is closer to the village. Walk south from the village square and turn right on the D31 road (towards Les Monzias and La Chapelle). Within a short while, you will reach the road bridge across the Dordogne River. Approximately 30-40 metres before the bridge, there is a narrow lane on the left that leads down to the bank of the river. It is then possible to walk along this track from the road bridge to the rail bridge (and further). The walk from the village square to the rail bridge is only 1.5km.
This is another peaceful segment of the river that offers lovely views of the two bridges. There are a couple of picnic tables on the river bank along the route, making it a nice option for a picturesque lunch.
There is an abundance of attractive villages and places of interest in the area surrounding Tremolat. Between taking care of the house and the pets, we managed to visit some of them.
Located only 7km from Tremolat, the village of Limeuil has been designated one of France’s most beautiful villages. The village is situated on a hill, above two bridges that span the point where the Lezere and Dordogne rivers meet. It is a beautiful location with a long history. A Gallic fortress was built on the hill but was seized by the armies of Julius Ceasar. The fortress was rebuilt to defend against the Vikings between the 8th and 11th centuries. Later, its strategic location made it a focal point of the Anglo French Hundred Years War.
The confluence of the two rivers has become a very popular spot for picnics and family gatherings. The water there is very shallow and safe for bathing. But inscriptions on one of the old gates to the village reveal that the area has been prone to extreme flooding. The water levels are marked with the corresponding years, with the highest water level marked as 1944. Marks a few inches below show flood levels for 1919 and 1866.
The steep, narrow roads climb up the hill, passing old stone buildings until they reach the summit where the walled Panoramic Gardens offer wide panoramic views of the valley and rivers below. Unfortunately, the gardens are not open in November, so we missed out on the best views. But it was still worth the climb to see the village.
The town of Sarlat is further away, requiring a drive of about 55 minutes from Tremolat. The town dates back to Gallo-Roman times and became a prosperous city at the end of the 8th century when the benedictines established a monastery there. Its old town has been restored, and is home to a market on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. The market stretches out along a couple of the streets in the old town. Several of the stalls sell local produce from the Perigord Noir region, including truffles, foie gras, an assortment of other duck products, local wines – including walnut wine, and French cheese, of course.
We enjoyed a couple of hours in Sarlat. We got to wander around the old town and the market before eating lunch in one of the many restaurants.
Our third outing required a one-hour drive to visit the historic village of Domme, which has also been designated as one of the most beautiful villages in France.
This fortified, walled village was established in 1283 and was fought over by the French and the English during the Hundred Years War, changing hands several times.
The village still retains its defensive walls and entrance gates as well as many old buildings. There are three old gates into the village but the most impressive is the Porte des Tours with its twin defensive towers.
The village also offers an impressive view over the Dordogne Valley, but heavy mist obscured much of the view at the time of our visit.
As we were visiting in November, and on a Sunday, much of the town seemed deserted, although there were a few tourists wandering around the otherwise quiet streets. It was a lovely village to visit and we enjoyed a pleasant lunch in one of the restaurants that were open.
We only scratched the surface when it comes to the many beautiful villages and towns that are within easy reach of Tremolat. There is certainly plenty to see in this region for anyone who might be contemplating a visit.