I love France and I double love French villages, surely some of the most beautiful examples of the village in the world? So this is going to be the first of a series of posts about my love affair with beautiful French villages.
Sarlat is a bit of an overgrown village but this pile of golden sandstone, filled with shaded cafes, rehearsing actors and elaborately coiffed French tourists is not to be missed if you’re visiting the Dordogne Valley.
Benedictine monks were the first to create a settlement here in the 9th century, choosing the site because it is so quiet in its steep-sided valley. The restricted geography has continued to limit development, to the benefit of visitors to this gem of a French village.
By the 12th century Sarlat had become prosperous, acquiring a number of relics that drew pilgrims. Developing trade and the town’s administrators built themselves fine houses, vying with each other to show off their wealth by building towers.
Now Sarlat is part of the Dordogne departement and the Perigord Noir region of France. It has shown itself to be adaptable: during the French Revolution the bishop became the first mayor of Sarlat. During the Second World War it was part of Vichy free France and members of the Resistance were active here, ambushing the German army in the Dordogne Valley.
The well-preserved architecture and the car-free centre pay testament to Sarlat’s value as a snapshot of 14th century France. The stylish cafes, antique shops and summer drama performances show its adaption to tourism and make this beautiful French village a pleasure to spend time in.
And I have to say Sarlat is the perfect place to eat fresh strawberries with pistacchio ice cream and chestnut whipped cream on a summer afternoon.
By Natasha von Geldern
Have you visited Sarlat in France? What is your favourite beautiful French village?