In my early twenties I was offered a job by a French gentleman who had a property in the south west of France in the Dordogne. I was to look after his horses for him during the whole of the summer and I remember being very excited at the prospect. I had been brought up around horses and had spent my childhood growing up in the south of France, so when I arrived in the Dordogne I was suitably impressed by the lush countryside, the woodlands and forests that are found in the region which was so very different to what I had been used to.
The main house was gorgeous and the views over the valley were spectacular. They had discovered troglodyte caves around the property and a battle had been fought between the French and the English during the 100 year war right in front of the house. There were priest holes in the house itself. In short the place was steeped in history, it was marvelous.
I spent the whole summer exploring this lush region and even learned how to speak their dialect of Patois. I fell in love with the closest town where I was sent to do the shopping by my employer. The town is called Brantôme and what a beautiful place it is. The river that runs through this little rural French treasure is called La Dronne and the magnificent Abbey of Brantôme stands magnificently overlooking it. Shopping trips were a real joy for me and I loved the little ‘magasin’ in the village that seemed to sell everything one would ever need in a kitchen as well as the delightful café where I would have my ‘grand crème’ in which I would dunk my pain au chocolat before doing ‘les courses’.
To celebrate my arrival at his beautiful house, my employer had taken me for lunch to the Hotel Restaurant Charbonnel. This was my first real taste of the flavors of the Dordogne. This cuisine was so different from the one I had been used to with creamy, buttery sauces and desserts to die for. From that moment onward I was hooked on ‘la cuisine de Périgord’.
Brantôme is another wonderful small rural French town that time seems to have forgotten. Nothing is spoilt here and you get the feeling of stepping back in time to another era when things that we find so important today actually take second place to a wonderful traditional way of life. Of course, the modern world does encroach on these little French treasures, but somehow they have made less of an impression on them.
For me there is no good time and no bad time to visit this delightful town. The summer months are of course splendid, but then so is the wintertime. I spent many happy weeks discovering the area and found so much of interest that over the years I try to go back to Brantôme as often as I can and for me it remains the same little treasure as it was back when I was there in my twenties.
- Region: Aquitaine
- Department: Dordogne
- District: Périgueux
- Land area: 34.65 km2
- Population: 2 159
- What to see: Brantome Abbey, Desmoulin Museum, Le Pont Coude, Regional Market (Fridays)
- People: Pierre de Bourdeille (~ 1540-1614), Lord of Brantome, historian, soldier and biographer.