Five Reasons to Visit Dordogne France

There are hundreds of reasons to visit Dordogne France, but five that top our list.

Known by its older name, Perigord, Dordogne is France’s third largest region located in southwestern France about a 5 hour drive south of Paris between Lyon and Bordeaux. The Perigord region is full of medieval towns, gorgeous châteaux, prehistoric caves, elite gardens, awesome food and all in and around the spectacular countryside. So don’t delay, visit Dordogne France this year!

There are four major towns are Périgueux, Bergerac, and Sarlat, but don’t stop at visiting those towns and experiencing all that the Dordogne has to offer. When you visit Dordogne France, you’ll pass by many honey-colored stone houses and rich green meadows. Along the way you’ll be reminded why the Dordogne, the rural south-west of France is so loved by residents and tourists.

Here are five reasons to visit Dordogne, France.

  1. Le Châteaux – The Dordogne region has around 1000 castles and exquisite châteaux. Some of the most visited châteaux include the 15th century Chateau des Milandes which was restored by the legendary jazz and singer and actress Josephine Baker.

    Châteaux des Milandes in Dordogne, France.
    Châteaux des Milandes in Dordogne, France. Photo by Manfred Heyde.

    Also, worth a visit is the fortified 12th century Châteaux de Beynac. Set 200 meters high on a cliff that juts out onto the Dordogne River, it was temporarily occupied by Richard Lion Heart. The history alone is a reason to visit as well as the fantastic views of the countryside.

  2. Gorgeous Gardens – When you visit Dordogne France, you’ll see it has its share of châteaux as well as astonishing gardens to match.
    The most famous being Les Jardins de Marqueyssac with numerous perfectly manicured boxed hedges. The gardens overlook the chalky cliffs of the Dordogne offering an amazing panoramic view of Perigord.  Even more amazing than a day trip to the gardens is visiting the magically illuminated gardens during the summer evenings.

    The Gardens of Marqueyssac, Dordogne, France
    The Gardens of Marqueyssac, Dordogne, France. Photo by Lemoussu
  3. Quintessentially French towns – There are three major towns in Dordogne, Bergerac in the south-west, Perigueux further north, and Sarlat in the south-east, but don’t stop at those three. One never tires of visiting any of the towns especially those classified as ‘les Plux Beaux Detours‘ in France, so just look for the label Most beautiful detour in France and you’re on the right track. One city on the detour is Brantôme, also known as the known as the Venice of the Dordogne. A stop at the Benedictine Abbey on the river’s edge and the old stone bridge are well worth the visit. Each village has its own charm so make time to thoroughly enjoy as many as possible.

    Abbey of Brantôme and its bell tower, Dordogne, France
    Abbey of Brantôme, Dordogne, France, Photo by Monster1000
  4. Brilliant Caves – France is peppered with hundreds of caves full of prehistoric art and extraordinary rock formations hidden deep beneath a sea of caverns. At Grotte de Rouffignac, the electric train descends you to complete darkness where you’ll see nearly 100 line drawings and engravings of mammoths, horses, and bison as well as the ‘Great Ceiling’ decorated with 65 animal figures.When visiting Gouffre de Padirac you’ll see nature’s beauty in an underground gorge. After the 99 meter descent (elevator or stairs), you take to a gondola ride to enjoy the beauty of the limestone caves.

    Photo by cave painter
    Photo by cave painter
  5. A Gourmand Experience – I had to save the best for last as without a doubt, Dordogne is a foodie region. It’s the food and wine which draw many people to Dordogne. After all, the region is France’s capital of foie gras, duck, and truffle. Vegetarians, don’t fret, the daily markets in the towns and villages are full of seasonal produce such as walnuts, strawberries, mushrooms, goat cheese (cabécou), and French breads of course.And what better way to enjoy Dordogne’s bounty than with one of the region’s Bergerac wines. The region is one of the few in France that produce nearly as many white wines as red (around 48% versus 52%). The area contains 13 Appellations Contrôlées where Bergerac red wine, Côtes de Bergerac red wine, Bergerac dry white wine, Bergerac rosé wine and Côtes de Bergerac sweet white wines, are grown in the Bergerac vineyards.

    Bergerac white wine, Dordogne, France
    Photo by JPS68

Need another reason to visit Dordogne France? Stay-tuned as we update you on more great things to see and do in Dordogne France.

Frankfurt Street Food Festival

It’s summer, I’m hot, and this foodie is ready to ride up to the Frankfurt Street Food Festival.

Germany’s food truck scene was virtually non-existent until a short time ago. Basically all I could find was a brat and bun truck, a French crepe and Nutella truck, or the occasional vendor selling roasted chestnuts during the holidays. Jeez, what the truck!

I’m not sure why, but food trucks hadn’t quite hit the Germany scene except in large progressive cities like Berlin. The rest of the country’s food truck scene was basically sitting on the Autobahn in a Stau–it just wasn’t moving like in other countries like the U.S. and Thailand.

This weekend it’s a different story in Frankfurt, Germany the multi-cultural economic capital of Europe. The engines are revved up in Frankfurt as over 30 vendors will be rolling out their favorite foods as the city celebrates the first Frankfurt Street Food Festival.

Bun Bang Fai Rocket Festival
Street food market during the Yasothon Rocket Festival. Wiki photo by Takeaway.

Head to the Hauptwache, the baroque building that was a former guard-house and the Zell or just follow your nose. The food trucks are lined up, have their coals burning, and are ready to tantalize your taste buds with some mind-blowing unique foods.

To capture the real essence of street food you have to go beyond the norm and offer the people something different and you’ll find it at the Frankfurt Street Food Festival.

Considering this is Frankfurt’s first street food festival, there’s quite a good assortment of trucks offering some savory mouth-watering treats. Black Calamari sandwiches, 24-hour cider marinated beef steak, Surf & Turf burger to name a few. Fancy an Arepa? Maria Maria Arepas makes delicious gluten-free flat bread pocket is filled with naturally raised meat or veggies.

For a global array of food and beverages from artisans head to the Frankfurt Street Food Festival. It runs Friday, July 31 (12:00 – 22:00), Saturday, August 1 (12:00 – 22:00), and Sunday, August 2 (9:00 – 20:00).

Bon appétit my foodie friends!

Let Them Eat Gateau au Chocolat

In an embarrassing moment of weakness, I pressed my nose against the display window in awe of the puffy, flaky, chocolaty, fruity-filled delights. Each individual petite grandiose calorie-laden perfection of sweet goodness had me awe-struck. The goods were delicately placed in a box and ribbon-wrapped awaiting to tantalize some lucky dinner guest. Suddenly I found myself saying “Qu’ils mangent de la Gâteau au Chocolat.”

Delightful French pastries
Delightful French pastries in Alsatian pâtisserie

Let them eat cake” is the traditional translation of the French phrase “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche“, supposedly spoken by Marie Antoinette when she learned that the peasants had no bread. The history of cake dates back to ancient times and the first cakes were very different from today, they were more like bread or what we know today as Kugelhopf (a yeasty cake).

During those days, cake or Brioche as it was called, was sweetened with honey, nuts and dried fruits were often added. For those times those ingredients were scarce and very expensive which meant making brioche was even more out of the reach for peasants than bread. Thank goodness those days are gone and we can rejoice knowing that with a few simple ingredients, we can make Gateau au Chocolat.

Kugelhopf, a Raisin-filled yeast bread popular in the Alsace region of France.
Kugelhopf, a raisin-filled yeast bread popular in the Alsace region of France.

Ever since vacationing in and around the Alsace region of France, I have a new appreciation for the chocolaty gooey goodness. While walking around French towns and villages, one can’t help but gaze into the windows of a pâtisserie, confectioners or chocolatiers. The lovely little goodies are calling me in, so I hear the request and follow. Before you know it, I’m walking out of the shop with an array of hand-crafted drool-worthy French pastries. Lavish indeed, but so worth it.

I wonder how many years of intense training I’d need to partially master baking and decorating those sweet squares of perfection let alone a Gateau au Chocolat. Probably a lifetime, but au contraire (the opposite). There is something magical about what a little gourmet chocolate, French butter, and a few eggs can do.

I could attempt to make the treats myself, but then I’d have no reason to travel to Alsace. Therefore, I’ll let the experts carry on baking more ultimate French pastries.

French Gateau au Chocolat
French Gateau au Chocolat from Alsatian pâtisserie

A molten cake oozing with warm chocolate.  A rich Gateau au Chocolat that melts in your mouth. A chocolate layer cake smothered with icing. I have no shame. I’m going to spend the holidays baking, buying, and eating rich deserts.

I don’t feel guilty indulging in a slice or two of chocolate heaven, because, if chocolate comes from cocoa beans, and all beans are a vegetable, then eating Gateau au Chocolat is like eating a salad 🙂

National Pralines Day

June 24th is another sweet foodie holiday because it’s National Pralines Day. Some call them prah-leen, others pray-leen. I think we can all agree to call them delicious.

I was never really a sweets a sweets fan, but when I first moved to New Orleans my mother introduced me to pralines and after one taste I was immediately converted. Every Sunday after mass, we’d drive to the city center to enjoy brunch, watch the people, or take a walk in the French Quarter in search of something new and exciting.

New Orleans Pralines, National Pralines Day
Pralines Source Wiki, photo by Katescm

Of course there are numerous antique shops, bars, and souvenir shops in the Quarter along with plentiful street entertainment, but my all-time favorite activity was to visit any shop that sold pralines. The caramel buttery mixture wrapped around Louisiana pecans is extraordinary.

I’m used to the Creole-style recipe which became known to Louisianans when southern gentlemen made their way home from Paris with sweet pralines as gifts for the plantation head cook.

The ingenious plantation cooks replicated the recipe but substituted the single almond which were used in the French praline recipe with several pecans, and added a touch of cream to the butter-sugar mixture to blend the flavors. So for me, a true praline is a pecan praline and it had better be from New Orleans!

Pralines gave freed black women entrepreneurial opportunities

Near the mid-1800s hardly anyone especially women had an opportunity to make money, let alone sellers les gens de couleur libres (free people of color) in New Orleans. Some entrepreneurial-minded black women of the area became successful selling the sweet treats on the streets. The street vendors or Pralinieres as they were called took advantage of the unique opportunity to support their families by selling Creole pralines.

At that time New Orleans was a thriving port city and many people from all over the world came to New Orleans to venture to the rest of the United States. The visitors took along with them the sights and sounds of New Orleans including the sweet pralines sold by Pralinieres who unknowingly made them world-famous which may have contributed to National Pralines Day.

Authentic New Orleans pralines

A true New Orleans praline is poured by hand from a copper kettle. It should not only contain pecans but have a balance of caramelized sugar, milk fat, a hint of vanilla, and a tender crunch. Most importantly, the pecans need be well-toasted to obtain the maximum flavor and crunch to the candy.

There are plenty of praline recipes on the internet if you’d like to try making them at home. Since I live in Germany, pecans are outrageously expensive and my frozen Louisiana stash of them has run out. That means I’ll have to live vicariously through you as you tenderly bite into the caramel sweetness.

So today, on National Pralines Day, take a break and enjoy an authentic New Orleans praline or any for that matter.

National Onion Ring Day & Vidalia Onions

It’s hard for me to talk about this without crying, because I missed celebrating  National Onion Ring Day on June 22, I guess the Supermoon threw my timing off. Anyway, the day devoted to one of my favorite oniony treats has me thinking about Vidalia onions and Vidalia, Georgia.

Vidalia onions
Onion Rings, Source: Wiki, photo by Jonathunder

Onion rings are one of my favorite fast foods. Who doesn’t like a basket full of battered sliced onions which have been deep-fried, or baked if you’re watching caloric intake. Dip the rings in spicy ketchup or a spicy chipotle sauce and whoa, it’s pure deliciousness.

Looking back on my time in Atlanta, I’m reminded of my introduction to Vidalia onions—the best darn onions in the world if you ask me. My very Southern colleague Don, who frequently visited Vidalia, Georgia told me in his most Southern dialect that Vidalia onions were so sweet you could take a bite right out of them and not even cry. I never believed him until one day I dared myself to try and much to my surprise, he was right.

Whew, dem suckers sure is sweet! Shoot, had me doing a jig and searching for Vidalia onions all over the ‘Lanta.

Onion city

If you want to experience all a Vidalia has to offer, head to the city with the same name. Just 180 miles (200 km) south of Atlanta, you’ll run into Vidalia, Georgia where the onion was first grown in the early 1930s. Now we’re talking small town living for you big city folks, cuz there ain’t but 34,000 folks living there. Shoot, that number increase in the spring when nearly 9,000 visitors visit the city for the Vidalia Onion Festival.

Vidalia Onion
Vidalia Onions. Source Wiki, photo by Ryan Griffis

The five-day event brings in thousands of tourists and hosts a wide variety of activities such as parades, music, baseball tournaments, chef competitions, and of course the Miss Vidalia Onion pageant.

Oh my, when I think about my years in the south, my grammar goes out the window and spell check ain’t gonna be happy.

Short season, high demand

Vidalia onions are a winter crop which bulb only during relatively short days. This is why Vidalia’s are a seasonal treat only available in the spring and summer months. The sweet taste of a Vidalia comes from the low sulfur soils that keep the bulbs from developing a pungent taste.

The onions are so special that they have a coop of growers and under the terms of Federal Marketing Order No. 955, as well as a state law can only be called Vidalia if they are produced in one of the 13 counties and portions of seven others in Georgia.

They’re perfect to eat raw or cooked in your favorite dish containing onions and using apple technology, Vidalia onions can be put in a controlled atmosphere for up to seven months.

Why do onions make us cry?

Regular onions contain sulfur compounds which are responsible for the tears you when slicing them for your favorite savory dishes.

When slicing regular onions, the cells release enzymes that break down the sulfur compounds and generate sulfenic acids that turn into a gas called sulfuric acid and circulates through the air to your eyes. With the low sulphur soils in Vidalia, Georgia, you’ll find that Vidalia onions cause fewer tears! Hallelujah and Amen to that!

So if you wanna make the best darn onion rings on National Onion Ring Day or any day, I’d recommend Vidalia onions, but they will cost you a pretty penny. Don’t be surprised to pay over $20.00 for a 10-pound bag of the sweet oniony sensation.

Yep, the price of Vidalia onions is enough to make you cry, but so worth it.