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Dordogne: Skip Sarlat and Amboise

I'm writing this from a nice place I'm staying at in the Lot. My wife, son and I were in the Dordogne from last Friday to yesterday and I have a couple of tips/observations. Unless you enjoy mingling and navigating your car through thousands of other tourists, I would definitely avoid Sarlat and Amboise; at least as far as staying there. Totally congested, extremely noisy and just plain makes you want to scramble out. At least in July. We visited the Leonardo da Vinci house/chateau in Amboise, which turned out to be well worthwhile and quite interesting, even though very crowded. According to a local cafe owner, the large tour companies in Britain and Germany have targeted Amboise to pair up in day trips to other nearby chateaux. This means more than a few mega sized buses traversing the village's very narrow streets. Not my idea of a vacation, but maybe yours is different.

Posted by
12040 posts

The catch might be "in July". I stayed in Amboise once in early May, and I didn't find it mobbed at all.

Posted by
87 posts

That's likely the key. Imagine how nice it might be in January?

Posted by
8538 posts

I've been to Amboise many times in the summer for 3-4 days each time and it was never crowded at all, in fact not many people at all. Love Amboise. Been to Sarlat once, and it was shoulder to shoulder people and scorching hot. Did not enjoy it. But I know I would if it wasn't so crowded and so hot.

Posted by
87 posts

Well Susan, Amboise sure was crowded and crazy one week ago. First time for everything.

Posted by
8538 posts

Well Ken, my point is that it isn't always crowded in July. Was not crowded the many times we've been there in July. I think it would be a shame for people to avoid Amboise in July because it happened to be crowded when you were there.

Posted by
8 posts

Ken, Thanks for your post! The only area in France we haven't seen is the the Dordogne area. If you can provide other suggestions - I would appreciate it. Did you do any canoeing there? We have rented a gite at Villereal 1st week in September.

Posted by
87 posts

You're just a lucky person, I guess, Susan. I'm certain Amboise in July is a lot less crowded at 2 am. That's when I'd go. Patti, your gite sounds like it will be great. There are tons of places all along the river that rent canoes and kayaks. If you can get a ticket in advance for Font de Gaume (I'd try booking right this minute), it is completely worth the drive to go there. It's one of the last and best caves the public is allowed to enter. There are some truly amazing paintings there. Also, get yourselves a detailed France road atlas or the separate detailed map of that region before you arrive. It will be a huge help.

Posted by
71 posts

I've not been to the Dordogne, but have been to eastern Loire. We avoided Amboise because we were looking for a more rural French experience. (I've got a trip report I keep adding to that mentions what we did). We stayed in a small hotel/gite near Contres, pretty much in the center of the triangle between the Loire and Cher rivers east of Tours. http://www.entre-vignes-et-chateaux.fr/ Great hosts (little English but you can manage), beautiful bucolic setting, very nice rooms and a great French breakfast. It was only 25 minutes to Chenonceau and even closer to Blois and the chateau in that direction. It's five minutes from the local chateau in Fougères-sur-Bièvre. I'll definitely do this again, getting out in the country close enough to a town for places to eat, but still right in the heart of rural France. I'm sure there are places like this in the Dordogne as well. I understand why RS sends people to places with more to offer since everyone is different and different people expect different things. But if you're more into really experiencing France as a native, and don't need lots of shopping and dining in walking distance, try the gites or small auberge in the smaller towns. To see pictures of the hotel, and what the Loire countryside looks like, I've got some pictures of our trip up on my Flickr page. http://www.flickr.com/photos/annarborandrew/sets/72157630271896448/

Posted by
8 posts

Thanks Ken and Andrew! We also love to get off the beaten path and find little treasures on our own. To be honest, we probably avoid some of the restaurants and gites/B & B's recommended in RS travel books only because they are saturated with Americans or just not what we like. We have never been disappointed by our adventurous spirits! (:
I appreciate your suggestions and not criticisms that "I posted on the incorrect site on the graffiti board"! Who really cares???? I was just looking for other travelers experiences in this region - thanks! - Patti

Posted by
7 posts

... many places, like Sarlat and Amboise, are delightful 9 to 10 months of the year.