Saturday, 9 June 2012

Here we are in Chipping Sarlat... guys are swimming... gals are sailing June 3 - 4

Yep, we are back in Chipping Sarlat - or Sarlat le Caneda as it is properly known. But it earns my sobriquet for being in Dordogneshire, the Cotswolds of France and itself being the superb equivalent of Chipping Camden. We love both places and for almost identical reasons.
Sarlat is bigger by a fair amount - very nearly a real city. It has what is called a cathedral but I am not quite convinced the French definition is similar to our own. Big church it certainly is and was home to an Abbot - Eveque in French. But for us Sarlat has some very specific beauties to proclaim.
First it is built of the local stone, an almost orange sandstone that ages to a grey-apricot. Indeed if both old and damp it gains a deep almost black brown. When I say built I mean virtually every inch of it - wherever you turn there is this apricot glow.
Second, the local architecture was and remains beautiful. It is not clever or intricate but the stonework is pure and simple, the windows deep set and crisp, the doorways of every shape and form and size, the roofs... ah the roofs. If not of amazing lauze stones they are of rich terracotta. They curve and cascade and are pierced by small mansard windows, themselves little gems.
Third, all this is crowded in. The lanes are narrow - and cool in summer. They meet at strange angles, sometimes with tiny squares, sometimes with larger ones. Many are cobbled. Most are impossible for traffic - those that are are have been largely pedestrianised.
Fourth, this is a smart town that is proud of itself. The buildings are almost entirely well-kept. The shops - too many touristy of course- are also smart and imaginative. The pavements cafes are huge in number, great in style and not too horrible in price.
Fifth, it is actually a walled town with a fair amount of wall intact. But importantly this means the central largely medieval area has its own character and, like Norwich, this is a bustling,busy and cosmopoitan affair. It also has kept out the bigger chains.
Sixth, for all that La Rue de la Republique, the 19th century main throughfare is full of top class shops both international and mostly local.
Seventh, it has a very fine covered Salle de Marche but also sports two market days each week - a medium sized affair on Wednesday and a massive, indeed one of the largest in France, on Saturdays. And if that were not enough once a month there is a Sunday Brocante Fair.
And if there is a finally it is this - it is friendly. France does not actually get my vote as friendly nation - Spain, Portugal and Italy top them in that order. But Sarlat seems to be an exception. Maybe their success in attracting vast numbers of tourists and their cash helps cheer them.
Downsides there are. Too many tourists. Too many of them Brits, too many of them in motor coach herds (no TGV yet). The traffic can be tiresome although parking if you do not mind paying is pretty easy.
We came here first 21 years ago and briefly. Last year we stayed nearby for two weeks. This year we are virtually in town for two weeks. We shall be back next year. I just wonder if we could afford the little place at the end of La Rue Brouile, the one with the tiny roof garden and the odd little corner window....

No comments:

Post a Comment