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Sarlat – sleeping beauty of Dordogne In the mid 1800’s Sarlat pretty much went to sleep due to the lack of good roads to the town. People moved away, houses were left empty, Sarlat became run down and was on its way to falling into ruin. In fact it wasn’t until the second half of the 20th century that people began to realise just how special Sarlat is. In 1958 the then Minister of Culture, Andre Malraux, who had lived in Sarlat for a while, pushed through a law for the protection and restoration of old buildings and old areas of towns. The law mentioned Sarlat as an example and soon after, work began to restore the once neglected streets and buildings to their former glory. Sarlat has never looked back and is now one of the jewels of Dordogne. If the weather is good take the glass lift to the top of what was the tower of the church of Ste-Marie. You’ll be rewarded with outstanding views over the rooftops of Sarlat. The deconsecrated building, which was started in 1367, was turned into an arms store after the French Revolution and since then has been a series of shops and was even used by the post office. Now redesigned by famous French architect Jean Nouvel, it makes for a fantastic covered market. The Saturday morning market is simply outstanding. A muddle of medieval streets impress, and in rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau you’ll spot the 17th century Chapelle des Penitents Blanc where the poor people of Sarlat once worshipped. Book a one hour guided tour (in English) at the tourist office which is in a 16th century former mansion in Place de la Liberté. It’s an excellent way to discover more about the secrets and sites of Sarlat.
One of the best times to see Sarlat is as the sun is setting when the buildings seem to glow, but even when its raining it’s still incredibly beautiful. Don’t miss The Place du Marché des Oies, where a goose market was once held and now home to three life size bronze geese – the perfect selfie spot. The square is surrounded by superb old houses and shops. Just around the corner in in rue des Consuls is a gorgeous 14th century house, Hotel Plamon which once belonged to cloth merchants. Sarlat for gastronomes The Saturday market spreads through the cobbled streets. Stalls piled with local, seasonal produce – walnuts, garlic, cheeses and charcuterie, fruit and veg and artisan made bread, it really is irresistible. A daily market is held in the former church of Ste- Marie where St Bernard once preached and where the doors are big enough for a giant to pass through. A night market takes place throughout the year on Thursdays. Specialist markets for truffles and foie gras are held. And if you’re thinking that’s a lot of markets – well that’s because this place is a food lovers destination extraordinaire. The squares and tiny streets are lined with gourmet food shops selling all manner of deliciousness. Restaurants galore tempt on every corner.
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