DIG INTO DORDOGNE
I would like to do a medieval trip in the Dordogne area of France next year. I remember seeing something about this type of tour a few years ago. Can you suggest some tour companies?
The Dordogne region of France is known for its beauty, river, ancient churches, castles, Roman ruins, food, prehistoric sites and caves, plus medieval villages such as Sarlat.
You might be interested in joining one of ASA’s groups (asatours.com.au). These tours were once geared toward Australians studying abroad, but have evolved to suit anyone who wants to learn about the history, culture and geography of a destination.
The tours feature expert lecturers who provide comprehensive talks and on-site chats about cultural traditions, plus how demography and politics created specific arts and cultures. They provide unique experiences on their tours including access to private homes, behind-thescenes visits to museums, plus festivals and theatre performances. ASA’s 16-day Cultural Landscapes of the Midi-Pyrenees and the Dordogne tour departs September next year.
Paris Provence (parisprovence .com.au) also features several styles of tours to this area. You can choose from self-drive suggestions, day tours and small-group escorted tours.
Beginning in Sarlat, there is the escorted, four-night Best Of or the six-night Dordogne Discovery to choose from. Or for something a little different, you may like to consider a walking tour of the district.
French Travel (frenchtravel .com.au) has an eight-day Dordogne Walking tour covering 110km. It starts in Bergerac – easily reached by train from Paris, with the first day hiking along the canal observing the views and landscapes of the Dordogne.
Over the following days, you will explore ancient churches and villages and everything to do with prehistory and the medieval times.
The area around Les Eyzies is a good example of this. Here, you’ll find the National Museum of Prehistory, the Grotto of Font de Gaume and other prehistoric sites. Plus, there’s the 12th-century Chateau de Commarque castle, the villages of Vitrac and Sarlat and the medieval village of La Roque Gageac, featuring the Exotic Garden and the fortress of Chateau de Beynac.
SMOOTH RAILS RUN
We are an elderly couple and want to travel by train through some parts of Europe. What are your tips to make this type of travel easier for us older tourists? DOC
I suggest pre-booking your seats whenever you can. This will allow you to travel on a service to suit your schedule and in a seat according to your budget. This is particularly important if you are heading to Europe during summer. Aim for outside peak times.
Pre-booking is also cheaper and easier for you than trying to negotiate the platform ticket machines, often in another language.
Also look at whether you would be better off with point-to-point tickets or a rail pass and whether you would prefer to be in first or second class.
A Eurail pass (eurail.com) is valid in more than 28 countries over various periods of travel and there is a great planning tool on their website to help with your itinerary.
Consider how you might manage your luggage. It’s not fun getting on and off a train with a bag so big and heavy you can barely move it. Take the lightest suitcase with wheels that you have and pack light. There may be times when you have to alight the train quickly, or negotiate stairs and other passengers, then find somewhere to stow your case.
When booking your connections, keep in mind you might need to change platforms. Allow enough time to alleviate the stress of rushing, because some stations are worth a look around in themselves. An hour between is long enough for a drink and to stretch your legs.
Considering these points before your departure will help for a pleasant experience.
MINIMISE CANCELLATION FALLOUT
I recently made a rather large deposit for a holiday 11 months down the line, which I won’t be able to make. I’ve been told “bye, bye deposit”. Is this normal? I’ve been offered other trips to the same value but nothing to my liking and I did not receive written terms and conditions until after I made booking. DOC
What a shame, however, each tour company has its own conditions pertaining to the refund of your paid deposit.
Usually though, if you are around 11 months from the departure date it should be refundable, less a small administration fee. The closer you get to your departure date, the less likely you are to be offered the return of much or any of your deposit. Each company should also display their terms and conditions on their website for referral prior to booking.
You do say you have been offered alternative trips, which is not always possible. I would perhaps consider one of them, instead of losing your money altogether. Or, maybe your deposit can be held in trust, or someone else could use it?
BIRTHDAY BASH IN BALI We are a group of adults going to Bali. We need a good driver with a car big enough for seven adults. We also need a great spot to celebrate a major birthday. We would appreciate your advice. DOC
I can recommend Agus Azhar. He has 12 years experience as a tour guide and driver in Bali and you’ll find him very accommodating of your requests. Contact him by email, email@example.com.
For a celebratory birthday to suit all ages, have a look at the following venues. Potato Head (ptthead.com), a cool beach club with nice restaurants; Sofitel Nusa Dua (sofitel.com), where you can indulge in an authentic market-style interactive meal; or book one of the circular lounge pods on the rooftop of the Double -Six, a luxury hotel in Seminyak (double-six.com). Set within a shallow free-form pool you can sit back and celebrate as you watch the sun set.
The picturesque medieval village of Brantome on the edge of the Dordogne River; and the Sofitel Nusa Dua offers marketplace dining at the resort in Bali (below).