DIG INTO DOR­DOGNE

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - ASK THE EXPERT | DOC HOLIDAY - KIM CULYER

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?

DOC

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, agusazhar@hot­mail.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.

PIC­TURES: ISTOCK, SUP­PLIED

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).

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