In the first of our new ‘diary’ series, Karen Tait hears from a couple who are looking for a holiday home in Dordogne
A four-day househunting trip in Dordogne with a €150,000 budget
DAY ONE: FRIDAY
We land at Limoges late morning – we’ve visited Dordogne many times and have flown into Bordeaux, Bergerac and Brives, but decide Limoges is best this time as it’s fairly close to Périgueux where we’re staying, and also closer to the northern Dordogne or Périgord Vert, where we are loosely focusing our search. We pick up our hire car and head off on our househunting adventure.
On the way to Périgueux, we stop off to stretch our legs with a brisk walk in the beautiful Parc Naturel Régional Périgord Limousin. We’d love to stay longer as it’s one of our favourite places in the area, perfect for enjoying nature on foot or by bike, but we need to push on to Périgueux. The town is ideal for exploring Dordogne as it’s quite central and is really stunning, with its winding old streets, hilltop cathedral, and attractive medieval and Renaissance buildings. Although it’s the ‘capital’ city, or préfecture, of Dordogne, it feels more like a relaxed town than a hub of activity. That said, there’s always plenty to do and so many restaurants and bars to choose from.
As a treat, we have dinner at La Ferme St-louis, set on a picturesque square. The restaurant sources products exclusively from the Nouvelle-aquitaine region, and has a lovely cosy atmosphere with exposed stone walls, low ceilings and a large fireplace. We wolf down veal in a chicory sauce, and sea bass from Arcachon bay, followed by a chocolate fondant with rum raisin centre. It isn’t long before we are sleeping soundly in our hotel beds!
DAY TWO: SATURDAY
We wake up full of excitement and anticipation for the next few days. We’ve visited Dordogne so many times and always try to include our favourite places and outings. A visit to Sarlat’s Saturday market is a must but it’s over an hour’s drive, so we head out after an early breakfast (croissants, of course!).
Markets are one of the things we love most about France, browsing all the colourful stalls, packed with local specialities like truffles, duck or goose confit, foie gras and the freshest of vegetables. Today we visit different stalls to put together a picnic for this evening as we’re not sure what time we’ll be back.
We could spend days wandering the pretty streets of Sarlat – it has more listed buildings per square metre than anywhere else in Europe, especially around the Place de la Liberté – but we have plans for the afternoon. Although we’ve visited the famous prehistoric caves of Lascaux before, we’re keen to see Lascaux 4, the new interactive centre. The original cave drawings aren’t open to the public but the replica really takes our breath away. We also want to try out a restaurant friends had recommended, Le 4 in Montignac. We have a delicious lunch in charming surroundings (the restaurant is in a converted barn) – truffle and egg omelette with toasted polenta (Eileen), and poached quail (John), followed by a sweet tarte aux pommes.
It’s late when we get back to our hotel in Périgueux and we’re glad we bought some bits and pieces at the market although we’re still quite full from lunch. An early night beckons in readiness for our property viewings tomorrow.
DAY THREE: SUNDAY
Today is all about the properties so we set off early. It can be hard to arrange Sunday viewings in France but we struck lucky with all four properties today. Our first viewing is about 30km north of Périgueux. Priced at €140,000, so under budget, and on the edge of a village with shops and restaurants, near Villars, the two-bedroom, one-bathroom barn conversion has been beautifully converted. We surprise ourselves by loving the open-plan living area, which is quite a change from our previous homes. Upstairs feels really light and airy too, with high ceilings and beams. We’re also taken with the 1,437m2 garden with its country views and pristine lawns – would we be able to keep it that way if we’re not living there full time though? The outbuildings, which include a garage and workshop, are an extra bonus.
Having taken lots of notes and photos, so we don’t forget anything and can compare properties later on, we head off to property number two, less than 20km away, in the St-saud-laccoussière area within the Périgord-Limousin regional park. We’re really attracted to the outside of this pretty renovated fermette, bang on budget at €150,000. It comes with a barn, which could become further accommodation should we decide to move over full-time, and the 800m2 garden. There are three bedrooms, two bathrooms (an extra bathroom would come in handy for visitors), a living room, kitchen and utility room. We love the character of this property, with its fireplace, exposed beams and stone walls. 2
The third viewing is 15km to the west, on the outskirts of the village of La Coquille. It’s a 1950s-build, two-bedroom property with a large basement opening onto an enclosed garden with mature trees and shrubs. There’s a workshop and a gated driveway with parking for several cars, good for visitors. The house could do with decorating to our own tastes, but it’s a spacious home and the price is below budget at €130,000. A plus point is that it’s only 45 minutes from Limoges airport.
For the fourth and final property we turn back on ourselves and head east for 58km to La Rochebeaucourt on the edge of the park. We’ve read advice in FPN not to pack in too many property viewings and four in a day is certainly enough for us. It’s easy to underestimate distances in France and how long it can take to travel along winding country lanes, especially as Dordogne is one of the largest départements. Our four properties have all been within the north of Dordogne, I don’t think we could have managed four viewings spread across the département.
This last property doesn’t exactly fit our requirements as it only has one bedroom on a mezzanine floor but it’s already divided into two sleeping areas, it’s under budget at €141,700 and we really loved the look of the photos, so we decided it was worth viewing. In the flesh, so to speak, it certainly didn’t disappoint. It has all the character we love in French houses – creamy stone walls, a kitchen with an awesome stone fireplace, a cosy living area and manageable outside space. It is a ‘ coup de coeur’ but we’re just not sure if it’s big enough.
DAY FOUR: MONDAY
We leave after breakfast for our midday flight from Limoges. After our whirlwind trip, we really don’t want to go home, but we’re also excited about all the properties we’ve seen and can’t wait to show the piccies to our family, who will help us to decide which one is best. We have a favourite but we’re not saying anything yet!
It’s wise not to pack in too many property viewings in one day, and four is certainly enough for us
Sunset over the Dordogne valley
1 €140,000: Two-bedroom barn conversion near Villars (allez-francais.com)
€150,000: This renovated ‘fermette’ in the St-saud area is full of character features (immobilier- dordogne.com)
Périgueux is on the River Isle
Above (top to bottom): Sunset over the Dordogne valley from Domme; Jambon de sanglier (wild boar) for sale at Sarlat market, perfect for a picnic; The cave painting reproduction at Lascaux 4 opened in 2016; Le 4 restaurant in Montignac, near the...
3 €130,000: This 1950s house has plenty of space and is within an hour of Limoges airport (beauxvillages.com)