The Dordogne Part II

For those of you that are my readers, you know that two years ago, we traveled to the Dordogne region. Now this overall region has three parts, well actually 4 separate regions, the black, white, green and purple. The first trip was to explore the Noir or Black region. We used Sarlat la Caneda as a base, and spent 4 days exploring several villages, ancient forts and historic sites along the Dordogne River. It was a wonder full trip, that also included a day long trip to the Lascaux Ancient cave paintings. Overall a wonderful trip.

So for a variety of reasons, the Corona Virus being #1 the other regions had not been explored. When it finally became possible to travel small regions, I did a one day trip to the White Region to become acquainted with the area. For future travel plans, we will most likely use the same base city of Perigueux, the regional capital and incluse several areas of the Green region. The Green region holds several wonderful villages and sites than can easily be reached from Perigueux.

Perigueux is the capital of the region and is much larger than Sarlat. It is actually composed of two separate areas that have grown into one large town, population over 80,000. The town offers a variety of different quality hotels for a stay. I chose the Periqueux Mercure Center and was very happy with my choice. The rooms are larger than the average, extremely clean and well appointed. I really enjoyed the morning breakfast and the care taken by the staff. There is a very extensive buffet, quite common in better hotels, but this time it was different. Due to the Corona virus, the area is roped off. After chasing your table, you stand at the appointed area, and a masked staff person basically takes your order. You tell them what you want to eat, the amount etc. Then they prepare your dish and deliver to your table. One of the best systems I have seen on how to make hotel dining safe.

Perigueux dates back to the pre Roman times, with traces of prehistoric sites found in various areas in the lower part of town, with easy access to the river. It is in this area one finds several Roman buildings, and the very impressive Vesunna Gallo Roman site. Vesunna is the site of a large private Roman villa. It is believe that Ceasar visited this area on his many military conquests. Today, there is a large modern glass walled building basically serving as an umbrella over the museum. Discovered next to the Vesunna temple and tower in 1959 when excavation began. The museum finally opened in 2003. Extreme care was taken to preserve the site, and all the artifacts the area yield.

The Tower of Vesunna, all that is left from this temple. Once covered in Marble.
Exterior of the Vesunna museum site.
The complete exterior walls and center garden area of the villa. Very impressive. Lots of interactive video available.
Just one example of the artifacts on display.
During the French Revolution and shortly after, parts of the Tower of Vesunna was taken down to build new buildings. Luckily, the people were stopped from doing this.

The upper part of the city has become the more important part. As time passed, it was this area higher on the hill that was chosen for the city center, large battlements were built around the city for protection. During the late 19th early 20th century, many of these walls were torn down to allow the city to become more accessible. Streets were straighten and widen to create the city one sees today. Underground parking garages were built with parks on the street level.

As one leaves the Musee Vesunna and walks toward the remains of the old Arena, the first site is the Chateau Barriere. Or at least the remains. Once owned by a very powerful family, it was attacked and destroyed during the Religious Wars between the Catholics and the Protestants. Close by is a section of the old city fortification ( lower level ) that remain today and have been modernized to hold apartments and office space.

Chateaux Barriere, surprisingly the building next door was owned by a family sympathetic to the invaders and is still in use today.
Section of the fortifications that stands today in great shape and used for homes and offices.

A section of the battlements that remains overlooking the lower city. This is around the Cathedral St. Font.
View from my room looking at the bell tower of the Cathedral. The park in front of my hotel is built over an underground parking lot, that holds several hundred cars.

The Cathedral Saint-Font is Byzantine inspired and vary rare use of this architecture in France. It is topped with 5 Domes. Construction began in the 11th Century and today still is an important stop for people walking to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. It became a Unesco Site in 20th Century. Almost in ruins, it was restored in the late 1800’s and was renovated by Paul Abadie who designed the Sacre Coeur in Paris. The bell tower hold some of the most famous bells in all of Europe, 7 peals and 10 fixed.

While the city was “renovated” late 1800 early 1900’s there is still plenty of history to be found. The officials were aware enough to maintain some of the historic sites, so in addition to what I have shown you, in one spot along the battlements, they preserved a tower the “tour Mataguerre. It is the last segment of the medieval walls remaining. At one time there were 28 of these towers and 12 main guarded doors. I feel it important to see these sites when visiting.

Tour Mataguerre
From a different angle, notice the cross shaped slot that allowed archers to have an safe place to launch their arrows.

In addition to all the history, the town hosts several open markets during the week. I stumbled upon this one in front of the cathedral. In the place de la Clautre. It is the site of the former executions square. Offers a great view over the town.

I was a bit late, they were already packing up for the day. Most markets like this open early and close shortly after noon time.

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