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An American retires (early, please note) from her job as a newspaper editor in Nevada, and shares her (often) humorous perspective on discovering the delights of southwest France and beyond. More Info

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Lot of Livin’

Lidoire valley villages

February 17, 2017

One recent sunny afternoon, we drive a short distance to explore some towns we’ve never heard of. The Lidoire is a tributary of the Dordogne river. The most famous city on its banks is Castillon-la-Bataille where the final battle of the Hundred Years’ War took place. Our destination is about 15 km north of Castillon, where we find the villages of Villefrance-de-Lonchat, Montpeyroux, and Saint-Méard-du-Gurçon.

View from the village of Villefranche-de-Lonchat

The canton of Villefranche-de-Lonchat has not been discovered by tourists and is even relatively unknown to many Périgourdins, according to the pays-de-Bergerac tourism website. Located in the Dordogne (24) and bordering the Gironde (33), the canton is 38 km northwest of Bergerac and 25 km northeast of Saint Emilion. The town itself is set high on a ridge between the Isle and Dordogne rivers. 

Chapelle Sainte-Anne in Villefranche-de-Lonchat was built in the 14th century.

This area was devastated during the Hundred Years’ War and the Wars of Religion, and most signs of the original village are long gone. We park in the main square in front of the mairie that houses a museum, which unfortunately is closed on the day of our visit. (To arrange a visit to the museum, call 05.53.80.77.25.) A Gothic church from the 14th century, Chapelle Sainte-Anne, also is impressive.

This ‘Second Empire’ mansion in Villefranche-de-Lonchat contains the mairie and a small local history museum.

Our stroll through Villefranche-de-Lonchat takes us pass a plaza that appears to have recently been redesigned with convenient parking. The war memorial here is particularly attractive.

Statue atop the war memorial in Villefranche-de-Lonchat

 

View from what remains of the city walls in Villefranche-de-Lonchat

From the edge of Villefranche-de-Lonchat one can see la Tour de Michel de Montaigne 10 km away. I wrote about a visit to this home of the great French philosopher several years ago, and you can find it here. Montaigne’s younger brother, Bertrand, made his home in Montpeyroux — our next stop.

This château in Montpeyroux originally belonged to Bertrand, the brother of Michel de Montaigne.

 

Château de Montpeyroux

Bertrand’s château is privately owned, but we are able to admire it from the outside. After taking a few photographs, we turn our attention to the graveyard of the 12th-century church across the road. The graves here are surrounded by lawn, unlike many cimetières here in France. Also unusual are the iron crosses that mark many of the graves.

Montpeyroux’s church was built in the 12th century.

 

Iron crosses mark graves in the cemetery in Montpeyroux.

 

Iron crosses mark graves in the cemetery in Montpeyroux.

 

A solitary gravestone in Montpeyroux overlooks the valley.

Another notable building in Montpeyroux is la grange dîmière, built in 1306 to store the portion of the local farmers’ harvest that was tithed to the bishops of Bordeaux — a practice that was eliminated after the French Revolution.

La grange dîmière in Montpeyroux

 

Our last stop before heading home is the tiny village of Saint-Méard-du-Gurçon. The two stand-out attractions here are a wooden covered-market and a Gothic church with a square-shaped belfry and intricate carvings over the door. We also spy a pretty lavoir — an ancient communal wash house — a site that reminds me how much I appreciate my laundry room at home.

 

A wooden covered market stands beside a Gothic church in Saint-Méard-du-Gurçon.

 

The portal of the church in Saint-Méard-du-Gurçon is adorned with intricate carvings.

 

Saint-Méard-du-Gurçon’s lavoir

 

 

by Mimi Beck Knudsen. Find out more about Mimi Beck Knudsen here.