Friday, 12 February 2016

Starting a new life in the Dordogne.........or why a February stay isn't always a bad thing!

It's our 9th February living here at Le Jardin des Amis, and probably the wettest! When we first moved here, the lovely French lady who had the task of trying to teach me her language, told me that she hated February and that once the month was over everything cheered up. I was forwarned, but in fact that year, and many since then, have not given us the grey weather that can leave many Northern Europeans (especially SAD's sufferers) feeling very gloomy.

Marqueyssac chateau & gardens

Do not, for a moment, think that this means hot & sunny winter weather because despite looking far south on the map we still have proper winters here and in fact February 2012 was characterised by it's lovely blue skies - and snow! Would anyone want to come on holiday in February? It would be wrong to say that we have a great influx of guests but for the last two years, we have had visiting 'house-hunters' taking advantage of the strength of the pound against the Euro.

It is said that if you're going to buy a new house, try to view it in less than perfect conditions....and that's exactly what our guests have done. For those people who have only visited the Dordogne in July or August, the low season can be either a revelation or a shock. The roads are nearly empty, and it can seem that everywhere is shut up! Investigate a little more and you will find that whilst some business do close for winter, with a little knowledge it is still possible to find plenty of places open to visitors and restaurants happy to welcome diners.
       Above & right: Sarlat on a February market day

 The great thing about this time of year is that for those who dislike crowds, virtually everywhere can be visited in relative peace: climb up the winding cobbled street to Beynac castle and not only will you be rewarded with wonderful views but you won't have to squeeze into line to look at them!  Instead of queuing for tickets for many of the amazing caves of the area, walk straight in and enjoy! In fact our current guests went to see the renowned prehistoric paintings in the 'Font de Gaume' cave, just up the road in Les Eyzies and were on a tour with just 4 other people: something of a contrast with the crack of dawn queueing system required in peak season.

Below: The imposing Chateau de Beynac

 There are downsides of course - you will need to pack some warm clothes and (this year at least) an umberella, but there is so much fascinating history and beautiful scenery you won't be disappointed!

 School holidays in France work on a 'zone' system, meaning that different areas of France have time off on different dates, with half - term spread out from early February - early March.This is mainly aimed at helping the ski resorts to cater for more guests. In practice, for areas like the Dordogne, it means that many attractions open for the start of the holiday but have a gentle increase in numbers rather than a huge rush.
The Dordogne river

Coming back to house hunting - this need not be just a pipe dream. For those thinking of moving to the beautiful Dordogne and living the French life, a quick scan of the 'Maison a Vendre' (houses for sale) websites reveals that there is something to suit everyone from the 49,000€ 'needs some work' end of the scale up to chateaux in the 2,000,000€+ category! What are you waiting for?

 Did we follow the recommendation to visit the area in different seasons - I'm afraid not. In our case the appeal of a new and totally different life made us throw caution to the wind and we visited the Dordogne just once before coming to live here! when we visited Le Jardin des Amis on a beautiful sunny Sunday in May. The sky was blue, the lunchtime wine was red and the roses were blooming: what was there to say no to? Fortunately we've never regretted it!

If you'd like to come and stay in spring, we are flexible on arrival and departure days, to fit in with reduced flight availability - just email us with your requirements.