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Jul 6, 2013 02:25 PM

France Trip - Le Mans, Brittany, Loire Valley, etc.

Friends and I will be travelling in France for a few weeks (we have cars). We will be based in Le Mans for a couple of weeks, taking trips to Mont St. Michel (overnight), Pont Aven (overnight), Vannes (overnight), the Sarlat area (Loire Valley) for several nights, and in a little village southwest of Toulouse that you've never heard of. Any and all restaurant, farmer's market, or sight-seeing suggestions in any of those regions would be appreciated. Trip will be mid-July to mid-August.

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  1. Well, sounds a nice trip.

    You won't, however, find Sarlat in the Loire. Its considerably further South in the Dordogne. Great if overly crowded market.

    Try me on the village, you just never know. Also, if you mention where its near, Tarbes for instance

    Since you mention mid July to mid August I assume that this trip is eminent. Beware of traffic & crowded restaurants as that's peak vacation time in France. Things may be difficult.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Yank

      May be difficult? *chortle* -- that's an understatement!

      Go to the Sarlat market for the foie gras and for the photo opportunities -- but buy your produce elsewhere -- they've dumbed down the offerings significantly over the years, and I was digusted by the overpriced, overripe produce on offer in Sarlat. (it's still a must-see, just don't buy fruits or veg there)

      1. re: sunshine842

        I didn't want to discourage our visitors.

        It does seem as if every Parsian wants to come to the South West to rediscover their 'patrimony' (roots, so to speak). Our roads get crowded with city drivers who have little idea of the road etiquette when driving our country lanes. Fortunately we only have to put up with them for a few weeks.
        The Parisians are the most disliked visitors in our area, after the Germans that is. (memories are long here)

        Speaking of sightseeing,Tradebead, you might want to visit Orador, its not far from Sarlat. If you're going to be South West of Toulouse then give Toulouse itself a visit. It's great city; go see the Victor Hugo market then have lunch at one of the restaurants upstairs for a truly French experience.

      2. re: Yank

        Sorry - got them mixed up, we will be sightseeing in both the Loire and Dordogne valleys. Appreciate the tips - especially about Sarlat. I was lucky enough to visit there in September about 3 years ago, it's just a convenient central point for visiting other places in the region.

        The village, L'isle en Dodon, is between Auch, Toulouse, Tarbes, and St-Gaudens. I was in L'isle 3 years ago as well, but am lucky enough to go back - staying with a childhood friend of one of my travel companions who is also from there. Very nice to get a taste of real life.

      3. One place I would make a beeline to if I was anywhere in Brittany is to Quimper for the best macarons that I have ever had anywhere - better than any place in Paris and elsewhere.

        It is called Les Macarons de Philomene - all the flavors are exquisite but the salted caramel - made with Brittany salt is out of this world!

        13, rue Kéréon

        29000 Quimper

        Tél. 02 98 95 21 40


        1. If you do make it to the Dordogne I highly recommend staying in Marquay, a beautiful little hilltop village in between Sarlat and Les Eyzies. Very good foie gras farm and restaurant, La Ferme de Brusquand half a mile from the wonderful Hotel Mounea. If you make it west to Bergerac there is a lovely bistro very near the river, Vin Quatre. On the other hand if you go to the Loire Valley in Tours we had a wonderful meal at Le Petit Patrimoine.

          1. Easy to get confused about which department is which.

            I certainly agree with sunshine842 about Sarlat. I've had some bad experiences there with attempted rip off's & rudeness. To be honest I'd visit on another day rather than market day.

            If you'd like to experience a good French market both Auch & Tarbes have large ones & are not far from L'isle en Dodon. I'm sure your friend will know the best ones.

            For some great scenery you could head over to Bagnères-de-Bigorre and then drive up into the Pyrenees. The town is nice with baths & a casino plus several good restaurants. Go to Trip Adviser for recommendations.

            Good luck with the traffic.

            7 Replies
            1. re: Yank

              I totally agree with visiting Sarlat on non-market days. On market days, the market din bounces off the buildings along the narrow streets and is unpleasant and deafening. And Sarlat and Isle sur la Sorgue are the two markets where we found the blatant Cheese Scam vendors.
              If you are visiting near Sarlat, the good markets - and in charming towns - are in St Cyprien (en Périgord; there are zillions of St Cypriens in France) and Belvès.
              Lastly, Yank, I am - tada ! - one of those Parisians polluting your victim region. We Parisians also suffer insomnia over Sud-ouest drivers…
              not. :)

              1. re: Parigi

                Parigi, I sort of guessed you might be. Maybe it was your Chowhound name that gave you away.

                I thought that it was the quiet that bothered Parisian types. That and the loneliness of driving on uncrowded roads; no other cars in sight! Egad the world has ended!

                In any case I do make exceptions for the Parisians who hang out on this website.

                Have Lot (s) of fun & eat well.

                1. re: Yank

                  " Lot (s) "
                  Indeed my fave region of France.

                  1. re: Parigi

                    "Indeed my fave region of France"

                    I seem to recall reading this comment applied to 3 other regions...I suffer from the same malady.

                    1. re: Laidback

                      For me,
                      Lot: A for landscape, A- for food.
                      Basque region: A- for landscape, A for food.

                2. re: Parigi

                  one of the funnier exchanges I've ever witnessed --- our Parisian lawyer friend getting out of the car in Provence (he was driving, so Paris plates on the car)

                  From an older fellow in a cafe as we got out of the car (all in French, of course) "eh, you're Parisian" with an unmissable sneer.

                  Our friend straightened from his burrowing in the trunk, looked the old guy up and down, and in exactly the same tone "eh, you're a paysan".

                  Dead silence, then laughter -- and we all went on our separate ways.

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    The French can indeed have droll sense of humor. My favorite episode is as follows:

                    Two friends & I were playing golf. As was our habit we stopped after 9 holes to have lunch at a nearby small, but excellent restaurant. Unfortunately, they'd run out of our favorite wine. The owner said try this new one I just got in. We did & was great.
                    No more golf that day, we got detailed directions & headed off to the winery. When we got there the tasting room was wide open, but there was nobody around. We shouted, knocked on the house door & even, eventually, honked our car horn. Nothing! We could have walked off with cases & cases of wine. As were were giving up & leaving one of my friends spotted some people working among the vines just up the road. We drove up, rolled down the car window & asked if they knew who owned the winery. "perhaps" came the answer. Could they tell us who? "perhaps" Would it be possible to buy some wine? "perhaps". Then came the big smile & he said "I'll send my wife down".
                    We bought & it really was great wine. It was also the first time I'd heard of 'vin obilier'. They were picking grapes for making it.