Exploring Sarlat in the rain

I like the rain.  To me it is an explorer’s (and I use the word in the laziest / loosest sense thereof) good friend as it drives the (dare I say it?) dilettante traveller into a bar, or coffee shop, or museum, leaving clear streets for the fiercely determined!  And rain we had, by the bucketload!  Even the statues were looking cheesed off.

le badaud, sarlat-la-caneda
This bronze is entitled “le badaud,” which means “the onlooker.” I had thought that he was someone (as in ‘of historical importance’), but I was wrong.

My father (every bit as determined as I – I can’t imagine why, or how, that happened) and I were quite happy to amble through the downpours and intervals of sunshine.  There is no doubt at all that Sarlat is beautiful, and old.  I’m intrigued, though, that it is as commercial as it is.  I expected it to be better preserved in keeping with its history.  This is as a result of having read that:

Sarlat has remained preserved and [is] one of the towns most representative of 14th century France. It owes its current status on France’s Tentative List for future nomination as a UNESCO World Heritage site to the enthusiasm of writer, resistance fighter and politician André Malraux, who, as Minister of Culture (1960–1969), restored the town and many other sites of historic significance throughout France. The centre of the old town consists of impeccably restored stone buildings….

So it was a bit of a let-down to find plate glass windows and modern shop fronts, and I wonder how the film-makers who have used it as a setting (Luc Besson’s Jeanne d’Arc is probably the most recent) have managed to overcome such obstacles.  I guess with fake frontages etc.  Speaking of shops, Sarlat seems to thrive on a diet of walnuts (mostly oil) and geese/duck.  Products made from these base ingredients are pretty much the only things one can buy in the town, except for art and knick-knacks.  It must be hell living there, having to drive out of town for all but the most basic of commodities.

Goose statues
Not all of the geese are edible, however.

There’s a decommissioned church in the centre of Sarlat that has been repurposed as a market venue.  Its massive 2.5 storey-high doors led me to think that the market would have occupied not only the ground floor, but also a gallery of some description, but that wasn’t the case.  There were lovely stalls selling beautifully presented food items.  I was sorely tempted by packets of dried mushrooms, and handmade pasta but I resisted the impulse to buy things for which I have no need (call me Scrooge, it’s fine).

Ancienne eglise Sainte-Marie
The height of the doors to this church is staggering.  Lots of scrumptious treats await inside them

The open-air stalls were equally classy and a herbs and spices vendor eclipsed everyone else for his quality of display and interest.

sarlat herb vendor
Sadly, the greyness of the day means that this image doesn’t do justice to the delightful display on this stall.

Eventually, we bought a couple of Perigourdine saussicon – shaped in balls, rather than sausage shapes and headed off to collect the car before making the journey home to Les Terraces.

Here are a few more random images of buildings and features I liked.

sarlat scene
I’m a sucker for the turrets and rounded bays that are a feature of many Renaissance buildings.


Sarlat door
Love this old door – oodles of character and history. I wonder who has passed through over the centuries


sarlat corner feature
This curious feature at the corner of narrow road caught our eyes. We conjecture that it must have been created to facilitate the turning of carts and carriages. What do you think?


Sarlat facade
Lovely Gothic windows and facade

So, there you go.  Sarlat visited.  Glad we went, not sure we’ll return any time soon; mostly because there’s so much more to be seen hereabouts.

PS:  We tried the first of the Culinary Sauces the other morning in Scramble Eggs with Virtual Ceps.  They were awfully good.  But I now have an idea for a recipe that might make even more of them.  I’ll let you know how it goes.


6 thoughts on “Exploring Sarlat in the rain”

  1. Robin thinks your curious feature, the semi-circular bay, might once have been an entrance, we saw something very similar at Nottingham Castle that had once been entrances.

  2. Alex,
    Theory 1: the curved wall was built before the auberge opposite and provided perfect acoustics for travelling medieval rock bands to perform without amplification (electricity hadn’t been invented or harnessed) to a crowd of toothless peasants who had hobbled from far and wide to listen to the latest rendition of “Je ne regrette rien” played on lute, jaws harp and one stringed fiddle. All very merry. A sort of early Glastonbury without yurts.
    Theory 2: it was built to facilitate an early version of swingball. A pole was placed in a hole in the cobbles (since filled up with detritus) to which was attached a length of cat cut and a ball made from sun dried pigskin. Two bats, made from two dried bats stuck to sticks, were then used to hit the ball alternately between two players until one lost an eye or was rendered unconscious. This could all take place in a very narrow street. What do you think!!!

  3. I think that, to coin a phrase, “I’ll have whatever he’s having!” However, I have to ask abut the mystery ingredient in your swingball theory: I’ve not yet encountered cat cut. Care to tell us more about it??

    Clearly, your ideas on the reason for the niche are far more interesting than mine, and I feel sure that, given time (or whatever your morning Joe of choice happens to be) that you can come up with many more creative reasons for its existence. I await the net installment with interest and bated breath!

  4. Cat cut is just a well known typing errol used in the manufacture of wiolin bows and early Irish arps.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *