Transcript for Episode 485: Spending a Month in Southwestern France

Categories: Occitanie, Toulouse Area

Discussed in this Episode

  • Gaillac
  • Saint Emilion
  • Sarlat
  • Cahors
  • Belcastel
  • Bayonne


[00:00:16] Annie Sargent: This is Join Us in France episode 485, quatre cent quatre-vingt-cinq.

Bonjour, I’m Annie Sargent, and Join Us in France is the podcast where we take a conversational journey through the beauty, culture, and flavors of France.

Today on the podcast

[00:00:31] Annie Sargent: Today, I bring you a trip report with Regina Logan about spending almost a month exploring the southwest of France.

They went to the Aveyron, the Dordogne, and the Basque Country, and were surprised how lovely it all was. And these are not parts of the country that we talk about every week, so I think you’ll enjoy this episode.

Podcast supporters

[00:00:52] Annie Sargent: This podcast is supported by donors and listeners who buy my tours and services, including my itinerary consult service, my GPS self-guided tours of Paris on the VoiceMap app, or take a day trip with me around the Southwest in my electric car. You can browse all of that in my boutique

No Magazine segment today

[00:01:12] Annie Sargent: There won’t be a magazine part of the podcast today again, because I was away in Paris all week writing my new GPS self-guided food tour of Paris on the VoiceMap app. When will this food tour come out? Before the end of March, for sure.

I will give you more details in next Sunday’s episode. I don’t have any new patrons to thank today because I’m pre-recording all of this. But I want to thank all of you who keep this podcast going by donating on Patreon.

To join this wonderful community of francophiles, go to And to support Elyse, go to And please don’t click on the ‘Join for free’ button, because if you do, Elyse and I get no support and you get nothing extra either. So it’s a lose-lose situation.

Next week on the podcast

[00:02:09] Annie Sargent: Next week on the podcast, first of all, I’ll be back at my desk in Toulouse, so it’ll be back to business as usual with an episode with Elyse on the trailblazing female artist who defied 18th century conventions to become Marie Antoinette’s favorite portraitist and a celebrated figure across Europe.

Her name was Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun, and you need to hear about her.

A Visit to the Southwest

[00:02:44] Annie Sargent: Bonjour Regina Logan, and welcome to Join Us in France.

[00:02:47] Regina Logan: Hi, and bonjour, Annie, I’m very happy to be here.

[00:02:51] Annie Sargent: Very happy to talk to you. You had quite the trip. It was a long trip, wasn’t it?

[00:02:55] Regina Logan: It was, it was a month.

[00:02:59] Annie Sargent: Yeah. So tell us when this was and who all was with you.

[00:03:02] Regina Logan: Sure. It was from early September to early October, like the 7th of September to the 7th or 8th of October of 2023. I started out with my older sister, we were together for maybe 10 days or so, and then my partner joined us.The three of us for a few days, and then my sister peeled off and it was my partner and me for the last two weeks.

[00:03:22] Annie Sargent: Aha, very good. You went to a lot of places, so tell us quickly all the places that you hit on this trip.

[00:03:29] Regina Logan: Okay. Well, first of all, your itinerary plan was awesome because honestly, I had not heard of most of this, so we were in Southwest France, in general.The Aveyron and the Dordogne, mostly.

[00:03:41] Annie Sargent: Right.

[00:03:42] Regina Logan: And then the Pays Basque, and we ended in Paris for a few days.

[00:03:45] Annie Sargent: Well, okay. So what you had asked me was, because we did an itinerary planning session, and what you had asked me was to, what I remember is that you wanted me to keep the great bits when your partner was going to join you, but you also wanted to do stuff with your sister. So I was like, huh, okay.

I have to save the best bits, it’s hard to do, like, it’s really hard to do, keep you moving, and also take you to all these beautiful things. But of course, in the Southwest, there’s a lot that you can see that’s really great.

And the Aveyron, I thought was, it’s a part of France that most people haven’t heard of very much.

It doesn’t come up that much, even on the podcast, because, you know, most people go to Paris, honestly, and they keep it at that. But you were more adventurous, so that’s wonderful.

Okay, so tell us some of your favorite things. We’re not going to take your trip in order that you had it, so that’s just not that interesting.

But I want to hear about your favorite activities and places on this trip.

Les Plus Beaux Villages de France

[00:04:47] Regina Logan: Sure. Well, because we drove, which we can talk about later, the mostly, wonderful things about driving, a few challenges, but not terrible.

Our favorite things is really going to the small villages, primarily, or smaller towns. We hit a lot of Les Plus Beaux Villages, and there are also small towns that are just as beautiful, that are not on the official Plus Beaux Villages, the most beautiful places.

But what we really wanted to do is something that we can’t do in the United States, which is go to medieval towns.

[00:05:17] Annie Sargent: Right.

[00:05:18] Regina Logan: But that was probably our favorite thing, was going to some of the medieval towns. Of course, there’s castles every turn of the road, it seems like there’s a castle, which is quite wonderful.

And then we also went to two different caves with the prehistoric paintings. And because of your, you know, your podcast is so amazing, but especially the one about Padirac, we went there and that was, those caves are wonderful.

[00:05:45] Annie Sargent: Yes.

[00:05:46] Regina Logan: And then some of the bigger towns that, again, hadn’t heard of, but pretty well known, like Sarlat, we loved Sarlat, and we also loved Albi, and I’m trying to think of where else. We tried to stay more than two nights in any, once in a while, we were just like, had just one night going through, but we tried to stay more, and Cahors was another place that we really enjoyed, and Bayonne, those are our big towns.

[00:06:11] Annie Sargent: The ones that you enjoy. And you know what, it’s also a challenge when you don’t want to keep moving every day, but you want to see a lot. You have to consider, you know, the pros and cons of changing hotels every day.

[00:06:27] Regina Logan: Yes.

[00:06:28] Annie Sargent: And, you know, seeing as much as you want to. So, the way yougo around that is that you pick a place that has more than one interesting thing to do, right? And then you can see more. And you mentioned the Plus Beaux Villages that there were some that were really pretty that were not a Plus Beau Village, and that’s because there are some strict criteria to be a Plus Beau Village. You have to have under 2.000 inhabitants, and you have to pay into a charter, so every year you have to pay your dues to be part of the Plus Beaux Villages.

And some municipalities don’t really want to do that, or they have too many people. So, you know, between 2.000 people and 2.010 people, well, the village hasn’t changed that much, right? But they have to have a cut off point, and that’s just how it works.

So that’s one of the reasons why some villages that are just stunning are not on the list and, you know, that’s just how it is. And there are so many, especially around the Dordogne, there’s so many that are pretty, that you could very easily spend a few hours in. Rarely more than a few hours, to tell you the truth.

Did you find that, you know, once you have walked around the village and seen the castle or had a meal or whatever, you were done, right?

[00:07:49] Regina Logan: Yeah, except for we stayed in Autoire, which is quite small.

[00:07:53] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

[00:07:54] Regina Logan: So it was kind of fun just staying there, I mean, again, using it as a base to go out. And another thing I wanted to point out about Les Plus Beaux Villages, and it’s a very famous one, the name of which is escaping me right now, is that they’re on everybody’s list, including the tour buses.

[00:08:11] Annie Sargent: Yes.

[00:08:11] Regina Logan: So, you know, when a tour bus arrives at a small village, it’s pretty much overrun. So the nice thing about going to the just as beautiful villages that are not on the list is that they don’t have tour buses.

[00:08:25] Annie Sargent: Right, and that’s the beauty of renting a car. Because I talk to an awful lot of people who know that in France we have good public transportation, and we are very happy to have good public transportation, but it’s mostly between cities. It is rarely between villages.

So you might have public transportation between a city and a village, but not between village A and village B. So you know, you wanted to move on to another next beautiful village, but you can’t because you have to go back to the city and back out to the other village. And the other thing that you have to be careful about is that Google is very good at listing all public transportation, including some that will never work for tourism because they are designed for students.

So just this morning I was working on an itinerary for somebody else and noticed that they had said, Oh, we’re pretty sure we can go between this village and that village, well, that small town in that village, and I looked into it and yes, there’s a bus, but it’s a school bus.

So don’t trust everything you read online about public transportation, just in general, do not expect public transportation between Village A and Village B.

[00:09:44] Regina Logan: And we never did. I mean, because we had the car, except for Paris, of course, we did not have any interest in driving in Paris, we had spent like four days in Paris at the end, and we had turned in our car in Bordeaux, and we actually flew from Bordeaux to Paris at the end.

[00:09:59] Annie Sargent: Oh, you did, that’s unusual.

[00:10:00] Regina Logan: Yeah. It was a little bit quicker, actually, even though the train, you know, there’s a TGV.

[00:10:06] Annie Sargent: TGV yeah, it’s very fast.

[00:10:08] Regina Logan: Anyway, we flew and it was wonderful to then use public transportation in Paris.

[00:10:14] Annie Sargent: Yes. Big cities, you don’t need a car, but I’m talking villages, so, you know, 1000 people, 2000 people, that’s what I have in mind. Bigger than that, yes, we have public transportation.

So you particularly liked all these beautiful medieval villages that you saw.


[00:10:31] Annie Sargent: You liked your markets. So I want to hear about the markets that you enjoyed.

[00:10:35] Regina Logan: Well, probably like a lot of the people who listen to your podcast, we’re kind of foodies.

And so, we just love everything about food, including the beautiful markets. So we planned most of our itinerary using your recommendations to be in the villages on their market day. And since they’re different every place, Sarlat has a pretty famous, quite large market on Saturday and Wednesday, and we were staying there.

So we actually went both Saturday and Wednesday.

And staying somewhere, another nice reason, is that we could get there early before it got too crowded, which was great. And just looking at all the fruits, and vegetables, and the cheese, the wonderful cheese and everything else in the market, and then of course, the markets have a lot of non-food items, which is always fun to look through.

[00:11:22] Annie Sargent: Yeah Sarlat has a lot of, you know, they sell, I remember buying some really funky bowls in Sarlat. You can buy, you know, tablecloths, things like that, that you don’t, perhaps not expect to find in a market. Recently, I was recording an episode with my sister in law and

She was surprised that there was a person at the market selling underwear. She was like, who would buy their underwear at the market? And I told her, lots of people do, because if you’re an old granny and you have this one pair of panties that you like, you just want that one, and you know the lady at the market will get it for you. And that’s why, that’s why, yeah.

[00:12:10] Regina Logan: The only clothing item that we bought at markets was mostly scarves, because the scarves were very nice and very inexpensive. And then my partner bought a couple of, at two different times, hats.

[00:12:24] Annie Sargent: Mm hmm.

[00:12:25] Regina Logan: Very French kind of, not quite a beret, more like a workman’s hat. Anyway, and then we actually did buy some Basque berets.

[00:12:34] Annie Sargent: There you go.

[00:12:35] Regina Logan: We were in that country, which was kind of fun.

[00:12:38] Annie Sargent: Yeah, have you worn them since?

[00:12:39] Regina Logan: He wears his every day. I’m waiting for my, I’m in Chicago, so it’s not quite cold enough yet for me, but…

[00:12:46] Annie Sargent: It will get there. It will get there. Yeah, that’s great. Yes. And so the market in Sarlat is very nice, and I think a lot of items are overpriced, but you know, it’s a popular market where there’s lots of visitors, it’s fair game. You’re going to try and, you know, get a little more money out of the people.

That’s just how it works.

Cooking for themselves

[00:13:10] Regina Logan: The other thing, the markets, bring me to the thought that because we stayed, maybe you’re going to ask me this later, but we stayed primarily in Airbnbs, except Paris, we only stayed in Airbnbs, so that we had the fun of shopping for food occasionally, and then we could cook in our Airbnb, because they had a full kitchen.

And a couple of times we had a complete house. Small, but complete. So, that was making shopping for food even more fun.

[00:13:37] Annie Sargent: Exactly. If you have a kitchen, that’s even, you know, you can try things. Did you try anything adventurous? Did you cook anything adventurous?

[00:13:44] Regina Logan: We didn’t cook anything adventurous, but we did try a few things. I mean, there’s, my partner loves escargot, which these days isn’t that adventurous. We all like escargot, so we tried those. We didn’t make them ourselves. We got those at a restaurant.

[00:13:58] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

[00:13:59] Regina Logan: But nothing too out of the ordinary.

[00:14:01] Annie Sargent: Okay. That’s good. The number three thing that you list is Aperol while people watching. Aperol, oh yes, that’s a favorite for a lot of people.

[00:14:11] Regina Logan: Yes, and I had had Kir before, but I had not had Kir Royale

[00:14:17] Annie Sargent: Ah…

[00:14:18] Regina Logan: For your listeners, Kir is very typically French white, not particularly, and the regular Kir is white wine with Cassis. I think it’s the liqueur.

[00:14:29] Annie Sargent: Crème de Cassis. Yep.

[00:14:30] Regina Logan: But the Kir Royale is champagne.

[00:14:34] Annie Sargent: Yes.

[00:14:35] Regina Logan: Crème de Cassis, which became quickly my favorite aperitif.

[00:14:40] Annie Sargent: That’s very nice. Yes. That’s a, so not every place will offer that, but when they do, it’s usually very nice. Yeah. And you especially liked it on Place de la Liberté in Sarlat. That’s great. So every day, at the end of the day, you just knew you could go back and have some apéro.

[00:14:56] Regina Logan: And watch, and the fact that there were enough people to make people watching wonderful and fascinating, but not the huge crowds. By the end of the day, the market had, you know, closed up and cleared off, but there were still people hanging around, so that was fun.

[00:15:11] Annie Sargent: So you were there in,you know, September through October, and it’s actually high season in the Dordogne. September is quite high season in the Dordogne. So is October, and then at the end of October, by the time school vacations end for French kids, everything shuts down. So we’re recording this on November 21st.

If you went to Sarlat this month, it would be dead. And a lot of the restaurants would not even open unless it’s the weekend or unless there’s something special going on, because the full time population of Sarlat is not that great. You don’t need hundreds of restaurants, which you do in high season.

[00:15:53] Regina Logan: Sure.

We did have one little funny little anecdote, so, Autoire, which is a very small village where we had this just charming little house. And there’s two restaurants and one epicerie, a little grocery with a boulangerie.

[00:16:09] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

[00:16:10] Regina Logan: Neither of the restaurants were open for dinner, and thebaker from the boulangerie was on vacation.

[00:16:17] Annie Sargent: Oh.

[00:16:18] Regina Logan: So really no food. And so one of the things that was quite nice, there was another kind of a combination food type shop and souvenirs. And we started chatting with a woman. Luckily, my French is decent, so I could do a lot of chatting, which I love to do. And she said, Oh, there’s no bread here. We said, yeah, we noticed.

And she said, well, on my way in the following day, I’ll stop at the bakery in my town, where she lived, and she brought us some bread, which I thought was lovely. Just lovely as her to do for us.

Because we, the only thing about driving is no one in our party wanted to drive in the dark, on those rural roads that there’s no light, and you don’t know where you’re going. And so luckily, it was still light out at that point, until I don’t know, maybe 8 or so, but we weren’t going to venture out somewhere to drive home in the dark.

[00:17:13] Annie Sargent: Yeah. So, Autoire, for people who don’t know, and most people wouldn’t know, it’s a little bit north of Figeac, and it’s just east of Sarlat. So you were not staying in Sarlat, you were staying in Autoire, is that what it is?

[00:17:27] Regina Logan: No, we stayed in both.

[00:17:28] Annie Sargent: Ah, oh, both. Okay. Ah, okay. Oh, they’re not that far from each other, are they?

[00:17:33] Regina Logan: I honestly don’t remember because I’d have to look at our itinerary, but we’ve got a little bit of a circle.

I don’t recall, but they were so different from each other because Autoire is tiny, tiny, and Sarlat is…

[00:17:47] Annie Sargent: It’s a good sized town. Yeah, it goes dead in the winter, but it’s a good sized town. Yeah.

[00:17:52] Regina Logan: Yeah.

Painted Caves

[00:17:53] Annie Sargent: Wonderful. You enjoyed the cave painting, so the cave, the painted caves, those are always a big hit.

[00:18:01] Regina Logan: Yes. And the one thing, we rarely made advance reservations anywhere for anything, including Paris, except for Le Gouffre de Padirac, which is a regular cave, as you, I don’t remember what your, which episode it was, but your wonderful episode, and that I remember you used to go there a lot as a child.

[00:18:22] Annie Sargent: Yes.

[00:18:23] Regina Logan: So we did get those tickets in advance.

La Grotte de Pech Merle

[00:18:25] Regina Logan: And then the two different, we did not go to,

[00:18:27] Annie Sargent: Lascaux.

[00:18:28] Regina Logan: Lascaux, no, because we wanted to go to the original ones, and so we went to…

Pech Merle?

Yes, we went to La Grotte de Pech Merle, I have a story for that in a second, and we went to La Font de Gaumme.

And both of those you had to reserve in advance, but you had to wait until like a month before you were going to go there, so the websites are pretty, pretty easy to, from the US, we got our tickets.

But can I tell you a little story about Pech Merle?

[00:18:55] Annie Sargent: Of course.

[00:18:56] Regina Logan: So, we used our GPS to get around, on our phone, on my phone, and we put in Pech Merle, not knowing that Pech Merle means, there’s a lot of Pech in the Grotto, La Grotte de Peche Merle, so we’re trying, it’s just at this point, it was just my older sister and me, we’re driving and driving, and we’re going down like this little road, and then we’re going, do you know what a two track is, we’re going down a two track, which is basically through an orchard, to just little dirt tracks I don’t know, tractors or something.

And we’re going and we’re saying, you know, this doesn’t seem right.

[00:19:35] Annie Sargent: Not right. No, no, not right.

[00:19:37] Regina Logan: So we figured out how to turn it around. We came back and we got to a place where there was a farm. And there were a couple guys outside. And we asked him about Pech Merle and he said, and this was by the way, kilometers away from where we, like an hour’s worth.

[00:19:54] Annie Sargent: Oh my goodness. Oh…

[00:19:56] Regina Logan: I think Pech Merle in general, I’ve forgotten what it means, it might mean hilly place, or something.

[00:20:03] Annie Sargent: Right, right. I’m not sure what it means, but it’s a common name. Like, you know, you could find another one. Yeah. So if you don’t say La Grotte de Pech Merle, then you’ll find the right one. It’s the same with Roquefort. If you just say, I want to go to Roquefort because you know about Roquefort cheese.

There’s a lot of Roquefort in France.

[00:20:24] Regina Logan: Yeah, yeah.

[00:20:25] Annie Sargent: You might be in the wrong one. Yeah. Pech Merle is a beautiful cave and it’s not that big. It’s fairly accessible. I mean, there are some steps. When you first enter, you have to go down perhaps 50 steps, but then it’s fairly flat, you know, it’s well developed.

So for people who have mobility issues, it’s doable, unless you cannot take steps obviously, and it’s not very large, but it’s got some really nice stuff and it’s well lit.

[00:20:54] Regina Logan: Yes.

[00:20:55] Annie Sargent: Unlike the other one that you liked, which is Font de Gaume, where they really don’t turn on the lights very much, not very long at all, it’s like seconds and then it’s off.

[00:21:06] Regina Logan: Yeah, although they were very nice there. My partner sees fine in the light, but he doesn’t see very well in the dark at all. They let him use a flashlight.

I mean, not the whole time, but just so he could see where his steps were going. So that was great.

And both places had lovely guides who spoke English, which was great because neither, well, my sister speaks a little French, my partner speaks no French, but there were, they also limit the number of guests that can be in any group, which is great.

And I don’t remember if it was Pech Merle or Font de Gaume, but we decided to go early in the morning because they check for, if there gets to be too much carbon dioxide, because it degrades the paintings. So they will close, they check it, they’re very careful, which is great, but they will close the tour if it gets to, the CO2 gets too high.

[00:21:59] Annie Sargent: And it has to do with the temperature, because the temperature in the cave is pretty steady, but it does, I mean, the outside temperature does affect it some. And I wrote a blog post about how to get tickets for Font de Gaume, there is a definite trick to this. And so if you go to and you go to the Blog tab, you’ll see a blog post called ‘Tips for visiting Font de Gaume‘ in the Dordogne. Because so many people just, they give up in frustration, they can’t get tickets.

[00:22:30] Regina Logan: I believe you can’t get them more than a month before you want.

[00:22:34] Annie Sargent: Exactly. They open them. So it depends on the season. So for July and August, they open them a little bit earlier, but the rest of the year, I think they just open them until the 30th.

I don’t remember. Just read the blog post. I wrote it, but it was a long time ago, so I don’t remember all the details. But yes, there’s a question of when the tickets become available. And people get frustrated because they try to get tickets six months in advance and you can’t.

Le Gouffre de Padirac

[00:22:58] Annie Sargent: Fantastic. You really enjoyed the Gouffre de Padirac. We have to talk about this for a second. Gouffre de Padirac is a beautiful place. It’s, so Gouffre, how do you translate that into English? It’s a big hole in the ground.

[00:23:10] Regina Logan: Yeah, I mean, just seeing the picture is just crazy because it looks like a big hole in the ground, huge, and the elevator and their steps go down, down, down, down, down, down, down.

[00:23:21] Annie Sargent: Yes. So you have some steps, elevator, some parts of the way, and when you get to the bottom, it’syou get in a boat and you get a boat ride underneath this cave. It’s just so much fun and it’s fantastic for the kids. So we did it several times when I was a child and they take your picture as you get close to the end.

And that’s the one picture my parents always bought was the picture of us. Because we knew where it was, you look up, you know, and so I have pictures of me at different ages.

[00:23:52] Regina Logan: Oh, that’s funny. And they took our picture and we, you know, so I can’t, a few Euros.

[00:23:58] Annie Sargent: Yeah, it’s a few euros. And that you should also reserve because it fills up. And so it’s not as restrictive because it’s not a painted cave, but it fills up, it’s very popular with people. So go in advance.

Domaine Duffau, Gaillac – Private Winery Tour

[00:24:10] Annie Sargent: You took a private winery tour in Gaillac. Oh, Domaine Duffau. Tell me about that.

[00:24:19] Regina Logan: Well, first of all, we’ve never heard of Gaillac before, you know, for you and Elyse, and it was a really lovely, it was just us andone of the women who works there, there were no other people, and it was just really fun to see everything. You know, we could see the fields with both of the, we went to another one in Saint Emilion, but you could see the fields where everything’s grown.

And then you walk through the vineyards, and you see the, where the grapes had been harvested, but you know, the explanation of how they do the harvesting, and then what they do, the whole everything. From the vineyards, the fields, the vineyards, you go inside and see all the different machinery that they use, and then of course you have a tasting afterwards, and you can buy some and especially things that you wouldn’t get anywhere, certainly I don’t think they export, especially from this little tiny…

[00:25:10] Annie Sargent: Yeah, only the very big vineyards can export. It’s not worth it, by the way, you have to have, you know, imagine selling wine to Costco.

You’d need to produce so much like, or any grocery store, any grocery chain. Wonderful. So you like Gaillac wines.

[00:25:28] Regina Logan: Yes, it was different. We tend to be red wine drinkers and I’m pretty sure that’s where we got the white wine. But yeah, it was different, and that was fun. Because I believe, and I think I learned this from your podcast, that there are grapes there that are not anywhere else.

[00:25:43] Annie Sargent: Mm. Yeah. A lot of areas in France have a typical local grape. I think, what’s it called in Gaillac? I know this. It’s going to come back to me when it’s too late. Anyway, they do have a grape variety that’s specific to Gaillac, you have to have that, otherwise you can’t get an AOC pretty much.

So, yeah, that’s important. Well, now I’m going to have to go check out Domaine Duffau ’cause I’m looking for a place to go with a bootcamp. So I tried three of them already, but I didn’t try that one, so I’m going to have to go try it. It’s not very far from my house, so it’s easy, and I like to go buy some wine. It’s good.

St. Émilion

[00:26:20] Annie Sargent: All right. Another wine place you enjoyed St. Émilion.

[00:26:23] Regina Logan: Yeah, so obviously St. Émilion is very famous for its grapes and its wine, but we wanted, again, to go kind of off the beaten path. We didn’t want to go to one of the great big cobb, one of the great big chateaus, rather. And so we went to this, another little family run place. I mean, it’s been in existence for several hundred years, the one in St. Émilion, but it was small.

And once again, we got to walk out into the vineyards. And there’s one of the roads they’re using to get around and their property, has been there since Roman times, which was so cool, and it’s been in the same family, I want to say 3-400 years, that particular vineyard. So, again, we had a very lovely guide who spoke English, which was again, nice for my partner.

So, I would really recommend, if people want to go to vineyards, I think it’s fun to go to the small ones that you’re never going to hear about unless you are there.

[00:27:15] Annie Sargent: Yes. I agree. I tend to agree. Because if you go to the big famous ones, but it’s always like a balance, you want to see the famous places or do you want to see the more genuine local things? And we should mention that St. Émilion is a Bordeaux vineyard. It’s not very far from Bordeaux at this point.

So you were making your way west.

[00:27:36] Regina Logan: I’m sorry to say something about St. Émilion, which I’m disappointed from my perspective, or our perspective, it was so crowded, we could hardly drive through the streets. It was just jammed. And so we stopped for maybe 15 minutes and then we said, there’s just too many people here as famous as it is and as beautiful as it is.

And so we continued on from there.

[00:27:58] Annie Sargent: Yeah, St. Émilion is a place where you have to bookto go into the, they have a,church, a very interesting church, but you have to book to get in and it attracts a lot of people. They have a few restaurants and stuff, but it’s best if you book in advance or you’re not going to get in because it’s just really popular, especially September, October, it’s really, really popular.

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. It’s harvest time.

Driving back country roads

[00:28:23] Annie Sargent: Number seven that you list is driving back country roads. So I want to hear about your driving experience. You said, you mentioned that you might get back to it. So let’s talk about it.

[00:28:33] Regina Logan: Okay. So I would say 1000 percent if you can drive and you are comfortable driving, taking the back country roads were great, and sometimes a little, well, there’s almost no traffic, except for when you get to a larger town where there’s traffic.The things that through I drove, the first part when it’s just my sister and me, I drove the whole time. She was my navigator. And then when my partner joined us, he drove and I was… (navigator) , So even with a GPS, you still need a navigator. And for me, one of the hardest things was turnabouts?Now, what do you call them? The roundabouts.

Yes, the roundabouts.

[00:29:09] Annie Sargent: Really?

[00:29:10] Regina Logan: Yes, and I’ll tell you why.

Because Siri in her infinite wisdom on the GPS I was using, Siriwould say something like, take the second exit.

She also has a really bad French accent, but take the second exit onto Boulevard Charles de… So you get to the second exit, there’s no Boulevard Saint, you know, anything Boulevard Charles de Gaulle or anything else listed. It’s like D83 or, you know, it’s like that country road.

[00:29:40] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

[00:29:41] Regina Logan: So you have to know that. You have to know which D, because these are mostly D level, smaller roads. But once I kind of got used to that, and then the only other thing about driving that we had to get used to, well, there’s two things actually, one is parking and the other is gas. So, can I talk about those now? Just as a hint, so we’re American and we had American credit cards from big banks, Chase Bank, Citibank, and there were a number of gas stations that would not take our credit cards.

So, we finally figured out, and this was, even on the big tollway, we would take the auto route to the tollway to get from point A to point B if we had a lot of territory to cover. So we had to figure out how to pay for gas, and what, one very lovely man helped us, and if there’s a person, sometimes they’re not, there’s no humans there at all, and then you’re kind of like, well, what are we supposed to do?

So, wouldn’t take credit cards, but at the ones that had people…

[00:30:43] Annie Sargent: An attendant.

[00:30:44] Regina Logan: Attendant, thank you. They weren’t gas station attendants, they were attendants inside to sell you food or whatever, but could pay, like, give them 40 euros or however, how much worth of gas you thought you were going to get.

And then they would set the pump out, go back and get that much. So that turned out, we figured that out after a after a while.

[00:31:04] Annie Sargent: When you’re at big, the freeway gas areas, they usually have a little restaurant, they have a store, they have all sorts of things. Yes, and there’s a person you can say, okay, I’m on pump number three and I want to put in 50 euros worth of gas.

[00:31:20] Regina Logan: Exactly.

Oh, and I have to say something about the little stores, which I thought was quintessential France. I loved it. In these little gas station stores, which in the US we might call an Oasis on a tollway, they had for sale foie gras.

[00:31:35] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

[00:31:36] Regina Logan: In the gas station, which I thought was, you know. They also had like, I don’t know, other junky food, but that was pretty funny.

[00:31:43] Annie Sargent: Yeah, the gas stations in France are very different from the ones in the US aren’t they?

[00:31:48] Regina Logan: Yeah.

[00:31:49] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

[00:31:49] Regina Logan: And then the only other thing, and this has to do with going to villages, and folks should be aware that there’s no parking. First of all, they oftentimes don’t even let cars in, which is good. They’re very tiny, very windy roads. And so you park on the outside of the town, and then you have to walk 5 or 10 minutes, whatever to get into.

But so, don’t, we learned this very quickly, don’t put in your GPS, the center, the centre village, or the old village or anything, because it’ll take you somewhere you can’t really go. So youcan map to…

[00:32:23] Annie Sargent: The parking lot.

[00:32:24] Regina Logan: Yeah, and then you park on the side.

[00:32:26] Annie Sargent: All of these GPSs, they can show you the nearest parking lot. So yeah, that’s what you should look for.

Yeah, good to know.

And when I do itineraries, I mean, I didn’t know all the places you were going to stop, but I often give the address of the most central parking lot you can use for that town, because it’s helpful, you know.

But yes, don’t expect to be, you know, parking right by the city center. In a lot of these villages you can’t, they won’t let you in.

[00:32:54] Regina Logan: But even towns as big as like Albi and Cahors, which I don’t know how big they are, but they’re a lot bigger than the little villages, even those we had to park on the outskirts, not the outs, it makes it sound like it’s five miles away, it’s not.

[00:33:05] Annie Sargent: No, no, but it is, there are parking lots for people who can visit. That’s what they’re made for daytime kind of visits.

[00:33:13] Regina Logan: Well, I have one more thing that I’d like to add, again, I don’t know about non-American credit cards, but in France, credit cards have a pin, you know. In the US, credit cards do not have a pin, debit cards do, but credit cards don’t.

So a lot of times when you’re parked and then you’re leaving the parking lot, you know, to get the arm of the parking, so you can get out, you know, you put your money in, or you put your credit card in, and then it would ask for your four digit pin, but we didn’t have a four digit pin.

Or we found that if you just wait long enough, the machine, I guess, figures like, oh, okay, and then it would open and we could get out without the pin.

[00:33:50] Annie Sargent: Ha! Ha, ha, ha! Those people are just not going to do it. Ha, ha, ha, ha! They want you out of there. Oh, that’s funny. That’s funny. All right. All right.

Serendipitous discoveries

[00:34:03] Annie Sargent: Let’s see. Oh, you enjoyed serendipitous discoveries. Let’s see. Tell us more about that.

[00:34:10] Regina Logan: Okay, two of the coolest things that, who knew, you know? So we went, this is when I was with my sister, we went to the Château de Belcastel and there was a beast, a medieval bestiary, you know, mythological beasts, kind of like a display. So you had to go up to the castle, which is up on top of the hill, and you pay a little bit to get into the grounds.

And they were, do you know what animatronics are?

Often, they’re oftentimes in the United States, they’ll be like, mostly for children, like the dinosaurs that are, that move.

These were animatronic mythical beasts. And they were scattered throughout the grounds and also inside the castle, and it was very cool. And there was an explanation how the Moyen Age in the Middle Ages, people believe these beasts were real. So, they were just very, very cool because we, certainly something we were not expecting so that was very unusual. And it’s not permanent exhibit it was there for a couple of months, maybe.

So, that was cool.

And then, the other thing that we particularly found serendipitous and loved, it was the Fête de Gastronomie in Sarlat, and which I believe was annual, but we didn’t know.

It was there. It was when we were there, and we saw him setting up and knew I’d stop and say, Oh, what are you setting up here?

The vendor told us, you know, come back this evening and there’s all these vendors with different kinds of food, there’s a dance floor, the people were dancing, mostly sound like polka music to me. And then you sit at these big long tables with people, as it turned out, at our table, there was a French couple, there was a couple from Australia, and there was a woman from Vancouver, Canada. And so it’s just, it’s really fun, and you get to try, sample all these local foods from local vendors, meet new people.

[00:35:57] Annie Sargent:

[00:35:57] Regina Logan: It was really fun.

[00:35:58] Annie Sargent: Sounds really pleasant. Yes. So you mentioned Belcastel before, and that’s in the Aveyron. So that’s kind of, if you know where the Dordogne is, Aveyron is east of there, quite a ways. An hour and a half drive, perhaps two hours drive from there, but it’s a gorgeous, gorgeous area.

[00:36:17] Regina Logan: And we were not staying, we were not staying in Sarlat when we went to Belcastel.

I can’t remember, we were staying somewhere near.

[00:36:22] Annie Sargent: Yeah, you can’t, it’s not a day trip, it’s too far for a day trip. Yeah. But we had, I remember we had worked in some time in the Aveyron area because I think it’s gorgeous, it’s just really, Belcastel per se is also a very nice little village.

Musée Basque in Bayonne

[00:36:39] Annie Sargent: Musée Basque in Bayonne, I haven’t, I don’t think I’ve been to that one. Tell me about it.

[00:36:44] Regina Logan: Oh, it was, really gave a very interesting history. There’s a little video, vintage video in black and white that you can watch, but then the exhibit just really explains the Basque people, where they came from. Folks may know that the Basque language is extraordinary and that it is not related to any other known language.

[00:37:06] Annie Sargent: Very unique. Yes.

[00:37:07] Regina Logan: Very unique. And just how they ended up where they are, both on the French side and the Spanish side. We only wanted to stay in France for this trip. We didn’t go to the Spanish side. The museum was a really good introduction to the basque culture, and I highly recommend it. And we loved Bayonne also.

That was your recommendation. You said, yeah, you might not like Biarritz Knowing how you got to know me through our working together, and we loved Bayonne. We liked it a little bit.

It’s not like the back of the Bayonne, but it’s a little less known, I think, than Biarritz.

[00:37:36] Annie Sargent: Yeah, so there’s pros and cons to both, but if you want the more genuine French town, Bayonne is it, Biarritz, not that Biarritz is not a genuine French town, but it gets a lot more visitors, it’s a town with more money, you know, nicer hotels, nicer restaurants. Bayonne is more like, you know, it’s pretty, it has pretty parts, and obviously it has a very good Musée Basque.

In Bayonne, I remember going to the Chocolate Museum, which I thought was fun, you know. I didn’t know anything about chocolate when we went, so I learned a lot about that.

[00:38:08] Regina Logan: And they have, they also had a nice market, and they also had plenty of restaurants that, you know, that you could go to, and a marché, a market also. So, we liked it. It was fun.

[00:38:20] Annie Sargent: So, of all these areas, so you were in Toulouse, you were in Aveyron, you were in the Dordogne, you were in the Basque country. If you had to go back to one of them, which one would you pick?

[00:38:32] Regina Logan: Oh, man, that’s a really hard question.

So for Toulouse, I know it’s your hometown, so we only were there overnight. Yeah, I can’t really talk about Toulouse other than I’d like to go back to it, and explore it. Honestly, Annie, I don’t think I can choose. They were one, they were all wonderful.

I just can’t, I think…

[00:38:52] Annie Sargent: They’re very different, aren’t they? I mean, these are regions with a lot of personality, very specific personality that comes from the land, from the landscape, from the foods, from the, you know, the wines in the area. And they are quite different, all of them. So, you know…

But you talked more about the Dordogne, though. You spent more time talking about the Dordogne. You listed more Dordogne stuff.

[00:39:15] Regina Logan: Oh. Interesting. I don’t think I actually even knew, like, it’s not like a line that says you are leaving.

[00:39:23] Annie Sargent: That’s true. That’s true.

[00:39:25] Regina Logan: So I might not even know what was where.


[00:39:27] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It’s interesting. Okay. So I’m going to skip Rue Daguerre, we’ll get back to that in a second, you like Cahors as a city. That’s also one that doesn’t get visited that much. What did you enjoy there?

[00:39:41] Regina Logan: Oh my gosh, it’s the pont, the bridge Valentré, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, one of the most beautiful, beautiful bridges you will ever see. It’s from the Moyen Age, also the Middle Ages, I’m pretty sure. And it’s just, it’s gorgeous. The bridge is wonderful. I mean, that’s the only thing I remember.

We spent a lot of time taking pictures there. And then, I don’t remember what river is there, but we took it, because we had two different boat rides, but we took a boat ride there, whatever that river is.

[00:40:11] Annie Sargent: So, La Roque-Gageac, I’m pretty sure that’s the Dordogne.

[00:40:15] Regina Logan: No, that was, I think that was the second, we also took a boat ride in Cahors.

[00:40:20] Annie Sargent: Oh, in Cahors you did, okay.

[00:40:22] Regina Logan: Yeah, I don’t remember. I don’t remember what the river was. Sorry.

[00:40:26] Annie Sargent: I’ll look it up. I don’t know it off the top of my head either. Is it the Lot? It is the Lot.

[00:40:32] Regina Logan: Okay.

So, you know, it’s always fun to take a boat ride.

[00:40:35] Annie Sargent: Yes. I love the boat ride.

[00:40:37] Regina Logan: You could also get kayaks, I think, there as well in the Dordogne. We weren’t quite that adventuresome to try kayaks. Maybe if we were younger, but we’re not.

[00:40:45] Annie Sargent: Well, anywhere you go, you can rent kayaks, you can rent bikes, you know, anywhere you go. I know I sound like a broken record, but there’s great hikes to be had anywhere in France, if you’re looking for that, just go to Komoot and look for bike rides, hikes, whatever, anywhere, and you’ll find some.

There’s some everywhere.

Rue Daguerre, Paris

[00:41:06] Annie Sargent: So let’s talk about Rue Daguerre in Paris. This is not one that comes up a lot, so we want to talk about it, so, because we don’t have a lot of time left.

[00:41:14] Regina Logan: Well, first of all, thanks to you, we stayed in the 14th Arrondissement, which is not, it’s not one of the main arrondissements, I think a lot of tourists because there’s not a lot of touristy stuff there, which was totally fine with us. It’s still super convenient to everything. We did not go to the very famous tower, Montparnasse Tower, which we did not go up in, but we heard here it has a wonderful view. Anyway, that’s the 14th.

But the Rue Daguerre was just this great little street with all kinds of markets and restaurants, and full of life. We went once in the evening and was still going strong when we left, probably after dinner around nine or ten o’clock. And then in the morning, our last morning, we went back up and we had breakfast there.

It was all just very lively. And I think, again, a little bit off the beaten path for most American tourists.

[00:42:05] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Well, and the crazy thing is it’s right across from the Catacombs. It’s really close to the Catacombs. It’s also really close to theMusée de la Libération de Paris, which is one I highly recommend. So this is a part of Paris that has plenty of things to do. You’re also not very far from the Cimetière Montparnasse, which is just as cool as Père Lachaise.

People don’t really talk about it as much. So, you know, people don’t know, but if you’re going to spend a day in Montparnasse area, definitely there’s more that you can do in that area. And there’s some really cool restaurants as well. So yeah, a really nice area.

[00:42:48] Regina Logan: We did end our trip at La Rotonde, which is a famous restaurant.

[00:42:53] Annie Sargent: I like it. Good food. They have really goodveal liver. Oh, the best in France.

[00:42:59] Regina Logan: I haven’t tried veal liver, but we had good fish.

[00:43:03] Annie Sargent: There you go. There you go. So you list a few favorite restaurants and that’s going to be all in your guest notes, including one in Toulouse that I have not been to, Le Court Circuit. Got to go. Got to go.

[00:43:15] Regina Logan: It was in a little tiny place, and we only stayed one night there, as I mentioned, but our Airbnb hosts were adorable, a young couple, cute little kid, and they lived in the apartment building right next to where the Airbnb was, and we asked them, where would you go? We want to walk, because it was dark, and we didn’t even have our car yet anyway. And so we just walked over there and a very youthful, I don’t know if it’s near a university, but there are a lot of young people there, which was pretty cool.

[00:43:41] Annie Sargent: I will have to, I will have to go,yeah, I will have to try it.

You have one in Corde du Ciel, you have one in Cahors, you have one in Bayonne. Yeah, yeah, you have a bunch of them, restaurants. Just go look at the guest notes. They’re really good.

What did you learn about France on this trip? Because this was not your first rodeo. So did you learn anything?

[00:44:00] Regina Logan: Honestly, it just confirmed the joie de vivre that we find in France that, you know, just taking it easy, really enjoying food, wine, talking with friends .

[00:44:13] Annie Sargent: Company, being with friends.

[00:44:14] Regina Logan: Company, yes, being with friends and just, you know, you could flânner, you could be a flânneur, flânneuse, just, you know, wandering through the streets.It just confirmed what I already knew and loved about France, I have to be really honest, it wasn’t anything particularly, nothing new, but except that now I want to go back every single year and go to a different part of France or go. That’s always a hard one, do you go back to where you were because you loved it or do you try something new because you haven’t been there yet.

[00:44:38] Annie Sargent: Ah, that’s the question. That’s always the question. So same at restaurants. Do you go back to a restaurant you really like? Do you eat the same thing you already got or do you try something new? That’s hard. And there’s people who will answer that question very differently depending on their personality, and there’s no good or bad answer.

Less is more: Go for Depth Rather Than Breadth

[00:44:56] Annie Sargent: Any pearls of wisdom that you want to share, that didn’t come up yet?

[00:45:00] Regina Logan: The only thing, and I think you had asked me to sort of give a name to this trip.

[00:45:06] Annie Sargent: Yes.

[00:45:07] Regina Logan: Less is more. I cannot say it enough. Less is more. Don’t try to do everything. You know, if you’re lucky, you’ll get back another time. But even if not,go for depth rather than breadth. You know, you really stay somewhere for a few days.

Don’t try to do 8 million things, you know, in particularly, maybe in Paris as well, but wherever you are.It was great. Because then you have time for the serendipitous things that will happen and rather than trying to go, Oh, my God, we have this itinerary, we have to be here by three o’clock.

Oh, the other thing is time. They’re not kidding when they say all the shops close from 12 to 2, but all the restaurants are open. You’ve said this before too, so if you arrive somewhere, like we did until we figured this out, oh we’ll go to the tourist bureau first, find out about this place where we are, and then we’ll go to lunch.

Well you get to the tourist bureau and it’s not open, so start with lunch…

If It’s Time to Eat, Go Eat!

[00:46:00] Annie Sargent: If it’s time to eat, just go eat.

[00:46:02] Regina Logan: Exactly, exactly, I would say that’s my, if it’s less is more, then under that if it’s time to eat, go to eat.

[00:46:08] Annie Sargent: Yes. No, it’s really, really important. And people don’t, you know, the most difficult people to convince of this is people who are used to just eating when they’re hungry. Don’t do that in France, because you won’t eat.

[00:46:22] Regina Logan: Or you carry around a baguette and some good fromage and you…

[00:46:25] Annie Sargent: Or you carry on something, but if you just wait to, if you only eat when you get hungry, well, you know, I mean, in Paris, there’s stuff open all the time, but outside of Paris or in big cities, I’m not talking, I’m talking about big cities in general, you’ll find something. But in these quaint little villages, the chef is not sticking around day and night, you know, he shows up at 11 and he leaves at, well, a two or something. And good luck eating outside of those hours. That’s just how it is.

Annie’s Walking Tours in Paris

[00:46:53] Regina Logan: I know that we’re running out late, I think, but I have to give a plug for your walking tours in Paris.

[00:46:59] Annie Sargent: Go ahead.

[00:47:00] Regina Logan: Awesome. They were awesome. We had gotten the Marais and the Quartier Latin, the Latin Quarter, and we actually couldn’t even, there were so much, they were so comprehensive. We probably only did them for each one for an hour to two.

And that didn’t finish because there was just, they were great though, they were very, we did get lost once in a while, but we would just go back, we’d follow your directions and go back to where we should have been and turn left instead of right or whatever.

[00:47:26] Annie Sargent: Oh, yeah.

[00:47:28] Regina Logan: They were really great.

[00:47:29] Annie Sargent: Yeah. They make your life easy. And if you enjoy just not being too stuck on your phone, then the walking tours are good because you can listen to me telling you where it is you’re supposed to go next. Now, sometimes you miss a turn or something, but I’m very, very careful to tell you exactly, you know, I test those things so many times.

I send people who don’t know Paris, all of that, because you got to get these little things right. But thank you so much. Yes. I put in a lot of time. I’m thinking about doing another one for the Louvre area because I really like that area and I know it very well, and so I think it’d be interesting to guide people through that area and take them to some of the places I love, but will see.

There’s always more I could be doing with my time.

Well, thank you so much, Regina. It’s been delightful working with you and talking to you today. And I hope you get many, many more chances to come back to France.

Merci, moi au aussi. Thank you. Me too. Merci. Au revoir.

Au revoir. Bye bye.


[00:48:33] Annie Sargent: The Join Us in France travel podcast is written, hosted, and produced by Annie Sargent and Copyright 2024 by AddictedToFrance. It is released under a Creative Commons, attribution, non-commercial, no derivatives license.


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Categories: Occitanie, Toulouse Area