Walking through Les Jardins Suspendus de Marqueyssac on their summer special Marquesyssac aux Chandelles is without a doubt one of the most romantic and magical evenings you’ll ever have. It is such an incredible experience. If I lived in France I’d happily visit every week during the summer. It happens every Thursday evening from dusk until midnight during July and August.
Views on Demand
As with pretty much the whole of the Dordogne – Perigord area in south-west France, the views are ridiculously easy on the eye. Just 9km from the popular town of Sarlat, pulling into the car park is an exciting glimpse of what’s to come. As the sun slowly heads down the horizon is filled with the most stunning shades of orange and silver. They light up the valley in a calming glow.
A popular sport with hot air balloons, they linger in the sky soaking up the views which must be even more spectacular from that height. I didn’t have time to experience this, but it’s high on the list for a return visit. If your schedule allows, definitely do it. I went in a hot air balloon in Melbourne and it was just the most surreal and oddly peaceful few hours.
Once you manage to prize yourself away from the beautiful backdrop head up the hill to the gardens. After all, the best is yet to come.
As with anything that’s truly special, you’ll have to queue a little. Opened to the public in 1997, it’s now the most visited garden in Aquitaine (one of the twenty-seven regions in France). Seemingly off the overseas tourist route, it’s filled with mostly French guests. This adds to the romance of the whole night as you only hear murmurs of the sexy French accents.
Once you’ve paid your 13 euro entry fee (reduced rates available for children) you’re free to explore at your leisure. I’d recommend arriving at 7pm so that you can watch the sunset before then enjoying the candlelight night. A lot of expert locals head on the twenty-five minute walk straight to the far end of the estate which overlooks La Roque-Gageac, a cliff-side village that regularly wins France’s most prettiest village competition.
However, if it’s your first visit I’m sure that you’ll be so enamoured with your surroundings that you’ll simply follow the sound of soft music or the flicker of the candles that line the hedged pathways. It took me thirty minutes to walk a five minute distance because I was so taken aback by how it exceeded everything I had hoped it would be. The sky was now a shade of light pink. The charming chateau doors open for visitors, with a spiral staircase leading up to the fancy dining room and out onto the terrace. A man effortlessly played jazz on a chic piano, whilst guests sipped bubbles, splitting their view between the sunset and him. I felt like I had walked onto the set of an iconic French romance film.
Down the Garden Path
The paths of Les Jardins Suspendus de Marqueyssac (The Hanging Gardens of Marqueyssac) are organised into three circuits 130 metres above the river. Whichever candlelit pathway you choose you’ll be spoilt with sculpted trees, boxwood, twinkling lights and impressive views at every turn. You’ll even find a discreet treehouse on one particular corner. I couldn’t decide if I felt like a fairy or like I’d entered The Secret Garden, either way my glistening eyes and beaming smile showed no sign of disappearing. Abandon the map and embrace your impulse choices. You won’t be disappointed.
Tree canopies and hedged tunnels are laced with fairy lights, whilst taller trees are draped in tasteful multi-coloured lights. Sometimes they stay bare with just the tiny candles on the ground and the moon to light them in a soft glow. Dotted throughout the gardens you’ll find musicians playing live jazz music – not the cheesy type, but the kind that pulls you closer and makes you want to tap your foot or pick up an instrument. Couples sit on the benches cuddling or sipping the Champagne they’ve brought with them. Families sit on blankets feasting on their gourmet picnics, their little ones dancing to the music. It’s hard to convey the magic of it, but believe me when I say it’s truly enchanting.
If you want to see everything you can probably pause for ten minutes or so before carrying on through the next walkway. The musicians are all unique, with some soloists, brassy bands and duos. Alongside the music, peacocks, bats and other nature you’ll find modern art sculptures and even cliff etchings. Before you know it the hours will have passed and the sky will be dark. With a heavy, but filled heart you’ll make your way down the candlelit hill to head back home.
If you’re in France within the next two weeks you don’t have long left, so make you visit the candlelight nights (Marquesyssac aux Chandelles). Whilst you can visit The Gardens of Marqueyssac throughout the year, these summer special evenings really are one of the most incredible experiences for couples, families and children. If you’re looking for a stylish, romantic spot to propose you’ll have loads to choose from here. It’s a guaranteed ‘yes’. Fact
*Video footage coming soon.*
Would you like to visit? Do you have any questions you’d like to ask before you go? Let me know in the comments box below and I’ll get back to you. X