Sarlat, France (south west France to be precise) is definitely a lot more touristy than nearby Gourdon and sleepy Cazals. However, just a few side steps to the backstreets can make you feel like your in an enchanted medieval town that’s full of promise, even if it is raining.
Ruling la Rue
The town centre is based around one main street (Rue de la Republique). It’s full of cafés that spill out onto the cobbles, selling overpriced croissants and macaroons. Waiters rush around trying to feed the hoards of tourists and hungry families huff and puff at the wait for a table. Children squish their faces against the glass of the ice-cream chiller, eyeing up the layers of swirls.
Others stand confused, trying to suss out the strange slushy flavours. Just what Indian tastes like is something you’ll have to work out for yourself.
A warren of narrow lanes and stone buildings feed from the main street. They make you forget about the tourist gimmicks – they create an air of mystery. They call to your curiosity, beckoning you to wander down their path to see what wonder awaits.
Some lead to nowhere, some sneak back on themselves bringing you out right back where you started, and some seem to go on forever. The winding lanes are full of French charm. Cute window shutters adorn the stone buildings and seemingly understated, but equally grand turrets sit on top of the buildings that you instantly know are of some historical importance.
Sometimes a seemingly dead-end catches you off guard, revealing a tiny bistro or a local’s courtyard. Other times the warren washes you back out into one of the small plazas selling paintings.
This region of France is famed for foie gras and truffles. Souvenir shops selling the local delicacies replace the usual Starbucks on every street corner kind of city. Truffle infused vodka, foie gras burgers…you’ll find just about every combination in Sarlat.
In the centre of Sarlat you’ll also find the famous market hidden within a former church. On one side you’ll find huge, huge sweeping doors that any normal person would struggle to open. The other entrance is a lot less dramatic, so make sure you walk through the market to appreciate both sides. On a damp day it smells of wet dog thanks to seemingly every local owning a dog or two in Sarlat. However, the baskets of garlic and hanging cheeses will distract your senses within a minute or two. In the high season it’s open everyday from 8.30am to 2pm, except on a Friday when it’s open from 9.30am to 8pm.
Sarlat may be a little touristy, but if you explore the winding lanes you’ll be happy to play tourist for a morning visit. X