Sarlat-la-Canéda: an insider’s guide

PUBLISHED: 09:42 30 June 2017 | UPDATED: 17:33 10 July 2017

Sarlat-la-Canéda is one of Dordogne's most popular destinations © Jonathan Barbot

Sarlat-la-Canéda is one of Dordogne’s most popular destinations (Credit: Jonathan Barbot)

Sarlat-la-Canéda is a Dordogne favourite, where visitors never fail to be captivated by the town’s fine medieval architecture and gastronomic delights. Here’s our insider’s guide to the main attractions, restaurants and hotels and buying property in Sarlat-la-Canéda

 Sarlat-la-Canéda is unsurprisingly one of the most popular towns in Dordogne. Located just a few kilometres from the River Dordogne in south-west France, the town has retained much of its 14th-century charm and its medieval architecture is still a main pull for its thousands of yearly visitors. A popular base for exploring the Vèzére valley, you could easily spend all of your time discovering Sarlat’s quaint medieval buildings, twisting alleyways and picture-postcard squares.

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Sarlat-la-Canéda has lots of impressive manor houses © Dan Courtice
Sarlat-la-Canéda has lots of impressive manor houses (Credit: Dan Courtice)

What to see and do in Sarlat-la-Canéda

Originally an abbey church dating from the 11th century, the Cathédrale St-Sacerdos is a mixture of Romanesque and Gothic styles. The organ in the church is said to be one of the best preserved from the 18th century. Pop inside to hear it being played as part of a special concert or simply soak up the peace and quiet away from Sarlat’s busy squares. Nearby you can spot the a rocket-like structure called ‘lanterne des morts’, a 12th-century stone monument that is said to honour Saint Bernard, who is believed to have cured the sick by blessing their bread.

House-hunters to Sarlat should stroll along Rue des Consuls, which has a number of impressive mansion houses that are testament to Sarlat’s growth during the Middle Ages. From being a small community controlled by the church, it had, by the mid-1500s, evolved into a prosperous market town popular with wealthy merchants. Further on you’ll see elegant buildings including the 16th-century Hôtel de Mirandol with its imposing doorway; the 14th-century Hôtel Plamon with its mullion windows; and the 15th-century Hôtel de Vassal with its double turret.

You can’t go to Sarlat-la-Canéda and miss the buzzing Saturday food market in the city centre. You might have to jostle for space among the crowds of eagle-eyed locals but it’s well worth it. Trestle tables are laden with farmers’ produce: fleshy red tomatoes, brightly coloured carrots, farm-fresh plums and twisted cucumbers sit alongside seemingly bottomless boxes of garlic, truffles, and trays of foie gras.

 Another market well worth a visit is the indoor market at Église Sainte-Marie. Enter through the gigantic steel doors, and you’ll see stalls piled high with everything from spicy saucisson to local St-Nectaire cheese. Don’t forget to look out for the church’s main attraction; a glass lift that rises up through bell tower to reveal breathtaking views over the rooftops of Sarlat and beyond.

Place des Oies is where you can see the life-size bronze statue of three geese that seems to appear on every postcard of Sarlat; birds that have served as a delicacy for many Salardais over the centuries. Meanwhile, on Place de la Liberté, many visitors might experience a feeling of déjà vu, as this iconic square has often served as a backdrop for films.

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Macarons | The history and endurability of Macarons

Written by Janine Marsh in French Cuisine for The Good Life France

macarons

Macarons or macaroons are those timeless little desert biscuits… fads may come and fads may go says Janine Marsh who knows a good macaron when she eats one – but macarons, those little aristocrats of the patisserie world, will always be in fashion.

Popular myth has it that macarons, the pretty little crunchy, soft biscuit cakes, came to France in 1533 when Catherine de Medici arrived from Italy to marry Henry II of France.

macaronsMacarons are certainly of Italian origin, possibly dating back as far as the 8th Century after almonds started to be imported to Venice.

They seem though to have become archetypically French over the centuries ensuing.

One of the legendary stories of macarons dates back to the 18th century in the city of Nancy in eastern France. At the Convent of the Dames du Saint Sacrement, the nuns baked macarons because meat was forbidden and the sweet little cakes were nutritious – and of course delicious.

In 1792, two of the nuns, Sisters Marguerite and Marie-Elisabeth, began selling macarons commercially to the general public after losing their home in the days of French Revolutionary chaos and anti-religious fervour.

Their little crispy rustic looking macaron biscuits became instantly popular and the secret recipe has been passed on from one generation to another. Today Maison des Soeurs Macaron in Nancy continues to produce the macarons to the same centuries old recipe, a single biscuit with a rough, cracked top and a scrumptiously soft and chewy inside.

Elsewhere in France there are other legends, more stories of the making and popularity of macarons including that of one of the most famous macaron outlets in Paris – Ladurée.

macarons

In 1862, Louis Ernest Ladurée created a bakery at 16 rue Royale in the heart of Paris. When it burned down, Ladurée rebuilt it and employed Jules Cheret, notable painter of the century, to redecorate the new bakery. Inspired by the techniques used to paint the ceilings of the Opera Garnier, he adorned the ceilings and walls. Over the years the bakery became well known for its beautiful interior and superior pastries, becoming one of the largest tea rooms in Paris. In the early 20th Century the grand-son of Louis Ernest Ladurée, came up with an idea to assemble the little macaron biscuits sandwiched by cream and it became a best-selling idea which made the macarons of Laduree their flagship product and famous all over the world.

macarons

Today in Paris there is one man who epitomises the making of a perfect macaron – Pierre Hermé  of Paris is generally acknowledged to be the master . Described as a couturier of pastry, “the Picasso of Pastry” (Vogue) – his macarons are in a league of its own. For the last 15 years he has dominated the macaron market for enthusiastic  gourmets.

So beloved are macarons in France that there is even a museum dedicated to them! The Musée de l’Amande et du Macaron in Montmorillon, Vienne, Poituo-Charente where you can learn about the history of this fascinating and enduring little cake and even have a tasting in the museum’s Winter Garden.

Eclairs may come and go, Cronuts (half croissant and half doughnut) may be the darling du jour, but the macaron will keep on going, changing flavours, sweet… savoury, vive la macaron!

More about cakes of France:
Opera Cake – inspired by the Paris Opera
Eclairs – the lip-smacking sweet finger cake!
Stohrer – the oldest cake shop in Paris

Source/Credit:  thegoodlifefrance.com