Monday, 4 April 2016

A great day wandering historic Perigueux

We didn't get to Perigueux on Friday as the weather was
Mad street art in Perigueux 
miserable - those April showers starting as they mean to go on! Saturday dawned grey, but we decided to take what might have been our last chance to view this historic town, dressed up for rain and ended up wearing far too much in glorious sunshine. Definitely a better outcome than the forecast's promised drenching!

We parked for free in a little car park down by the river. Dave had researched getting there by the little local Peribus, but it involved a mile's walk at the campsite end, a change of bus and a journey of well over an hour so we took the car instead. The town was busy in the morning as the bi-weekly farmer's market had taken over several of the squares and surrounding streets. The market happens on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, packing up about 1pm, and there was an excellent range of food stalls including fruits and vegetables, cheeses, meats, honey and mead, and breads.

Our first sight upon exiting the car park though was
Perigueux cathedral 
Perigueux's unique Byzantine cathedral whose spires tower above the other buildings. I did get a blue sky picture of it later in the day, but it looked more imposing I think against the ominous grey clouds. Saint Front Cathedral was originally modelled on St Mark's Basilica in Venice with its floorplan being a Greek cross. This felt quite weird when we actually stepped inside briefly as two large sections of chairs face across towards each other giving worshippers no view of the altar or the service. The cathedral seemed to be mostly dull grey stone inside and I thought it best seen from outdoors! Built in 1669, Saint Front looks quite plain in early images with only its tower to distinguish it. The domes were added when the cathedral was rebuilt to the designs of Paul Abadie between 1852 and 1893.

Perigueux has surviving Roman stonework and lots of
medieval structures including this old 'moulin' by the side of the road into town. (If you see this on your right, the slope down to the car park is imminent on your left!) We had intended to visit the Tourist Office for a historical town map, but didn't arrive until after their lunchtime closure. Instead, we wandered the old town at random.

Narrow streets have dramatically tall buildings leaning in towards each other and many of the most interesting alleyways are still unevenly cobbled, rising in the centre to drain water (and originally sewage) to gutters on each side. We spotted signs for a historical town walk which is marked by yellow stripes on the side of various buildings. This led us through a medieval maze of streets including those of the Jewish quarter, and alongside sections of the city walls which are still very much in evidence. We loved seeing buildings with their original thick wooden doors, and some had small stone statues in niches above.

This weekend just gone was a pan-European celebration of
artisan crafts and crafters entitled 'Les Journees Europeennes des Metiers d'Art'. We saw two exhibitions that were part of this - one of pottery in a small gallery and the second of various arts in a wonderful venue. Delphine Viau and Vero And Didou showcased their talents for leather bags and recycled lighting over two floors of the Mataguerre tower. The tower was part of the defensive walls, made of thick stone, and with a steep spiral staircase enabling us to enjoy these fabulous views across the rooftops of the old town. Originally there were twenty-eight towers and twelve gates, but Mataguerre is now the only one remaining.

Lunch was coffee and cake at Le Fournil patisserie which has a good selection and also offers the usual bakery breads, plus salad boxes and savoury pastries. There are a few little tables inside along one wall. Suitably refreshed, we wandered back down to the river so Dave could drop off his waterproof coat at the car. In hindsight, I should have left my wool coat too as shortly afterwards the cloud cover cleared and the sun shone on our canal and river walk.

Perigueux has a short canal built just inside the bend of the
Perigueux canal 
river L'Isle. It's banks are now primarily for leisure with a Voie Verte passing along here. In the hour or so we walked out and back we saw dozens of cyclists, runners and other walkers. It is amazingly peaceful and feels rural despite being just metres from the town. Returning along the narrow strip of land between the river and canal we enviously overlooked small houses and fantastic little plots of amenity land, some with hammocks and swing chairs, others which had been dug into full-scale allotments.

After such a great visit, the downside to Perigueux is the huge sprawling Centre Commercial we needed to drive through to get back to Antonne Et Trigonant. There are so many businesses and such weight of traffic that getting across the roundabouts safely was a pretty hair-raising experience. I wouldn't let that put me off visiting again, but I might choose to camp elsewhere if possible and cycle in along the Voie Verte!


  1. Looks like such a neat place to visit! I love that art in the picture at the top. And the buildings all seem to have so much history. I really need to get out of my country again some day and this time travel off the continent!

    1. I'd definitely recommend Perigueux! We didn't really know what to expect, but it's lovely!