It was 2015 in the Southwest French summertime, visiting the Périgord region not far from Bordeaux. Before this, I’d never set foot in Europe. A wide eyed and brand new to this land, so heavy with culture and history. My first glimpse of Paris entailed a zip down the Seine with barely a pause for a face full of religieuse & macarons before departing out of Gare d’Austerlitz bound for the town of Périgeaux.
Later in my travels France would become somewhat of a second home to me, however for now I was viewing these lands with fresh eyes. Completely eclipsing everything I’d grown up with, reminding me that my own land was just an infant in comparison.
Despite being relatively unknown outside of France, Its well worth breaking out of Paris to explore the other side of France. The Périgord region is remarkably lively in the summer months with Parisians seeking an escape from the city, sunshine, countryside and glimpse back in time to what rural French life was like before all the high rises.
Here in the Périgord, each region is more picturesque than the last. Famed for unspoiled natural beauty, abundant wildlife, and exquisite cuisine focusing around duck, truffle, and walnuts. Each quarter of the Périgord is a namesake to it’s most famed product.
Starting in the north, the Périgord Vert gets its name for being rich in forests, meadows and streams, the center is the Périgord Blanc for the white limestone plateaus of Ribéracois-Verteillacois , Périgord Noir named for it’s earthy black truffles In the Southeast, and the Périgord Pourpre in the Southeast who’s region owes its name to the color taken by the vine leaves in autumn, splayed across over 1200 vineyards.
Food is the heart of this region, and even the tiniest of convenience store peddles all manner of duck pate and my most beloved trappe echourgnac
During the hotter months, the small villages in the region host daily get-togethers, where each night of the week it is a different villages turn to host le repas – an out door food court of sorts, but not like anything I’d imagined before. I was excited to find out what a different villages had in store. Audrix is a tiny medevial village, a speckle placed pricisely on the highest point of a small hill. The view is postcard worthy, 360 degree panoramic views across the Southern French countryside, woods and groves occasionally intercepted by fat, rotund hay bales and stone clad cottages.
The summer evenings amble along at an easy pace – with the last round of sunscreen being applied as late at 8pm. In this toasty environment, al fresco dining seems more of a requirement than an option. Long bench tables are set up around the perimeter of the town square, while a band is getting ready to play in front of the roaring hot wood-fired bread oven. A delightful cross between a picnic and an outdoor food market.
Guests bring their own plates and cutlery, often wine too, and then carouse the stalls selecting the rest. The options vary between towns depending on both what is produced locally in the region, as well as what is in season. I made a beeline for a personal favourite – confit de canard, a thigh of duck cooked in it’s own fat, served aside sliced potatoes fried in mushroom and bacon. Stuffed full and happy, I finished off with red wine and cup of strawberries with creme chantilly.
Duck, truffles, fois gras and walnuts are all regional delicacies. Platters of thin, meaty circles of fois gras & rillette sit neatly aside cheese plates and freshly hulled strawberries. Bustling vendors whipping up rich, black truffle fragranced tagliatelle chat to their neighbours grilling up magret canard and steak frite.
The festivities carry on well into the evening as dark doesn’t fall until about 10pm. The local entertainment parades through dressed in traditional clothing; singing, dancing and snaking their way through the crowd in handmade medieval gear. Children play and indulge in rides around the village on a cart drawn by donkey as their parents catch up with their friends and neighbours over a flame-baked, crusty bread. Eventually the crowds disperse for the evening, warm, socialised & sated, ready for a good nights sleep, and maybe even to meet up again tomorrow at the next repas, each day a new village host.