Exploring Sarlat During the Saturday Morning Market
While I loved everywhere we visited in the Dordogne Valley, if there is one destination I wish I could have spent more time in, and I think is the perfect first place to visit or home base to explore from in the region is the historic town of Sarlat. My biggest tip for anyone visiting is simple: make sure you’re in town for their famous Saturday morning market which takes over most of the main streets laden with fresh produce, French bread, and local delicacies such as truffles, foie gras, gariguette strawberries and tiny goats cheeses.
We arrived in Sarlat in early Friday evening, and after a quick pit stop to freshen up at our hotel we headed out to explore the partly cobbled, Medieval streets that were bathed in late evening, golden hour light. It is a truly magical time to explore. While I usually I don’t think big towns like this make for a quiets night sleep, after all the restaurants are winding down, even on a Friday night Sarlat is deadly quiet.
I would plan to get up relatively early, watch BBC World Service in bed for a bit and have a leisurely spot of breakfast in time to head out into the streets about 10am. By then most of the stalls will be finishing up laying out their wares, but you’ll just beat the main bustle and cram of people you’ll find packing the market as you approach lunchtime (when you’ll want to get in the car and head out into the countryside, or find some steps to sit on down a quiet side street to dig into your market purchases.)
While a lot of the market is fresh produce, it is also the place to load yourself up with local delicacies to take home with you. You’ll find the entire spectrum of aperitifs made with local fruits, walnuts, and even infused with truffle, more preserved Foie Gras than you can shake a stick at. I was particularly happy to take a jar home with me, as it is usually something I only get as a treat at Christmas. It is apparently also a popular gift and take home, as even the signs at security at Bergerac airport specially note that you can take foie gras in a jar through as hand luggage, but not in a tin! Ketty, the French foodie I was exploring the market with, was also overly excited to take back a jar of escargot on toast back to Dublin with her!
After bidding goodbye to the market, we escaped the increasing throng to explore a bit more of the town. There are little nods to Sarlat’s famous geese everywhere. Sarlat is basically one of the foie gras capital of France, and every March they hold Fest’Oie, which translated as ‘goose fair’ where geese run wild through the streets and everyone feasts on as much goose as they can possibly manage.
While most people are more interested in the golden geese, around the corner from them, overlooking the big indoor market build inside the old church sits another famous statue in the town; the man who, from humble beginnings, is otherwise known as the man with the best view of Sarlat. With the chance to look down at all of the cheeses, pastries, foie gras and truffles being sold every single weekend, I can’t help but agree!
My second main ‘things to do in Sarlat’ recommendation is a trip up the church tower at Sainte-Marie Church. Designed by the award winning architect Jean Nouvel, as well as converting the main body of the church into an indoor market, the tower was fitted with a panoramic glass box and a hydraulic lift which raises you up to look over the whole of the town, all of its Medieval buildings, pretty rooftops, and the surrounding rolling countryside stretched out before you. The lift is open from April to December (as well as on other special occasions, so I would assume you’d be able to access it, weather depending during March’s goose festival), and you can find out more information on the Sarlat tourism website.
A couple of my companions on our jaunt around the Dordogne Valley have posted a few more snapshots from our trip since my last post, so head over to Ketty’s blog French Foodie in Dublin to read all about our arrival in the beautiful region via Brive Airport, and to Yaya and Lloyd’s blog Hand Luggage Only for their photos from Chateau de Lissac, Terrason, and their photos from the town of Brive, as well as their shots from the stunning, red stone village of Collonges-la-Rouge, my photos from which I’m saving for my last Dordogne post.
I was a guest in the Dordogne Valley of Brive and Bergerac Airports and the local tourism boards. Thank you to Sarlat Tourism for their hospitality, and a late night, hilarity fuelled cocktail session.