Your Christmas tour of Sarlat, France

There seem to be two views around here about Sarlat — the largest town near our village of Daglan. One viewpoint is that it’s stylish, with good shopping, nice restaurants, and lots of beautiful buildings, well preserved over the ages. The other view is that its people are somewhat stuffy or snobby, and that Gourdon is a much better destination. For our part, my wife and I are in the first camp, and we visit Sarlat virtually all year ’round (except for the absolute height of the tourist season, when it’s so full of people and traffic you can hardly move).

This morning we headed to Sarlat to check out the sights as Christmas approaches. What follows will be your personal photographic journey through Sarlat’s Village de Noël and a few of its streets, ending with a Michelin-mentioned restaurant that definitely does not get the Radio Free Daglan Seal of Approval.

We start at La Grande Rigaudie, the huge parking lot at the south end of Sarlat’s central shopping (and tourism) district. It’s closed off to parking now, because it’s become the upper part of the two-part Village de Noël. Here it is, with its plane trees well pruned:

La Grande Rigaudie, Sarlat

La Grande Rigaudie, normally reserved for cars.

Now, for the holiday season, a fairly large ice rink has been installed in the centre of the lot. And it seems to be hugely popular. Here it is in action, with young skaters cleverly wearing bike helmets in case they crack their heads on the ice:

Kids skating in Sarlat, France

Trying out the ice in Sarlat, France.

Beyond the ice rink, the stalls have been set up neatly in rows, like this:

La Village Noël

The beginning of the Christmas village in Sarlat.

And as you can see, each has a specialty for sale.

A row of stalls in Sarlat's Village de Noël

Even the boxer is interested.

For instance, beyond the penguin display, there’s a stall where you can buy fish soup and fresh oysters, and even eat them on the spot. It’s here:

Penguin display at Sarlat's Christmas Village

From wooden penguins to fresh oysters.

Then there are all kinds of regional specialties. Like fresh-made candies:

Candies for sale

Nothing says Christmas like sweeties.

And all kinds of sausages:

Sausages for sale.

Care for a sausage -- or 10?

Of course, here in the Perigord Noir, we must have lots of walnuts. Oh, yes, and knives. Like these:

Walnuts and knives for sale.

How about some walnuts? And a good knife?

Of course, this wouldn’t be France if we didn’t have our cheeses. So how about some Saint-Nectaire Fermier — that is, Saint-Nectaire made on the farm instead of in a factory. It’s for sale, you know:

Cheese for sale

A nice display of Saint-Nectaire Fermier cheeses.

Now we’ve come to the end of the upper level of the Christmas Village, the one that is in the parking lot. Just a few steps below is the other half of the stalls:

More of Sarlat's Christmas Village

The street-level section of Sarlat's Christmas Village.

Here’s how the entrance to the Village looks, from street-level:

Entrance to Sarlat's Christmas Village.

Your entry to the Christmas Village.

A final look at the stalls in the Village — in this case, one that is selling all kinds of decorations:

Decorations for sale.

Need some decorations? Take your pick.

Now we leave the Village, and head into the main shopping area of Sarlat, which is primarily for pedestrians. Here’s a view up the street:

Street in Sarlat, France

A quiet street in Sarlat, as Christmas approaches.

And some bright (but artificial) Christmas trees in front of a pricey perfume shop in Sarlat:

Perfume shop in Sarlat.

Christmas trees in front of a perfume shop.

In a shop that sells a wide range of soaps, cosmetics, bath oils and so on, we found this lovely (real) Christmas tree:

Inside of a shop in Sarlat, France.

A lovely Christmas tree, and some wonderful scents in the air.

To end our tour, we had the one disappointment of our visit to Sarlat. After touring the Village de Noël, it was time for lunch, and we decided to try a new spot — one that is recommended in the latest issue of Michelin’s Guide rouge (for hotels and restaurants). Rossignol (15, rue Fénelon) is awarded one couvert (or place setting) by Michelin, which is the same rating given Le Bistro de l’Octroi in Sarlat (where my wife and I have eaten often). We had often walked past Rossignol, and always had declined to enter because it simply looked too plain, lacking in warmth.

This was a case where our instincts were right. The food was certainly acceptable — my wife started with a fish soup, and then had monkfish, while I had a huge cassoulet. But it definitely lacked elegance, as you’ll see from this look at my dish of beans and meat:

Dish of cassoulet

Believe me, this was a huge portion.

I could waste a lot of words with a critique of the food and the restaurant, but I don’t think it’s worth the effort. It just goes to show you that it’s sometimes better to trust your instincts than to follow a source blindly, even a source as trusted as Michelin.

As for the rest of the afternoon, let’s just say that visions of Pepto-Bismol danced in our heads.

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This entry was posted in Life in southwest France, Markets in France. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Your Christmas tour of Sarlat, France

  1. Lesley says:

    The cassoulet had the charm of what that boxer might have brought up, Bon Appetit!

  2. Teri says:

    In the first shot of the stalls, it looks like a teeny version of the boxer is coming out of Jan’s purse. On another note, the Distillery had a Christmas festival this year, and the stalls were very much like these ones. Many offered their own local treats, but it wasn’t the same thing…

  3. loren24250 says:

    Teri, you’re right about the “miniature” Boxer in the first photo. Funny! I hadn’t noticed. Actually I wouldn’t be surprised to see that one day, in a restaurant. We see all kinds of little dogs in their carriers in restaurants, and even saw one inside a teenage girl’s blouse!

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