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:
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:
Beyond the ice rink, the stalls have been set up neatly in rows, like this:
And as you can see, each has a specialty for sale.
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:
Then there are all kinds of regional specialties. Like fresh-made candies:
And all kinds of sausages:
Of course, here in the Perigord Noir, we must have lots of walnuts. Oh, yes, and knives. Like these:
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:
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:
Here’s how the entrance to the Village looks, from street-level:
A final look at the stalls in the Village — in this case, one that is selling all kinds of decorations:
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:
And some bright (but artificial) Christmas trees in front of a pricey perfume shop in Sarlat:
In a shop that sells a wide range of soaps, cosmetics, bath oils and so on, we found this lovely (real) Christmas tree:
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:
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.