One of the joys of living in the Greater Daglan Area — that’s the GDA, as Radio Free Daglan insiders know it — is travelling from Daglan itself to other beautiful towns, villages and hamlets in the area. Roads are generally quite good, and the scenery is wonderful.
So it was this past Sunday as my wife Jan and I drove out of Daglan to Issigeac, to meet up with our friend Janice for lunch. The day was superb, sunny and bright, and reasonably warm, and the drive took us out of the département of the Dordogne, through a corner of the Lot-et-Garonne, and back up into the Dordogne again.
Our route took us west to Belvès, and then onwards to Monpazier, a favourite town of ours. Then we continued on to Villeréal, and finally north to Issigeac. Total distance was just over 60 kilometres from Daglan, so the drive doesn’t take much more than an hour.
The difference in scenery along the way is not dramatic, but still noticeable — once you pass Monpazier, the countryside subtly changes from the forested hills of the Dordogne to the more gentle rolling hills of Lot-et-Garonne, with broad vistas and then, finally, the start of the wine country near Bergerac, with vineyards dotting the landscape.
Issigeac itself is a quaint medieval village, but its roots as a community extend back to Roman times. The village is built in a circle, and many of its buildings are in the half-timbered style.
Jan and I had been to Issigeac once, several years ago, and had not been overly impressed. The weather was cool (we can’t remember the month), and the village seemed dead quiet, with virtually no one around. But that wasn’t the case this past Sunday — when the weekly market was in full swing.
The Sunday market in Issigeac is often cited as a key attraction, and I certainly thought it was worth seeing. On the other hand, if you’re in the GDA for only a short time, don’t forget that the champion of weekly markets takes place on Saturdays in Sarlat. (My sister Karen, who is probably the best-travelled person I know, said that the Sarlat market is the best she’s ever seen, anywhere in the world.) And for that matter, if I had to choose a single Sunday market, I’d take St. Cyprien over Issigeac. Still, the Issigeac market was worth seeing — so let’s do that now. First, here’s a fairly typical street view:
And here’s a closer look at one of the stalls, featuring vegetables:
Among the vegetables, the star in the region are the tomatoes from Marmande, a commune in Lot-et-Garonne that was founded in 1195. Tomatoes from Marmande are well known throughout France, and in fact there’s a variety of tomato called Super Marmande. Here’s a view of some of the red beauties, on offer at the Issigeac market:
Like the markets in Sarlat and St. Cyprien, the Issigeac market offers much more than foods. Here, for example, is a vendor selling a huge variety of inexpensive handbags:
Like all French markets, Issigeac gives the locals a great opportunity to chat, updating each other on the local gossip. In this next photo, the guy holding the bread is having a good discussion with the woman who sells flowers and other plants:
At this next stall, the main selling point was that the various meats — sausages and hams — were from the Catalan region of Spain. I tried a sausage and Jan tried some ham, and we were both pleased. But we didn’t buy anything, because we were about to head to lunch.
Here’s a final look at the market, as we were leaving for our lunch date with Janice. It’s a street scene that shows Issigeac’s half-timbered style of houses (upper right of the photo):
Leaving the village proper, we crossed the street to Chez Alain and discovered that it had a large terrace that seemed just perfect for lunch on a sunny day. However, “perfect” turned out to be completely the wrong word for our lunch. For details, stay tuned.