LA BLANQUETTE GÎTES & GLAMPING

Self-catering holiday rentals in the Dordogne Valley. Gîtes and glamping nestled in 12 acres of woodland only 5km away from Sarlat-La-Canéda

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Château des Milandes

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Although we visited on a drizzly day, we really enjoyed spending a morning here. This 15th century château can be found just outside Castelnaud on the Southern side of the Dordogne. It is a very well kept château but it’s draw is that it was rented and subsequently owned by Josephine Baker, the famous American dancer who took Paris by storm in the early 20th century.

The castle dedicates itself to the history of her life, which was a very adventurous one – celebrated dancer, society girl, secret agent, civil rights activist and eventually bankrupted by her love of the chateau.

The grounds have stunning gardens and there is also a bird show daily. There is also a nice brasserie in the outbuildings. However the life of Ms Baker is the real attraction with many of her costumes on show as well as the story of her renovations of the estate and her amazing life.

More information on opening times and tariffs can be found on the Château des Milandes website.

March Madness!

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Celebrating the official 2013 opening of our B&B and Glamping in March, we are offering a special discount to anyone who makes a booking for any of the accommodation (including our Gîtes) at La Blanquette.

If you make a booking before the end of March 2013 for a stay anytime this year or next, then we are pleased to offer a 15% discount on your basic rental rate.

To qualify for your discount, please enter the code MADMARCH when prompted on our online booking form.

We look forward to seeing you here!

Visit to Bordeaux and UBB Rugby

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Having family and friends that have played for or supported Gloucester Rugby Club, we were excited to find out that Union Bordeaux Bègles Rugby were hosting them in an Amlin Challenge Cup European fixture, so we decided to meet up with family from home and attend the match.

It also gave us the opportunity to spend more time in a city that where have only before spent time in transit at the airport or the station. It’s about a three hour train journey to Bordeaux from us or a two hour drive. Its airport also has great connections within Europe and further afield. Outside of Bergerac or Brive it is the next most convenient airport for visitors to the Dordogne.

Bordeaux’s centre is very pretty with grand squares such as the Place de la Bourse close to Pont de Pierre, and we stayed a few kilometres South of there near the Gare de St Jean. It was then a pretty, leisurely walk along the left bank of the river towards the city centre.

We spent some time enjoying the shopping and also over a couple of days had some very good meals in a few of the many restaurants you can find on the main streets or down the side alleys. There was a great atmosphere in the evenings in the city and we found some very good bars ranging from the quaint and cosy Cafe Brun (with live music) through to ‘Le Frog et Rosbif’ where unsurprisingly we bumped into many Gloucester supporters.

The UBB Rugby Stadium was conveniently located a few minutes walk from one of Bordeaux’s efficient tram services (note: there is also a City Cycle scheme with cycle stations all over). The club had a very welcoming atmosphere, Gloucester came out eventual winners and we enjoyed chatting and enjoying a beer with Bordeaux fans and Cherry and Whites alike until the last tram took us back to the hotel!

We look forward to revisiting Bordeaux and exploring more of the city and its bars and restaurants, and it is worth spending an extra night or two if you are travelling through it to enjoy one of France’s largest cities.

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Rocamadour

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About an hour’s leisurely drive from La Blanquette stands the imposing cliff-face village of Rocamadour. The buildings of Rocamadour rise in tiers up the side of a steep gorge running between rocky walls raching over 400 feet in height. Flights of steps ascend from the lower levels to the churches, a group of massive buildings half-way up the cliff, the most notable of which is Notre Dame with its sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

This time of year we found the the village basking in the low level sun, the majority of the buildings positioned on the south facing side of the cliff. Then on exploring the lower part of the village we found houses that appeared to be almost in constant shade, shadowed by the other side of the gorge even at midday. This gave the lower village an eerie feel as we then climbed back up to the warm sunlit centre with its churches and monuments. The steps zigzag up between the different levels of Rocamadour, also taking you through tunnels past the ‘chapelles’ and on to the more open ‘chemin’ which again zigzags its way up to the prominent clifftop château which was built to protect and preserve the sacred treasures of Rocamadour below it.

There are plenty of small boutiques, cafes and restaurants to enjoy when visiting. Our recommendation is to park at l’Hospitalet (which is also home to the Grotte des Merveilles) and enjoy the panoramic view of Rocamadour from one of the restaurants or the viewpoint there, then to follow the ‘Voie Santé’ down the hill and into the village to explore further, returning either by ascending to the Château and walking back to l’Hospitalet or along the Voie Santé once more.

From La Blanquette there is a beautiful circular road route to reach Rocamadour via Payrac, through the Ouysse valley; then return via Lacave (with its Grotte and another clifftop château) and then along the Dordogne back through Souillac.

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Why are we called ‘La Blanquette’ ?

La Blanquette

The simple answer is that the house and grounds were actually called ‘La Blanquette’ when we bought it in 2011!

However, initially we couldn’t find a direct French to English translation (other than guessing at ‘the whiteness’ or ‘white-ish-thing’) that didn’t reference ‘stew’ as in ‘blanquette de veau’ – veal stew.

Not wanting the business to be called after a stew, we started to think of other names for the house, until we happened to stumble on another ‘La Blanquette’… La Blanquette de Limoux!

La Blanquette B&B

It’s no secret among our friends that all of us here like a nice tipple, and one of our favourites is a good glass of sparkling wine or champagne, so we immediately sought a bottle of La Blanquette de Limoux, and it really is a delicious sparkling wine. We then were led to believe from reading some online articles that this wine was originally produced by Dom Pérignon, prior to him producing the first champagne.

So… we decided to keep the name ‘La Blanquette’ as it is a sparkling wine that we all enjoy and as the historical fore-runner to champagne, is something that is close to our hearts (and palates!) Hence the ‘La Blanquette’ house name remained and we built our brand around it.

However, as we should all know, ‘don’t believe all you read on t’internet’ !

Caryl Panman, owner of the Rives-Blanques vineyard in Cépie, near to Limoux, helped us by providing us with the following history of La Blanquette de Limoux :

“Whether by happy accident, or divine intervention, the world’s first sparkling brut was discovered by the Benedictine monks in Limoux around 1531, in the vicinity of this vineyard. Although described as “the least known, well-made sparkling wine in France” by Robert Parker, it enjoyed great popularity in the 19th century, and was a favourite of Thomas Jefferson and the Czars of Russia alike. Today it features as a central figure in the much-loved films and novels of the popular French writer Nicole de Buron.

It is said (but unconfirmed) that Dom Pérignon, being a Benedictine himself, reputedly came to Limoux in the 17th century to work with his brothers at the Saint Hilaire monastery, and there learned how to put the bubbles in his wine.  He went up to Champagne with the secret and … the rest is history.

Blanquette is one of the first appellations in France, and the oldest in Languedoc-Roussillon.It has the lowest permitted maximum yield of any sparkling wine in France. Mauzac is an indigenous grape with an acidity ideal for sparkling wines. (“Blanquette” is the Occitan word for the fine white down which forms on the underside of the mauzac leaves, and is the traditional name for the mauzac grape.)”

Caryl also provided an image snapshot of “an early 16th century manuscript housed in the archives of Carcassonne, which shows that Blanquette was twice the price of a non-sparkling wine at that time. This is the earliest written reference to any sparkling wine in the world.”

Blanquette de Limoux

Limoux Manuscript

Many thanks to Caryl at Rives-Blanques for this fascinating insight into the early development of sparkling wine and Champagne. Although it’s not exactly the history we initially thought, it is still a very apt one for the team here and we continue to love ‘La Blanquette’ – both the bottled variety and our own!

For more information about Rives-Blanques and all the delicious wines they produce in the Limoux region, visit their website at www.rives-blanques.com

Le Tour – 2013

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The route for next year’s tour has been announced and we’re already looking forward to the race which starts on June 29th in Corsica. Since the announcement of the route a lot has happened… everyone was wondering (and now it appears confirmed) whether Chris Froome will lead the Sky team with the current champion Wiggo taking a supporting role, Cav has left team Sky and seven years of Tour results have been wiped from the history books following the Lance Armstrong ban.

Unlike this year where we had a great day in Souillac watching stage 18, unfortunately next year the route is not coming that close to La Blanquette. The nearest stage will be stage 7 on July 5th with a finish at Albi (about 200km away). However we would still love to host cycling fans who may be travelling en-route to enjoy the stages in the South of France or simply over here enjoying the atmosphere in the land of Le Tour.

If you are a cycling fan looking for accommodation during the period of the Tour from 29th June to 21st July next year we are offering a special discount – 10% on all our rates. If you would like B&B, gite accommodation or even a stay in one of our luxurious glamping tents, when making your enquiry or booking simply mention ‘Wiggo – Le Patron du Peloton!’ and you will receive a 10% discount when making the final payment for your stay!

(If you’re bringing your bike we have secure storage for when you’re not on the road)

For more information on the 2013 Tour stages, visit the TdF website.

St Cyprien on Market Day

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Sundays are market day in pretty Saint Cyprien, a picturesque town nestled on the hillside that slopes down to the Dordogne valley. The market stretches along the high street from the Mairie to just below the imposing ‘Eglise Abbatiale’ or Abbey-style church.

Unfortunately the day was a little rainy when we visited (as can be seen from the photo!) but there were still plenty of stalls of interest. Surprisingly there were a good selection of seafood stalls selling oysters and mussels as well as vendors selling traditional Périgordine fare.

St Cyprien is on the main route between Sarlat and Bergerac and is about a 30 minute drive from La Blanquette.

Randonnées

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Walking/Cross-Country Cycle Trails (Randonnées) are abundant in the area, and there are many accessible only a few minutes from La Blanquette. There are some national GR trails (Grande Randonnée) such as the GR6 and GR64A within a short walk or cycle which have some amazing sights (such as the castle above in Carlux, dating from the 1200s, right on the GR6 trail). Also there are some lesser known trails and circuits (‘boucles’) in the Dordogne valley which provide many beautiful surprises along the way.

The trails are very well signed in the area, local trails with yellow or green capped posts and signs or the national GR routes with the red and white waymarkers. This makes them very easy to follow, even without a map (although one is recommended!)

There are of course our own short woodland walks as well – exploring the old stone dwellings, flora and fauna of La Blanquette.

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La Roque Gageac

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Just South of Sarlat past Vitrac on the banks of the Dordogne is the beautiful village of La Roque Gageac.

At the foot of a south-facing cliff, on a good day basked in sunshine, the creamy stone houses with their “lauze” stone slab or brown-tiled roofs are mirrored in the waters of the River Dordogne. The Westward drive towards La Roque Gageac really is breathtaking.

As you approach you can’t miss the troglodytic fort built in the cliff face that overlooks exotic gardens and the park. There are many small boutiques, restaurants and cafes, as well as the famous ‘Gabarre’ boat tours which can be taken from the quayside.

There are many short ‘boucles’ or walking tours around small cobbled paths of the village to enjoy all it has to offer, or it’s nice just to relax in one of the pavement cafes and watch the world go by. A visit to the village should not be missed.

Sarlat Rugby

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With the relegation of C.A.Brive last season from the French Top 14 the nearest top-flight rugby teams are now Bordeaux, Toulouse or Agen, sadly all are about two hours drive away.

However, locally the Sarlat team (CASPN – Club  Athlétique  Sarlat  Périgord  Noir) are doing very well, and were promoted last season to Federale 2 in the French Rugby Federation and are consolidating their position very well in the top half of the table.

The stadium (Stade de Madrazes) is very close to La Blanquette, a few minutes drive or about 45 minutes walk and is on our side of the town. Home games are generally played on a Sunday, and adult tickets are about 7 Euros. It’s 2 Euros for a beer from the bar underneath the main stand.

There’s always a good family atmosphere at the matches and at the game we watched today the hosts beat Angouleme (who are currently the league leaders), it was a great effort by the Sarlat team.

More information and news on fixtures can be found on the rugby club’s website : CASPN

Allez Sarlat!

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