Well placed for exploring the Dordogne
www.sarlat-tourisme.com. Capital of Périgord Noir, Sarlat is one of the most popular and well-placed bases for exploring the Dordogne. Bisected by the commercial drag, rue de la République, the mellow yellow vieille ville is a delightful warren of cobbled streets and alleys, 16th-17thC houses, quiet courtyards and a wonderful Saturday market on central place de la Liberté.
At the heart of the old town, the mainly 17thC Cathédrale de Saint-Sacer-dos is large and uninteresting, while the neighbouring beehive-shaped l2thC Lanterne des Morts has been puzzling historians as to its true purpose for years.
Far more alluring is the Maison de la Boétie, place du Peyrou, which is a Renaissance gem with its carved fa√ç¬µcade and mullioned windows. It was the birthplace of Etienne de la Boétie who died young in 1563 and inspired Montaigne’s famous Essay on Friendship. Rue des Consuls boasts some wonderful old houses and the little place des Oies which contains a trio of bronze geese looking understandably nervous.
Sarlat has a couple of small museums including one devoted to sacred art in the Chapelle des Pénitents Blanc, rue de la Charité. During the summer theatre festival the ancient ruins of the church of Sainte-Marie on place de la Liberté are transformed into an open-air theatre. For information about the region and det-ails of activities from canoe trips and pony-trekking to walks in the surrounding countryside, see www.visit-dordogne-valley.co.uk.