By Lesley Anderson
By Lesley Anderson
A dripping, icy cold bottle of champagne magically conjured up from a woodland spring; fields of wheat, wild orchids and poppies; markets of mouth-watering fruits, vegetables and cheeses; laughing at our guide’s impersonation of Dud and Pete; the magnificent topiaried gardens of Marqueyssac – these are but a few of the many memorable moments of our eight-day walk in the Dordogne Quercy with James Tamlyn of The Walking Party.
Established almost 20 years ago by English-born James and his wife Diana, The Walking Party creates itineraries where guests can immerse themselves in the countryside, rambling through unfrequented lanes, meeting locals, sampling food and wine of the area as well as being exposed to some of the country’s most famous heritage icons. Each day of the walk (between 6 and 15 kilometres) is a delightful adventure, full of surprises with no detail overlooked by the attentive hosts.
Upon leaving our hotel in Toulouse, our group of seven was driven north, via Moissac abbey with its beautiful Romanesque sculpture, to what was to be the next four nights’ accommodation, Hostellerie Le Vert, a two storey seventeenth century sandstone hostel outside the village of Mauroux owned by the delightful Eva and Bernard Phillipe. The evening meals (not to mention the breakfasts) were a taste sensation, each one different and always made with fresh local produce.
Each morning, after a couple of hours walking, we stopped for a mid-morning snack, often hidden by Diana on an early-morning drive, in a pink esky under a pile of twigs or a wayside bush. Homemade florentines, rich fruit cake, glaceed fruits, elderflower cordial, a sip of fortified wine – made all the more delicious by the mesmeric surroundings of acres of green lush fields dotted with chateaux.
Peacocks greeted us on our visit to Marqueyssac in Perigord, established in the latter half of the nineteenth century. These famous gardens were unforgettable with their winding paths, thousands of hand-pruned box bushes and the magnificent view to the river and Dordogne valley 130 metres below.
History abounds and the Lascaux Cave in Dordogne Perigord is a replica of the original cave which was was discovered in 1940. Famous for its Paleolithic paintings, Lascaux II was created to preserve the prehistoric images found in the original cave and features extraordinary representations of horses, stags, cattle and bison on the walls and ceilings.
Adding a very personal touch to the week was a visit to James and Diana’s farmhouse in the hills above Moncuq with views over the Pyrenees, where we were treated to a mouth-watering home-cooked lunch of duck breasts, asparagus and cheeses from the local markets and wine from the family cellar. The cottage was a delight, reflecting the personalities of our hosts and oozing colour, charm and warmth.
Our final three nights were spent at Chateau des Baudry in Monestier, between Bordeaux and Bergerac, an oasis of tranquillity with extensive gardens and huge luxurious bedrooms. Francois and Helene and their four dogs were the most welcoming of hosts and, of course, provided us with yet more more gourmet meals accompanied by delicious wines every evening.
A picnic in the wheat fields was the finale of our trip. We feasted on baguettes, artichoke salad, cheeses of all varieties, fruit salad and wines, leaning back into a wheat field on chairs strategically placed by James earlier in the day.
James and Diana Tamlyn
8 Days, 47 Miles
Price per person: €1980,
Single Room Supplement: €360