TOUR AND TASTE!
Sarlat is renowned as the town in France with the highest density of historic buildings, all tightly packed together to form a compact nucleus with their characteristic blond-coloured stone.
Their stone roofs, conical and steeply sloped to distribute their weight. What is rarer than seeing this type of roofing is to find artisans who still master this technique: finely carved stones superimposed one on top of the other.
We have a unique opportunity to contemplate this marvellous 360º view from a panoramic viewpoint at the height of 35 metres. Access to the belvedere is via an open-air glass lift installed inside the bell tower of the former church of St. Mary. The entrance is located at the back of the building.
Many will be surprised to find that the church has been transformed into an indoor market.
Until it was deconsecrated, the church functioned as a tavern, arms factory, bakery, wood and coal store, post office and finally as a dispensary. A period of inactivity left it in total abandonment, and it eventually fell into disuse. The town council took over the building and made a splendid move, asking great contemporary architects to restore the old church. The new design of this urban recycling was the work of Jean Nouvel, who combined the original stone with glass and steel.
Access to the building is through two huge solid steel doors, 15 m high and weighing over two tons each - be careful not to jam your fingers between the door!
Once inside, a vast open space without any liturgical elements is illuminated with abundant natural light thanks to the rose window on the facade.
As a gastronomic market, you can find all kinds of local products such as black truffles, almond oils, cheeses, nougat, walnut sausages, goat´s cheese and other surprising flavours that you can even taste.
Did you know that Jean Nouvel spent part of his childhood in Sarlat?
Address: Marché-Église de Sainte-Marie
Place de la liberté
Open from 8.30am to 1pm
The ticket for the lift can be purchased at the Tourist Office in rue Tourny n. 3 or from the lift vending machine.
MAGRET OR CONFIT!
The star dish of the region and one of the staples of French gastronomy is a duck.
The quality of its meat is highly prized. They are selected from small scale farms, and their plumage and vitality demonstrate their good health.
Duck meat is higher in calories than other meats due to its high-fat content, so it is advisable not to eat the skin and prepare it grilled or baked. Rich in vitamins, proteins, and minerals, It is usually accompanied by jams or caramelised vegetables that add even more calories. Hence, they are only recommended for occasional consumption and go very well with a salad.
The main course is confit or magret.
Confit is the duck leg. It is simmered in the duck´s fat, which gives it a unique flavour. The skin appears very crispy, so it is difficult not to taste its crunchy texture. It is usually served with roast potatoes and salad.
Magret is the breast. Very tasty and lean, it is presented in thin slices. On the side that does not have the layer of fat, cuts are made, and it is grilled on that side. Once done, it is turned just enough to "grill" it. It is grilled for a short time so that it does not dry out. The fat should not be eaten, and it is best served with a sweet and sour sauce.
Its variant is "la aiguillette", or needle served without the fat layer.
Did you know that the duck weighs between three and four kg? They are very friendly and calm as long as they are not disturbed. They adapt quickly and coexist perfectly with other conspecifics. It is a pleasant companion. Familiar with human presence, it is like a lapdog with its graceful walk. Ideal for keeping your lawn clean, they resist disease well and are no trouble at all. They love the water where they take care of their plumage. It could be perfectly the ideal pet.
If there is one thing Sarlat is not short of, it is the restaurants you will find them everywhere, where the duck is always on the menu.
The best-selling local product and one of the flagships of French cuisine is foie gras. Linked to the most exquisite and distinguished cuisine, it is part of France´s cultural and gastronomic heritage. Foie gras is a natural process by which migratory birds such as geese and ducks overfeed themselves before setting off on their journey, thus accumulating in their livers the fats that will allow them to survive their long journey.
Men break this process by fattening the bird manually with boiled corn three times a day and fattening its liver for about twelve days before slaughtering it. The liver must weigh between 350 and 500 g, cooked and seasoned with salt and pepper.
The difference between duck and goose foie is that goose foie is much more challenging to fatten, and the duck is, therefore, more profitable because it is easier to produce.
The production of foie gras is regulated to guarantee its quality. The Protected Geographical Indication foie gras du Sud-Ouest guarantees its authenticity.
Let´s take a look at the different types of foie gras:
Foie gras entier is made from 97% of the liver. It is the most exquisite and also the most expensive.
Bloc: it contains different pieces of the liver at 95 %. It is very similar to foie, but cheaper.
Micuit: 95% of the liver is semi-cooked and pasteurised. It has a shorter shelf life.
Mousse: 50% liver; the rest is fat, eggs and spices.
Pâté is physically very similar to foie. It contains liver, a mixture of other meats, milk, flour, seasonings and spices.
It is advisable to take the foie out of the fridge 15 minutes before serving. Spread on a slice of toasted bread. Impeccable with country bread or toasted bread, accompanied with a liqueur or champagne.
If there´s one shop you can´t miss in Sarlat, it´s the one selling artisanal products where foie gras is the undisputed star. In tins or glass jars, you´ll find them in all sizes and weights
THE MIRACLE OF THE BREAD!
One of the most unusual and curious places in the city of Sarlat is a cylindrical tower of about six metres in diameter with a conical top. This enigmatic element attracts many tourists who do not want to miss the opportunity to photograph its mysterious silhouette and symbolic message.
The lantern of the dead, as it is known, was built as a lighthouse or funerary luminaire, generally hollow at the top of which there are holes for placing lighted lamps at dusk to guide the deceased.
It was built to commemorate the passage of Saint Bernard through the city after the bread loaf´s miracle.
St. Bernard, in his crusade against heresy, stopped in Sarlat. After his sermon, as was the custom, some loaves of bread were brought to him to bless. The saint raised his hand, made the cross and blessed them, adding, "if your sick after tasting these loaves recover their health, then you will know that it is we who preach the truth and that the heretics only proclaim their error". A revered bishop who was present at the discourse then remarked, "If you eat of this bread with sincere faith, you will be cured". The holy abbot replied, "I did not say that but that whoever tries and is cured, it is because we are true men and true envoys of God".
So many sick people ate the bread and were healed that news of the miracle spread throughout the province. The man of God, on his return, did not want to pass through the city to avoid the crowds that would have gathered to meet him.
The Lantern of the Dead eventually became a burial chapel where the dead were prayed to and where the monks went in procession as a Holy Week ritual.
It is accessed from the Enfeus Garden, located at the cathedral´s head, where the old cathedral cemetery was found. Inside those retaining walls, we can see some flat-bottomed niches designed to hold the tombs.
Lanterne des Morts
51 Rue de l´ Olivier
Open 24 hours a day
Once upon a time, the abbey of Sarlat was the only monastery in the southwest of France spared from the Vikings´ raids as the town was far from the rivers, which the Vikings used to reach the towns before ravaging and burning them to the ground.
This guarantee led to the relics of saints being brought for safekeeping. This is why the abbey was called the abbey of San Salvador.
The saints in question were Saint Sacerdos and Saint Pardulfo. The latter was known for his great charity and healing powers; therefore, his cult was popular among the monks who decided to move him to another church not to diminish his prominence.
The abbey then became the abbey of Saint Sacerdos. Born near Sarlat, first a monk, then a bishop, he decided to end his days again as a monk. When he sensed his end, he wanted to die near his home village. He died on the road on his return journey, and his body was taken to the monastery he founded. Endangered by the attacks of pagans from the north, he was eventually transferred to the abbey of Sarlat, where the town adopted him as its patron saint.
He was known for being holy and for his numerous miracles, including the resurrection of his recently deceased father to the joy of all those who were present.
As the heresy is eradicated, Dioceses are created in the region. The Vatican elects the abbot of Saint Sacerdos as bishop of Sarlat, and the abbey becomes the new cathedral.
It took almost 200 years to upgrade it to the new image: lack of money, wars and epidemics were the causes of the delay. In the meantime, in the conflict between Catholics and Protestants, the saint´s relics ended up disappearing. And to make matters worse, his diocese ended up being integrated into a larger one.
Curiously, the bell tower consists of the oldest part of the building, the tower, topped by the newest feature, a bulb-shaped capital.
Cathédral de Sacerdos
Place du PeyrouTemporarily closed.
The region´s culinary star is the duck, as well as being the country´s leading producer. France is also the leading consumer, even ahead of China.
A gesture with the thumb on the duck´s breast is enough to know the size of the liver. It was a ritual as it was consumed 4000 years ago on the banks of the Nile. Before embarking on a long migration, the ducks overfeed themselves, which is how the Egyptians discovered the technique of fattening.
The birds are confined in cages; the fattening causes inflammation of the oesophagus, wounds on the animal, which can hardly move or rest. Some countries ban their sale in protest against the mistreatment they suffer. Some birds are unable to withstand the fattening and die even earlier.
Once the animal has been slaughtered, we wait between 12 and 24 hours to remove the liver. In France alone, 19,000 tonnes of foie gras (fatty liver) are produced.
As you can see, it is a big business, but it is an integral part of the country´s culture and gastronomy. Foie gras is a delicacy, just like frogs´ legs and escargots (snails).
What I suggest you do is to taste the fresh foie gras on the grill, cooked rare, almost raw, because if you leave it too long, it will be consumed quickly and turn into real liquid fat. But I can assure you, and I can vouch for it, that it is one of the most exquisite and delicate bites I have ever tasted. It slowly melts in your mouth with that intense flavour. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water.
It is usually accompanied by something sweet, some jam, plum or stewed dried apricots. It is very common to eat it at Christmas because it is a unique or luxury dish.
Don´t wait for Christmas! Would you fancy tasting this delicacy of the gods?
At La Coulevrine de la Place de La Bouquerie they serve it with tomato jam.
Since the town´s foundation around its abbey, the clergy have always enjoyed a great deal of power. But the bourgeoisie and the people of Sarlat wanted to limit the abbot´s power and have their privileges recognised. They appointed their representatives, the consuls, and set up the consulate. But the abbot was not going to give in. By papal bull, Sarlat became an episcopal seat, and the abbots gained power.
After a long period of dispute, the diocese recognised the consulate. By a signed agreement, he granted them the power to legislate, administer the city, defend it militarily, and meet in a common house. Together with the diocese, they dispensed justice and collected taxes. The King of France himself ratified the agreement, which reduced the clergy´s power in favour of the bourgeoisie.
The consulate built the consular house, which in time became the current town hall. During political instability over the dynastic succession to the throne, the building is occupied by military troops. The consulate moves its headquarters to the Episcopal Palace when the bishopric moves permanently to the neighbouring town Perigueux.
The former abbot´s house, which became the bishop´s palace when the episcopal status of Sarlat was decreed, is one of the outstanding buildings of Sarlat´s architectural heritage. Listed as a historical monument, it combines different styles. The first floor is Gothic, the second floor is Italian Renaissance, and the façade overlooking the rue Tourny is Art Nouveau.
When the consulate returned to its original building, the former bishop´s palace was called the Old Town Hall.
Today it houses Sarlat´s tourist office and exhibition rooms. Its summer exhibitions from June to September are dedicated to artists who have left their mark on the town´s history.
Did you know that the town of Sarlat is the 50th most visited place in France with nearly one million visitors each year? More than 40% of the working population is employed in the service sector, with tourism contributing to 20% of the county´s GDP.
Oficina de turismo abierta de 10 a 13h y de 14h a 17h
3 rue Tourny
MANOIRS AND OTHER MANSIONS!
One of the reasons why Sarlat is one of the most visited towns in France is that it is one of the most beautiful. And that is primarily due to its architecture. It is worth noting that France takes its heritage very seriously, highlighting its historic and aesthetic character through the conservation, restoration and enhancement of its buildings.
From among its seventy-four historical monuments, the "Manoirs" or mansions are particularly noteworthy. Their architectural and aesthetic grandeur is indicative of the social prestige or wealth of their owners.
After the Hundred Years´ War, many families obtained titles of nobility. They expressed their new status by building these urban palaces, such as the Manoir Grézel, with its tower and Gothic decoration. Next to the 15th century Hôtel de Génis, both located on Rue Salamandre. In this same street, we see a magnificent stone staircase, on which we discover the coat of arms of the city: three fleurs-de-lis on a salamander. And why the salamander surrounded by flames? Because it is reborn from its ashes.
Manoir Gisson, one of the oldest houses in Sarlat, the Gisson family gained social fame by being part of the Council of Royal Justice. Its hexagonal tower is topped with a seven-sided roof.
Manoir Vassal, belonging to the powerful Vassal noble family, expressed their power with two houses and a double turret. (Both located at Place du Marché aux oies).
And right in front we have the Manoir Plamon, one of Sarlat´s landmark buildings. (Rue des Consuls)Manoir Cerval, Renaissance style (Rue de la Republiqué)
Manoir Vienne, another example of rapid social advancement. Its owner Jean de Vienne, transformed from a simple, stable boy into a superintendent and president of the Court of Auditors. This mansion is made up of three buildings from different periods. (Place Lucien de Maleville).
Opposite it, we have the Hotel Dautrerie, on the left of the Hotel de Royere, both from the 16th century.
Manoir de la Boétie, residence of the local writer and humanist Etienne de la Boétie. Decorated in Italian Renaissance style. (Rue de la Boétie).
Estimated travel time approx. 50 minutes
PERLAT DU PERIGORD!
Place de la Liberté is the nerve centre of Sarlat. It is where all the roads and streets of the centre converge. The French version of the Roman saying goes, "All roads lead to the Place de la Liberté".
You can sit on its countless terraces where you can watch and gossip about the thousands of tourists swarming around the city while tasting a local speciality such as "Sarladaises" potatoes if the duck is not your meat of choice or have a coffee or ice cream in its Café Glacier.
Sarlat is the pearl of the Périgord region, with thousands of architectural and natural treasures and a great culinary destination thanks to the wide variety of local products that you can find on market days on the square itself Wednesdays and Saturdays.
A city known for being an ideal setting for films such as Les Miserables and Luc Besson´s Joan of Arc. It is the first city in France to restore its architectural heritage, which got converted into a favourite destination for many artists who, in search of inspiration, have set up their studios in some of the 250 historic houses in the old town, which is also wholly pedestrianised. The brochure "Chemin des Arts", which you can find at the tourist office, presents the different galleries.
We can see the town hall in the square, which functions as a bazaar on the ground floor and a club on the first floor during the Revolution. At one end of the square is the cathedral and at the other the old church of Santa Maria. As we go past this, we come to a small court where the statue of the three geese is located, valued at about 150.000 €.
Decide for yourself if it is worth it!
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