Sounds like an obvious thing to do, doesn't it? Wait until you see La-Roque-Gageac: You'll be standing on the riverside, your mouth wide open, trying to understand how so much beauty can be found in such a small place. Sit down on the wall between the road and the Dordogne, look at the reflections of the houses in the river and their real counterparts, look up the giant rock behind the village, look over to the château at the other end of the village. Take it all in, for minutes - or hours? I could probably have sat there the whole evening, but I wanted to see a bit more of the village so I walked through the narrow lanes amidst the houses. From here you have a different panoramic view: a loop of the Dordogne and behind it the beautiful landscape of the river valley.
I would suggest coming in the evening or the early morning as the village then is completely illuminated by the soft sunlight which makes it even more picturesque. And, as Beausoleil remarks, why not paint a picture?
Here I am quoting fellow VTer Beausoliel because I never actually went on a gabarre here (but have been on them elsewhere) but it's hard to ignore them as the attractive craft continually float by. -
"There are two gabare companies in La Roque-Gageac and they alternate schedules so you never have to wait more than a half hour to ride one.
Yes, it's touristy, but it's also great fun and you get views you won't see anyplace else . . . unless you rent a canoe or kayak on the river.
La Roque is a charming village with terrific views and very friendly people.
Update: We've used both Gabare companies now and decided we definitely prefer Gabare Caminade. The audio is more coordinated and you see more of the natural sights along the way in addition to the castles. There was more and better explanation and it was just a more pleasant experience. Next time we'll use Gabare Caminade again; it's worth a 15 to 30 minute wait."
If you only look into one shop in La Roque-Gageac, then might I boldly suggest that you check Lou Castelou's. It's on one of the walks uphill and it's beautifully set out inside with lots of local type produce, all presented in the loveliest possible way.
The shop, perched beneath the cliff, took 10 years to construct and organize; truly a labour of love. Be careful though, you may be tempted to buy - like we did!
Surprisingly, the best view of La Roque-Gageac is not from the town itself but from an attraction not that far away called Marqueyssac. It's a wonderfully sculptured garden, well worth the entry fee for either the views and the garden.
Set on a narrow escarpment, its furthest points overlook La Roque-Gageac and give one of the finest panoramas of the Dordogne that you'll come across anywhere.
Part of an old chateau grounds from the 17th century, today it encompasses 22 hectares and has, according to the blurb, 150,000 boxwoods though I feel that may be a tad exaggerated. There are linden, cypress, atone pine and cyclamen.
Classified as one of the noble gardens of France these days, it is mainly thanks to the new owner, Kleber Rossillon, who took over in 1996 and restored the area to what we see today. It includes a new water course and an avenue of santolina and rosemary.
La Roque Gageac used to be an important Gabarre port, and nowadays you take trips on replicas of those flat-bottomed crafts that were used in the past. There are two companies, Gabarre Norbert and Gabarres Caminade. Both offer trips of about one hour, with free audioguides in various languages. In 2012, this did cost 9€ (adults).
The boat trip goes from La Roque Gageac to Castlenaud and back, passing the Château de la Malartrie and the gardens of Marqueyssac above the rocks. You have very nice views of La Roque Gageac and Castlenaud with its castles. Also the information that we got was very interesting, they this tell a lot about the shipping, the river and the sights that you see. We enjoyed this boat trip very much!
There are just a few streets in the village, so you really can’t get lost. The streets are narrow and there are some steps, so you hardly will see cars here. Near the church, you find an exotic garden, with palms, banana, fern and other plants. When we walked along the path I felt like being at the Mediterranean Sea! In front of the little church you have a nice view on the Dordogne river. There’s also a “fort troglodytique” from the 12th century; a wooden staircase leads to that fortress which was built into the cliff.
If you have the inclination, La Roque Gageac is one of the most paintable places I've visited. This epicerie (grocery) is owned by the lady who is the daughter-in-law of our landlady while we were staying in Cenac-et-St. Julien nearby. We bought nearly all our groceries and postcards there. Her husband is a butcher in Cenac and she carries his sausages too. It's a great place.
Take a Gabare ride and you float right past it. Anyplace in the entire town is a painting . . . or a photo. It is one of the Plus Beaux Villages of France, and deservedly so.
If you want to check the Plus Beaux Villages of France, I'll include the web link below. They are all lovely and always fun to visit.
Gabares are the flat-bottomed boats that used to ply the river with freight and passengers. They are now used to transport tourists and have been fitted with motors. Yes, it is touristy but it is also a great way to travel along the beautiful Dordogne River seeing a castle on every hilltop and all manner of wildlife on the shore and floating in the sky above you.
There are two Gabare companies in La Roque Gageac and they alternate leaving so there is a boat leaving every half hour. Choose your time and you've chosen your Gabare company.
There is a lovely park (and lots of parking) along the river so waiting for 20 minutes is not difficult. There is also a marvelous ice cream place across the street.
The contact info below is for Gabare Norbert. Gabare Caminade is right beside them in the same building. They alternate schedules so choose your time. We took the Caminade and loved it.
Update: We took the Gabare Norbert this year because we arrived as it was ready to leave. After the trip, we both agreed we had enjoyed the Gabare Caminade tour much more. We saw more and it was geared to not only castles but also to natural and historic sights along the way. On our next trip, we'll use Gabare Caminade even if we have to wait a half hour. It's worth it.
Heading west from town on the D703 in about 2 km., we approached a bridge over the Dordogne that would take us to Domme. We stopped and went down to the river bank for views (also on the bridge itself; this actually in Vezac). Beyond the west end of town we saw a large chateau, Malartrie Castle, built in the 19C, echoing the 15C in its style. (Private; no admittance). Get a clear view downriver (the bridge is ideal) and you will identify from a distance the famous chateaux and mansions in the area at Beynac a nd Castelnaud, etc. Have proper map handy.
La Roque perched on the bank of the Dordogne River downstream from Sarlat is a place just for looking at, either from the land or from one of the many canoes you can hire to get out on the river.
It must be one of the most photographed and visited places in the tourist area that is the Dordogne.
When went by car in August 2003 it took ages to get a parking space in the small car-park that lines the edge of the river. And then the pressure is on to move along.
Many of the houses across the road from the river have facades of traditional stone but their rears are actually caves. Many places in the area and indeed in the Loire to the north have “troglodyte” dwellings.
It’s a great place to stop and stare at the lovely colours of the stone and to enjoy a cooling ice cream!
Don't miss to go abroad the Dordogne river cruise! You'll have excellent views of the village and chateaux.