One of les plus beaux villages en France, the utterly delightful bastide town of Monpazier, south of the Dordogne, more than lives up to its billing as one of the country’s most beautiful villages. I adored it. So much so that if I were ever to move to France, this is where I’d want to live.
The town dates back to 1284 when it was founded by the English king, Edward I. Its one of a series of bastide towns and villages in south-western France built by the English during the Hundred Years War in the 13th and 14th centuries. A bastide town is a fortified town, surrounded by large, thick stone walls and built to a grid layout – and Monpazier is one of the best surviving examples.
As a typical bastide town, Monpazier has a large square at its centre, a series of streets and alleyways leading off it, and fortified gates around the edges providing entrance to the town (today, three of the original six gates remain).
Around the central square is a series of covered walkways home to shops, including a tabac where I’d get my daily newspaper; restaurants; and a great little café, where I’d stop off for a hot chocolate in the morning. The square also hosts the town’s market on a Thursday, as well as a number of flea markets throughout the summer where I had great fun browsing (and buying) antiques.
Monpazier is home to some excellent shopping. There’s a fantastic leather shop, where I bought a black leather handbag – everything in there was so nice, I could easily have bought half the shop. There are also a number of shops selling home furnishings, a butcher’s that sells portions of homemade lasagne and quichés, and stores selling local food stuffs, such as foie gras and pécharmant wine.
One of my favourite spots was the fabulous patisserie on the Rue Saint-Jacques. The cakes and desserts were so good I made a daily pilgrimage (apart from the day it was closed) to sample a different treat – the walnut tart was particularly good. By the end of the week, the lady who ran the patisserie must have thought “You, again?” as I enthusiastically sauntered through the doors.
Monpazier’s light coloured stone buildings are incredibly pretty and largely untouched since medieval times – it’s so charming, I found myself happily ambling around on a daily basis, somewhat in awe of its loveliness. Adding to its many charms, it has a relaxed vibe, and the people are warm and friendly, too. If you’re looking for somewhere to base yourself in the Dordogne, you could do a lot worse than Monpazier.