The Dropt region

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Contents of the page :  in search of the region - "bastides" - castles - other interesting seights - What about the Dropt?

A secret region : "bastides " logo (2944 octets)"castles"  logo (2822 octets)"The castles and bastides tour"signpost (5374 octets)

    The “hurried tourist” who rushes across the Dropt region doesn’t discover anything interesting : a valley with no great character, uniform hills. It takes more than this superficial eye to grasp the (real) charm of this region. One must take the time : time to stroll in the villages laden with Middle Ages history, time to idle along the country roads, to grasp the harmony of this countryside which looks a little like Tuscany with its light, its welcoming hills and its scattered farms.
    In his “travel notes”, Taine reports : “no hills, not anything, not even a big plain, everything is small and ordinary : it is a good country ! ; but a good country that reveals itself only to those who are able to discover it.”

In search of the region :

    The most pleasant way to discover the region at its deepest is unquestionably by bicycle. The network of by-roads (“chemins vicinaux”) is in a good state of repair and the automobile traffic is very scarce. There are many hills, some steep ; but there are as many restful downhill slopes as tiring uphill slopes…

      Lovers of a physical contact with nature will follow the marked pedestrian hiking itineraries ; all the Tourist Information Offices offer a good choice of routes. The “Grande Randonnée” path GR 636 crosses the region.

      The visit of the “bastides” and castles, which spread along about 100 kilometres, requires a car (unless really has a lot of time to spare). Automobile traffic is very light, even in high season, and there are never any parking difficulties, parking is always free !

"The castles and bastides tour" signpost (5374 octets)     One option is to follow the “Circuit des Châteaux et Bastides en Guyenne”, a marked route ; details of the itinerary are available in Tourist Information Offices.

      The Blue Guide “Aquitaine” (Hachette), 1998 edition, and the Gallimard guide “Lot-et-Garonne” (first edition, may 2000) are a good help to organize a visit of the region.
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 "bastides" logo (2944 octets)  The "bastides" : (see general map)

    All the tourist guides provide abundant documentation about the Dropt valley “bastides”. The Blue Guide “Aquitaine” (Hachette), 1998 edition, is the most interesting and well-researched.

      Several websites with many iconographic documents provide all the necessary information for a stay.

      The Monpazier “bastide”, Great National Site, is the perfect “bastide” ; its central square was used as a natural scene to several cloak and dagger films. Villeréal has a magnificent marketplace built on wooden pillars (XIVth century).

      The field of visits can be extended to the beautiful “bastides” of Beaumont-du-Périgord (North of Villeréal), Villefranche-du-Périgord (East of Biron) and Monflanquin (South of Villeréal).
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"castles" logo 2822 octets) The castles : (see general map)

    Biron ** (guided tours) : family property of the Gontaud-Biron family until the end of the XXth century ; at present taken over by the Dordogne “Conseil Général” (regional council), who is undertaking restoration.

      Duras ** (guided tours) : the castle dominates the Dropt valley ; the actual buildings date from the XVIIth and XVIIIth centuries.

      Lauzun * (private property) : Lauzun, Gascon gentleman, courtier of Louis XIV, Duke of Lauzun by the king’s grace, is mainly remembered as the lover of the “great damsel”, niece of the king.
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A "sauveté" among the "bastides" : Issigeac

    Issigeac, main town in the district, presents an original characteristic in this region : it is not a “bastide” but a “sauveté” !
    It is typical of the image one has of a medieval village : winding alleys, half-timbered houses and corbelled constructions.
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Others interesting seights :

 “Pile-up” houses (“maisons à empilage” – Castillonnès / Villeréal area ; origin : Middle Ages) :

"Pile up" house  (10918 octets)    The walls of these houses were originally made of horizontal pilings of tree trunks (generally oaks), squared off and assembled “à mi-bois” in the angles. The openings were reduced to a strict minimum : a low and narrow door, two or three little openings for light. These small “forts” were probably designed to protect the people from the gangs of pillagers who ransacked the area. 

    Later on, the “pile-up” houses were turned into dwellings by the extension of the openings and the addition of a half-timbered storey.

Pigeon houses (" pigeonniers") :

    Separate or attached to buildings, entirely built or mounted on pillars, of circular or rectangular or hexagonal section, the pigeon houses are an omnipresent element of the scenery in the whole region.  


      Given that the pigeons fed on crops, pigeon house were a sign of the owner's wealth : enough land owned to avoid conflicts with neighbours and sufficiently well-off to be able to afford to lose part of the crop.

      Pigeon droppings constituted a remarkable fertilizer, named “colombine”, which was sometimes shared in an inheritance or could be part of a dowry !
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What about the Dropt ? The Dropt (around Castillonnès) (9807 octets)

        The Dropt, for centuries, was used as a swimming pool, a washing place and a fishpond by the locals. Nobody today would bathe with pleasure or wash their linen in the Dropt. Its waters, muddy in winter and dull in summertime, are not attractive. Its level can rapidly fall by more than one metre, revealing muddy banks, mined by coypus (“ragondins”, unsavoury animals).

      The locals don’t look after the river and public authorities have abandoned it. The deforestation, the regrouping of lands, the suppression of hedges make the drainage of storm rain easier. Walks along the Dropt banks are rarely easy, due to the lack of maintenance. The clearing and reinforcement of the banks , the cleaning of the bed, would be preferable to a widening of the bed with a planing of the meanders.

      Remains fishing. Fishing Societies regularly stock with alevins ; it is possible to catch white fish (bleaks, roaches, “rotengles”, carps, …), their predators (pikes, catfish…) and mud fish (tenches, eels, …). The Monségur area (mill reservoirs) is a good fishing spot (roaches, carps, pikeperches).

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Bibliography : En Agenais. S.Baumont. Ed.Privat