There are so many events and things happening during the summer months in Bergerac, Issigeac and the surrounding villages that it’s difficult to choose what to do! We had a wonderful time attending various events, fêtes (fairs), and markets in the Dordogne region.
The tourist office is the best way to find out what is on, but you are often leaflet-bombed under the windscreen wiper of your car when you go to local markets, and there are advertising signs that get put up around town normally a week or two before the event.
Here are some of the favourite events and fêtes we attended during our time in the Dordogne:
Many of the small villages and communes will have a fête or fair. Sometimes these are just get togethers and revolve around food (as you would expect in France!) with a communal meal. But often there are themes, boule (petanque) and fireworks at the conclusion of the evening.
One of our favourite fêtes was in Faux, a small village close to where we were staying in Issigeac. It was book themed and they had really gone to town with decorating the village in the theme of books.
Pretty bunting made from the pages of books was festooned across the village:
Along with amazing papier mache and book related art:
There was facepainting and an art station where the kids could be creative with old books and paint:
There was also a fun play for kids – in French but we kind if got the jist of it – and a lolly scramble!
Brocante and vide-grenier
We quickly discovered the wonderful brocante and vide-grenier markets, which are the equivalent of a flea market or car boot sale, all full of second-hand treasures. It was very hard to limit ourselves given we have no room for anything, but we were very tempted.
We visited a couple of fantastic markets in Villereal and Beaumont-du-Perigord
Bergerac music festival
The day after the longest day of the year was the annual Bergerac music festival. The old streets of Bergerac are filled with musicians – everything from jazz to opera to school rock groups and you can wander through the town listening to the sounds. It was fantastic.
Marche nocturne (night markets)
At the beginning of July the marche nocturne or night markets start up. Vendors set up in the village square with different types of food, and you choose what you want to eat then sit at one of the communal trestle tables that have been laid out.
You can buy wine and beer there at very reasonable prices – bring your own cups otherwise there is a small refundable charge if you use one of their glasses.
There is sometimes a band playing or kids entertainment
Our favourite night markets were:
On Thursday night is the standard marche nocturne – check out the kids’ amazing nutella, strawberry and chantilly creme pancakes!
On Friday night in Issigeac is the ‘BIO marche’ or organic market. Here we had the most delicious chèvre chaude which was goats cheese wrapped in bacon and heated on the BBQ, served with a beautiful fresh salad. The kids had lovely handmade burgers.
The Sunday night market at Monbazillac is set beside the chateau under shady trees. Our favourite was moules frite (mussels with fries) with an amazing Roquefort cheese mariner sauce, and the pork spit roast. You could also get lovely crepes for dessert. It’s right beside a great playground which the kids loved and there is a clown making balloon animals for a small donation.
Eymet also has a Tuesday night marche nocturne, but the week we visited they also had an Italian village set up. A giant marquee had been erected in the park and the food and wine was Italian.
We enjoyed some great pizza and pasta and enjoyed wandering around afterwards looking at the different vendors stalls selling Italian cheese, pasta, amaretti and gelato.
Limeuil on a Sunday night was probably the largest night market we went to, with a good selection of vendors and tables set up beside where the Dordogne and Vézère rivers meet, so the kids could have a good play while waiting for their food.
The food was really varied – including paella and charcuterie, melon and ham, Alsatian style pizza (tartiflette), and the ubiquitous moules frite.
Bastille Day celebrations
Bastille Day on 14 July is THE national fete, and most reasonable sized towns have some form of celebration. We went into our main local town of Bergerac, where the place was teeming with people! We hadn’t thought to make dinner reservations and everywhere was booked out with people enjoying the holiday, but we finally found a cute restaurant for some delicious duck.
We then wandered down to the riverfront to find a good viewing point for the fireworks, and enjoyed the ambience of the fountain and pretty sunset.
Around 10pm the firework show began and it was quite spectacular.
Sadly when we got home that evening we saw what had happened in Nice which was pretty sobering 🙁
The Tour de France
The Tour de France is the round France bike race held for three weeks in July. It’s right up there with the biggest sporting events in the world, with a phenomenal number of spectators who watch it both in the flesh and on TV.
We went and watched it twice – the first at the stage going through Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val which was about 2 hours from where we were staying, and the second time we camped for a couple of nights down at the Pyrenees to watch one of the mountain stages.
In the mountain stages, cycling enthusiasts often ride to the finish before the competitors pass through and it’s the done thing to cheer them on as well as they make the hard slog up the mountain.
The highlight for the kids was watching the Caravanne pass through – the sponsor’s parade that comes through about 45 minutes before the riders do. They throw out lots of loot, so we are now armed with plenty of caps, keyrings, fridge magnets and inflatable pillows!
Even if you’re not into cycling, it’s worth going to see a stage if you ever get the opportunity as the spectacle of it is something else!
La Bataille de Castilliones
La Bataille de Castilliones is a biennial re-enactment of the end of the 100 years war in the 1400’s between England and France. It’s set in a natural ampitheatre surrounded by chateau and vineyards and over 400 actors take part in the show, many of them local volunteers from the surrounding towns.
A medieval village is set up to wander around before the show begins, with performance artists, food stalls and artists selling their art.
There’s also 25 horses plus other farm animals that take part in the show.
It’s an amazing spectacle, ending in the actual battle scene with mock gunfire and fireworks.
In true French style, the show begins very late – 10.30 so Jack snoozed off halfway through it, but Sophie was in raptures until the very end!
Even though we were in the Dordogne for 10 weeks, we still only scratched the surface of things to do there. It’s truly a place where so much happens over the summer.