Brantôme, the Venice of the Dordogne

Brantôme is known as as the Venice of the Dordogne, the River Dronne encircling the small town, linked to the outside world by five bridges. Excellent restaurants. Lovely market on Fridays and in the summer always painting exhibitions in the Abbey. A fun place for children, too, with canoe hire. Don't forget to visit St Jean de Côle en route there or coming back, one of the beautiful villages fo France.

Its gabled belltower, rising from the rock, is held to be the oldest and one of the finest in France. The original Benedictine Abbey was founded in 769 by Charlemagne. The Abbey as it is today was rebuilt in the 18th Century and now houses a museum with prehistoric remains and a permanent exhibition of the mysterious trance paintings, engravings and drawings of the medium-cum-artist Fernand Desmoulin (1853-1914). In the summer it also shows the work of living artists, which are offered for sale.

Brantôme offers the family a lovely day out for there is something for everyone. You can explore the River Dronne in a hired canoe, or in a pedal-powered boat. There are numerous, cafés, bars and restaurants to suite all budgets, art galleries, arts and crafts shops, antique shops and a wonderful farmers' market every Tuesday and Friday in July and August. For budding artists some wonderful scenes to paint. It's not uncommon on lovely summer days to see people with their easels precariously placed along the river bank endeavouring to capture the moment.

BOURDEILLES

Continuing west from Brantome on the D78, following the Dronne, some 10kms away is Bourdeilles, on the banks of the Dronne with two castles side by side. Next to the feudal fortress is the superb 16th Century Renaissance palace, built and sumptuously furnished for Catherine de Medici, who never set foot inside it. Fortunately, the public can enjoy the fine collection of early Spanish, Dutch and Italian furniture and admire the décor in the lady's bedroom.

THE RIVER DRONNE CANOEING

The source of the 178 kilometre River Dronne is in the forest of Cars in the Haute Vienne. Part of it is tidal and salmon have now reappeared here. It flows through magnificent scenery, past Brantome and the caste of Bourdeilles. Canoe enthusiasts will find the Dronne, with its weirs more of a challenge than the Dordogne or the Vézère, which, in summer, are particularly suitable for beginners. Depending on your route, the canoe centre will deliver you by minibus to the start of the route, or come and pick you up at the finish.
Canoe hire at Brantome, Grand Brassac, St Front la Rivière, St Antoine Cumond, Bourdeilles, Ribérac and Aubeterre.

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