Visiting in-laws in the south of France is not a bad excuse to get to travel throughout the gorgeous surrounding areas. One of our favorite places to take in is the Dordogne region, often referred to as the land of 1,000 castles. The medieval villages, the river and its gorges and the unspoiled countryside take your breath away. Because of its inherent beauty, it can also get quite crowded in the summer with tourists, so we sought out a little refuge from all that at the end of each day in Le Cariol.
Le Cariol is tucked away off the beaten path in the Périgord pourpre, the wine area of the Dordogne. Although the outward appearance is that of an incredibly luxe chateau, the owners have added their own, a bit contemporary, flair to the ambiance that mixes in quite artfully. Marthijn de Groot is a Dutch artist and franchophile who set down roots here with his partner, Irene, to raise their family, work and share it all with others. I have yet to visit another bed and breakfast stay that delivers more comfort, visual beauty and welcome as Le Cariol.
The land is expansive, but the chartreuse only has 5 rooms (chambres d’hôtes) so there are not many guests at any given time to share with. Marthijn's art is on display throughout the home and the couple's dynamic style is felt throughout... and so is their warmth. The home, the grounds and the family make you feel completely comfortable. The decadent summer dinners are prepared by a chef who welcomes you in as his friend. He is so kind, considerate of your tastes and accommodating for the whole family. He joins you for wine and conversation while also serving you like a special guest. As does Marthijn who shares wine from his personal cellar, breaks bread with you, plays music by request (Miles Davis and Elvis Costello were a couple staples for us) and just plain makes you feel invited. There is nothing fake or forced about it. The family (including 2 young children and dog) goes about their living around you and it all just feels fantastic.
We happened to be visiting during one of the hottest spells off the summer, so after returning from our touristing, we fell straight in to the pool. The evenings cooled off enough to enjoy the long, lovely dinners served underneath the chandelier and candlelit table outside. Cool Hand gallivanted all over the property, playing bocce, hitting the trampoline and playing with the kids and the dog. We've found that in France it can be a bit difficult to find a spot so beautiful and yet still so welcoming for kids. Upon our departure, Marthijn even granted Luke with a generous parting gift of a beautiful wooden boxed painting kit, "encouraging the budding artist".
For anyone traveling through the Dordogne, Le Cariol is a rare gem worth seeking out for your shelter. We found no other place like it in that area, where both art and and nature envelop you and all that the region has to offer is celebrated in such an unpretentious way. Merci!
food & libations: table d'hotes (multi-course meals) prepared especially for guests Le Cariol, all things duck (confit de canard and foie gras galore), all the wine all the time...
cool for kids: the pool, trampoline, bocce court and tons of land to run around... the resident children and their sweet little dog.... and the very special art kit given to kids as a gift
must visit: all the medieval villages and the sunflowers along the way, the River Dordogne for a canoe trip, the most phenomenal castle, Chateau de Beynac, and the bird show at Chateau de Milandes (former home of Josephine Baker)