France is a romantic and eclectic country that embraces a diverse landscape from medieval cities to alpine villages to Mediterranean beaches. They have it all. France is also sprinkled with charming and cozy little villages and municipalities that have stood the test of time. In January 2017, they merged two such townships that are 8 kilometers apart, Argentat and Saint-Brazile-de-la-Roch into one community called Argentat-sur-Dordogne — a humble little corner of paradise.
These quaint villages are losing their residents as young people move to bigger cities for work and education. Saint-Brazile-de-la-Roch has less than 200 residents and Argentat has approximately 3200 residents, so tourism is something they rely on year round.
Both picturesque villages, along with many other pretty communes, hug the Dordogne River and offer dreamy scenery. With cliffs, steep banks, fast flowing water and high bridges, it’s a welcome attraction for both locals and tourists. There are several campsites and holiday rental homes mushrooming along valley floor in places wide enough to accommodate them, and many take advantage of the peaceful surroundings.
This 10th-century location makes the town significant due to the bridges crossing the Dordogne and the important river traffic to other communities. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Dordogne river contributed to the economic growth of the area where wood and local products were shipped in for locals.
Investments and enormous efforts have been implemented to make the area tourist friendly while not sacrificing the natural beauty of the district. During the summer months, the area is blooming with pretty rental properties, restaurants and curbside cafe terraces where patrons can enjoy the beauty of the river views and relaxing atmosphere. Take a leisurely stroll along the riverbank and soak in the ambience as well.
It’s history, medieval architecture and tranquil countryside surroundings draw people from around the globe. There are many heritage sites and monuments to visit, like the Eyrial Manor at Rue Theil dating back to 1457. Or visit the Grave de Roland Menhir at La Marque or savor the magnificence of the 16th-century Chateau du Bac. There’s also a plethora of churches and religious sites to see – some contain many items that are registered as historical objects.
Outside this commune, there is an abundance of interesting and breathtaking places to visit. Nuzzled in a feral and unspoiled setting not far from the village of Saint-Geniez-ô-Merle, are the Tower of Merle. The remains of old fortified houses erected between the 11th and 15th century by several families of lords, the Towers of Merle are now a listed Historic Monument and form a most impressive fortress!
In the 14th century, Merle consisted of seven castles, two chapels and a quaint village which were owned by seven noblemen from Merles. But, during the Hundred Years’ War, however, in 1371 the English took one of the towers and a castle. The Calvinists took the citadel in 1574, where they established a garrison, but were driven out two years later by the co-lords. Sadly, the fortress was abandoned and left to fall into ruins. One can only envision its splendor centuries ago.
Some twenty kilometers away is the 8th-century Collonges-la-Rouge, an enchanting village made from infamous red sandstone. Peppered with lavish 15th and 16th-century medieval homes crowned with tower and turrets and graceful mullioned windows, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back in time. It’s officially listed as one of the most beautiful villages in France.
The commune’s and villages are so close to one another in this area, that sightseeing is enjoyable a breeze to get around. Being in one village exposes the way for you to experience the history and treasures of others nearby. I adore France.