Friday, December 4, 2015

Domme, sweet Domme

The bucolic village of Domme contrasts with its stormy past. Located high on a rocky promontory called the Barre de Domme, the site originally was a fortress and then a bastide, founded under the orders of Philip the Bold in 1281.

During the Hundred Years War and the subsequent Wars of Religion, inhabitants of Domme took refuge in caves that can still be accessed from the heart of the village.
Along the Promenade des Falaises in Domme

The most famous seige of Domme was accomplished by Capt. Geoffroy de Vivans. The militant Huguenot had tried and failed twice to invade Domme, but finally succeeded in a middle-of-the-night raid in 1588. It is said the villagers slept while de Vivans and his army of 30 crept into the village, having spread blankets on the ground to muffle their footsteps. During the next four years, he burned down the church, wrecked much of the village, imposed his Protestant faith on the Catholic inhabitants and caused general mayhem. Eventually de Vivans agreed to leave Domme in exchange for 40,000 livres. 

The road out of Domme

The Domme tourism office occupies the former Governors’ House in the middle of a pleasant market square: Place de la Halle, located at the top of the village. Down the hill where we park (parking in the village costs 2 euro for three hours), is Place de la Rode — once the site of cruel beatings and executions, but now a sunny spot to enjoy lunch.

Place de la Rode in Domme
The natural cave under the village is the largest grotte in the Périgord Noir. Come for the stalactites and stalagmites but stay for the history lesson. The 45-minute tour concludes with a panoramic cliffside lift. Tours are offered during the Christmas school holidays at 11 a.m., 2:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. In the spring and summer, more frequent tours are offered, and the caves are closed in January. Admission is 8.50 € adults, 7 € students, and 6 € children 5-14 years. The tour is usually in French with a written translation available.

The tourist office also offers (all year long except January) guided tours and an iconographic reading of graffiti of the Templar Knights, written during their imprisonment in Domme. Reservations are recommended.

Although both are closed on the day of our visit, Domme has two museums. Musée Paul Reclus focuses on archaeology, ethnology and history. L’Oustal du Perigord Museum of Arts and Traditions, is open April through September. 

Complex Périgoridan roof in Domme
Domme’s church, Notre Dame de l’Assomption, contains a small balcony offering a rare vantage point for admiring the interior. 

Entrance to L’église Notre Dame de l’Assomption in Domme

A small balcony provides a nice view of the interior of
L’église Notre Dame de l’Assomption in Domme.
Statue inside L’église Notre Dame de l’Assomption
in Domme

Domme’s star attraction is its amazing views. Start (or end) at le moulin du Roy (king’s mill), just beyond the public gardens, and walk along the Promendade des Falaises. If you are lucky enough to be visiting on a crystal-clear day, you’ll enjoy gorgeous views of the Vallée et Rivière de la Dordogne. Your walk can continue along the city walls, past the three remaining gates (or portes): Tower Gate to the east, Combe Gate to the south and Bos Gate to the west.

Vallée de la Dordogne, as seen from Domme

Porte del Bos is one of three remaining gates in Domme.

Jardin Public in Domme
Like most villages that attract tourists, Domme contains a variety of places to eat and shop, however the village seems to offer more quality than kitsch. Several artsy boutiques caught my eye, and we ended up trying — then buying — some yummy walnut liqueur. 

Cute storefront in Domme

Nectar of the nut gods

A sculpture outside a Domme inn
For more information about Domme, visit the Tourisme Domme website or call

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