A recent visit to the region revived
tastes and smells as well as visual splendors. I spent some time in the
city of Perigueux where I tasted black truffles, goose pate or confit as
they call it. I munched on fresh home grown walnuts and enjoyed the
walnut oil on my fresh salads. I drank Bergerac wines and enjoyed the
visual delights that brought me there in the first place.
I found myself among local inhabitants
who offered warm hospitality and that sense of welcome that is their
Always aware of frugality, I selected the local Ibis
Hotel, because of its proximity to the L’isle River and the old city.
High above me was the grant Cathedral St Front with its Byzantine styled
domes. Around me would be the lanes if the medieval city. I would be in
the heart of this great city. I reserved the hotel, sight unseen and was
blown away by its charm, and décor. It was a find and I highly recommend
it just near the Quai on Boul. Georges Saumande. Even the breakfasts
served outside, facing the water, added to the ambiance.
My room looked out across the peaceful river and the
Vieux Moulin landmark was just outside my window. This ancient structure
once acted as a storage and lookout tower on the ancient river. It
stands as a silent sentinel to a lost age. I couldn’t take my eyes off
its stately solitude. It’s like nothing I’d ever seen.
|I roamed the ancient streets, took a tiny tourist
train ride around the old city and snapped shots of the old towers
that once dotted the defensive wall. I ate in the tiny squares, away
from traffic and noise. I just roamed around enjoying this oasis
from 21st century noise. Yes, there is another area of town with
shops, cars and broad streets but that was hardly why I was there.
On the second day I visited the Tourist office. Here I
learned of the Musee-Atelier du Trompe-L’oeil & Décor Peint. I had just
read an article about this ancient form of illusion
painting and had seen examples of ceilings that
had been decorated in this art form even in St. Petersburg’s Hermitage.
I knew too that street painters were doing this type of work in many
cities, especially in Germany. I headed for the museum. There I met
Directrice, Ann-Marie Cherrier. It is her vision that gave life to this
She comes from generations of weavers and a family of
oriental-style painters. Trompe-l’oeil is her life’s passion.
“Mistress of the play of shadow and light, she has
done many Bordeaux chateaux and false marble done on the hull of a 25
meter sailing yacht. Her work can be seen as frescos on the outside of
houses and churches in the Dordogne region.
After a guided tour I came to appreciate this art form
that I had seen many times but never had it explained. It is art to fool
the eye. I was certain I was walking on mosaic tiles until I reached
down and touched a surface painting. I looked at vases on two shelves by
Jean-Pierre Haenni. Later I took Ann-Marie’s picture that looked like
she was leaning on the shelves. I agreed with Diderot who said,
“The hand touched a flat surface and the eye, always
seduced, saw relief…”
I was awed by the effects
that made marble, wood grain, tapestries, mosaics and frescos and
furniture decoration came alive.
The museum is set in a transformed old factory on a
quiet street. There is a reading and library area, a training workshop
where courses are given, a display and sales area and a patio tea room
available in clement weather. There are exhibits by famous artists
including furniture decorations, frescos and canvasses.
I discovered that the museum also incorporated a
workshop where students learned the various techniques of imitation
stone, lift-off frescoes, mosaics and tapestry. This art form, dating
back to ancient prehistoric times did indeed trick my eye.
I visited the workshop, and the collection. It was the
highlight of my day in a city filled with highlights. I recommend it
without reservation for those interested in art forms.
The museum is open April 1st to September 30th from
10:30 AM -12:30 and from 14:30 to 18:30 Tuesday to Saturday. Sundays
they are open from 15:00-18:00 hrs.
Times are more restricted from Oct. 1st to March 31st.
They are closed on Mondays and Bank Holidays. Groups of 25 people can be
accommodated but reservations are recommended in advance. Disabled
access and parking are available. The museum is on one floor for easy
The address is 5, rue Emile Combes, 24000 Perigueux,
France, near the Eglise de la City. You won’t have trouble finding it.
There is a modest entrance fee.
I suggest you call ahead at 05 53 09 84 40 or ask at
the Tourist office.
The email address at the museum is
and you can learn a great deal from their web site at
This is a
unique museum and studio set in a unique town in the middle of one of
the most charming regions in France. One can spend a day or a month
traveling through this region.
For more information about the city
and its sights visit the Office de Tourism at 26, Place Francheville or
call Tel: 05 53 53 10 63.
Start your visit at the Pont des
Barris. Walk up rue Daumesnil and spend some time in the Cathedral.
Then, with a map, you can wander in and out of the narrow streets and
enjoy one of the most charming towns in central France.
Perigueux was originally two cities,
one ecclesiastical, the other mercantile. The oldest remains can be seen
The old city is a warren of tiny
cobbled streets lined with boutiques, buskers, and renaissance houses.
But there is modernity as well such as the greenhouse-like Lycee Jay-de-Beafort.
You can see 2000 years of history in one city. And in the countryside
beyond there are some of the most splendid and celebrated chateaux in
France. One to visit is Chateau Hautefort. More about this ancient
marvel in another article. It was my enchantment with Hautefort that
made me set my latest novel there. (Details on request.
But Perigueux is only the beginning.
There are many visual and culinary, artistic and historical pleasures in
the Perigord. I will visit Les Eyzies, Montignac,Brantome and Hautefort
with its gigantic Chateau and the Chateau of Mme de Pompadour equipped
with stables and a giant hippodrome. Watch for more articles and holiday
suggestions on these pages over the next few weeks
http://www.perigueux.fr for more information