The hamlet of Mercadiol is surrounded by fields, walnut groves and woods. Through traffic is minimal and both the days and nights are peacefully quiet, with little more than the sound of bird calls or, in summer, the distant music of a village ‘en fete’. A local walking track passes through Mercadiol, so on weekends you may see small groups making their way up from the field below. (FYI, the track is marked with a yellow stripe on trees and posts.)
Happily, Mercadiol combines its peaceful rural setting with easy access to a rich and diverse number of attractions. The medieval market towns of Sarlat, Gourdon and Souillac are each less than 20 mins drive away, and all have a choice of large supermakets as well as food markets – the Sarlat market in particular is renowned for the local produce on offer. Also close are castles – Chateau Fenelon is a 20-minute walk way, while Montfort, Beynac and Castelnaud are a short scenic drive down-river; prehistoric caves, including the nearby Cougnac; the pilgrim site of Rocamadour; wineries, restaurants and, a 5-minute drive away, the Dordogne River with kayaks, canoes and cycleway.
Seasons and weather
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In spring and summer the roadsides and meadows are bright with wildflowers. Summer (June to August) temperatures average 25 C (75 F) although up to 35 C in August is not uncommon. This is the main tourist season. Our local markets and restaurants are buzzing with crowds, flotillas of canoes take to the river and music festivals and village fairs offer a range of entertainment, sometimes vying with stunning sound and light shows provided by summer thunderstorms!
Autumn (September to November) is usually dry, with misty mornings, mild days and crisp nights. This is a lovely time to stay, the days are still warm, around 15 C (60 F), the harvest is done and the markets brim with produce. Early winter days can be bright and sunny with temperatures of around 5C (40 F), but often freezing overnight; sleet and snow are possible. In spring (March to May) you can expect sunshine and showers with daily temperatures of around 13 C (55 F) as you watch the greening of woods and meadows; we particularly like watching the transformation of the large linden tree in our courtyard as leafbuds unfurl into delicate green foliage. Throughout the year brilliantly clear stars fill the night sky.
The ‘source’ and Le Piage
The ‘source’ is a spring at the base of a cliff between Mercadiol and Gourdon called Le Piage, where humans have been collecting water for thousands of years. The cliff face is riddled with caves and tunnels and recent excavations have revealed that both Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons coexisted here. Archaeologists from Bordeaux and Toulouse work here during the summer months (there are open days and lectures, check with the museum in nearby Fajoles that is dedicated to the site; 05 65 32 67 36).
To reach the source from the house, head towards Gourdon and after the crossroads near La Plaine (there’s an agricultural equipment /shop ‘Val Ca Dis’ opposite) continue for 1 km, cross over a small stream on a stone-walled bridge, then immediately turn right onto a narrow sealed road, then right again onto an even smaller dirt track that squeezes between an old house and its barn. Have faith – you’ll soon be in a small cleared parking area, and possibly in a queue (not to mention an archaeological dig!). Locals come regularly to collect the freezing, limestone-filtered spring water, which is delivered through a standpipe. There used to be a notice signed by the mayor of Fajoles confirming the water’s potability and giving its chemical analysis. As the notice has not been renewed recently we cannot recommend you also collect and drink the water. All we can say is that many locals drink it.