Camping Domaine des Mathevies
Natalie and Patrick McAlpine, the owners of Domaine des Mathevies on the outskirts of medieval Sarlat-la-Canéda, first met in India. Their subsequent travels brought them to this neglected campsite and they set about transforming it into the eco-minded sanctuary it is today. A labour of love, it’s a place where adults are as well catered for and contented as their kids – where you can sit back with a frothy latté, play pétanque over a leisurely glass of St-Émilion as a paraglider is swallowed up by the salmon-pink sunset below.
Set on a gentle incline with masterful views over the wooded valley, there are 40 pitches to choose from, many of which enjoy shade from walnut, cherry, fig, apple and plum trees, and all of which have electricity hook-ups. If you’re arriving late and don’t fancy pitching up for the night, there are four spanking new cabins from which to savour the best views over the hills, plus seven more well-furnished cabins dotted around the edge of the site.
Beside the Cosy Nook Café there’s also a self- contained traditional gîte with all mod cons (Sky TV and a CD player) within its exposed stone walls and beamed ceilings. Perfectly sized for a family, with two double bedrooms, it’s recently been refurbished and is partnered by another, Le Point de Vue, a mere two minutes’ walk away. Both have two good sized bedrooms and Le Point de Vue boasts a self-contained, fully-furnished guest wing. The real ace, though, is the spectacular sunset view you can enjoy, and the privacy the place affords; giving you all the amenities plus the chance to retire to your own little palace.
The site itself is a real playground for kids, with a toddlers’ play area near the Cosy Nook Café (so you get to relax with them in plain view). Natalie and Patrick have two kids and it’s this empathy with the little ones that seems to have led to so many thoughtful details to keep them happy. There’s an excellent sand pit for younger kids and a terrific climbing area, but if that’s not enough to keep them occupied there’s a children’s pool as well as a larger swimming pool for adults, as well as tennis courts and a table-tennis table.
The Cosy Nook Café lives up to its moniker with swallow-you-up couches, a cosy ‘daybed’ for reclining on, honey stone walls and delicious bar snacks that together make it one of the most inviting campsite cafés in France. Fresh bread and croissants are delivered every morning; the best spot to take breakfast is under the shade of the linden trees. And just in case you sneaked your computer in with you, the Nook has Wi-Fi as well as satellite TV for movies or sport in the evening. With the gastronomical Mecca of Sarlat close by, coupled with what is one of the Dordogne’s friendliest, most charming sites, you may well find yourself staying much longer than planned.
FacilitiesThis is a friendly, but restful place, so be prepared to while away a few hours with a glass of red wine. The café-bar houses a good selection of holiday reads and sells a selection of basic supplies such as milk. There’s a brand-new shower/wash-block with baby-changing facilities and toilets for disabled campers. Apart from the playground and swimming pools there’s also a tennis court. If the unthinkable happens and it rains, the yoga barn morphs into a kids’ area with board games, drawing materials and plenty more things to keep everyone busy. A communal freezer is available free of charge for ice packs. Charcoal and gas barbecues are permitted on the pitches. Free Wi-Fi across the campsite.
Food & DrinkThe Cosy Nook Café turns out a bevy of barista style coffees, organic teas and alcoholic drinks. A range of great value wine is on offer thanks to a good relationship with local producers. In the evening food is served by local food trucks who set up on the terrace and offer a variety of local and world food. Nearby Sarlat-la-Canéda takes its cuisine very seriously and its winding streets are full of restaurants and bistros. For something different, Chez le Gaulois (05 53 59 50 64), tucked away in the centre of the old town, serves rustic platters of cheeses and charcuterie, boiled potatoes, salads and melted raclette. Service is great and the atmosphere superb. It’s small and popular so booking is advisable. There’s also Delpeyrat (05 53 28 10 43) in Carsac – a traditional French dining room, producing homemade delights, a great favourite with the locals. In true style meals can go on for some time, so it’s not perhaps the best for restless children. Out of town, try the Pech-de-Malet (05 53 28 14 82) in Vitrac, a family owned restaurant with fab terrace and views across the valley – ideal for kids. Finally, a two-minute drive from the campsite, L'Escale (05 53 59 22 18), in Sainte Nathalène, has a nice terrace and a family-friendly menu including, pizzas, steak frites and ice creams.
April – September.
The Owner Says
Take exit 55 from the A20 and follow the signs for the D703 (direction Sarlat). Turn right on to the D61 (direction Carlux). In the village of Carlux take the D47B towards Sainte Nathalène; turn left onto the D47 and go through the village of St Nathalène until you reach the only bar in the village. With the bar on your right, take the first road on the right (you will see an old petrol station/garage and agricultural materials) and follow it up the hill where you will pick up signs to the diminutive hamlet of Les Mathevies.
The nearest airport is at Brive-la-Gaillard, some 30km from St Nathalene. Bergerac Airport is the next closest, about 70km to the west. Bordeaux (200km) is a large international and regional airport served by many airlines. Toulouse (200km) is another large international airport served by many airlines and is equidistant to Bordeaux. By air you will almost certainly need a car or pick-up on arrival.
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