QUICK as a road trip to Yorkshire's east coast, we were soon closing in on the lush green patchwork of fields and deep, dense clumps of forests of the Dordogne below the wings of our Jet2 flight from Leeds/Bradford.
Coffee had just been drunk and I'd barely made acquaintances with the main character in my holiday book when it was time to touch down at Bergerac Airport - just one hour 40 minutes flight time away.
The airport is small and uncomplicated, which made hiring a car and getting out onto the roads a dream. Soon we were straight into the heart of the countryside, dotted with rural houses and farmsteads, heading for Perigueux.
Suddenly its limestone cathedral was looming high in the distance, guiding us into this arty town dating back to the Roman Empire with a labyrinth of winding streets opening up into airy squares with half-timbered homes once belonging to rich merchants, featuring lofty towers to show off their wealth. At the heart of the town is a multi-domed limestone cathedral in the shape of a Greek cross. We gatecrashed a wedding, sneaking in at the back before climbing to the top of a mediaeval tower where legend has it a captain was imprisoned for 17 years - he was missing one heck of a view over the hotchpotch of tiled roofs below.
The Ibis, a minute's stroll from the old town and close to the river, was our base for the night. Next morning, after marvelling over a boil-your-own egg machine at the buffet breakfast, we were introduced to Laurent Deverlanges, a former Medicin Sans Frontier worker who swapped life as a food engineer to live his boyhood dream, breeding sturgeon at his idyllic caviar farm at Neuvic.
From here we wound our way to the wooded village of Brantome - the green 'Venice of the Dordogne' - for a river trip on the Dronne, exploring caves at the back of a Benedictine abbey which is home to a spooky but gripping exhibition of 'psychic art'. Our retreat for the night was the charming Les Jardins de Brantome, the ultimate in eco-pampering with a pool.
Next we travelled to the chateau of Hautefort, an ancient medieval fortress that became a pleasure residence in the 17th century. A lesson was learned here - never let teenage party guests go wandering off to the attic for a sly smoke. Two teens did that here in the 1960s and burned the place down. The then baroness had the whole lot rebuilt, then came a great storm in 2013 when giant hailstones battered the chapel dome, ripping holes in it.
Terrason La Villedieu was our next destination - once a dark town that everyone passed by until 20 years ago a mayor with a passion for gardens came up with an idea to create a lofty terraced garden split into eight different rooms embracing the elements and senses. The water room with its teasing fountains is a favourite among visitors; 'gardens of the imagination' overlook the ancient ville, topped by a church with sparkling chandeliers.
We left the town behind to spend the night in the countryside at La Maison de Leopold, a boutique style B&B, sleeping in a restored barn where the owner's uncle once dried out his tobacco plants.
The nearby caves of Lascaux II are a must on the itinerary, as the most well known Stone Age cave art site in Europe - but the cave we visited was a fake in the interest of preserving the real thing from visitors' destructive breath. The original with its wall paintings was discovered by a group of boys who lost their dog down a hole. Every square centimetre of those images are replicated, taking six painstaking years to complete.
If woolly mammoths are you're thing, drop in at Le Thot wildlife park in Thonac for a virtual encounter before exploring the Vezere Valley with jaw-dropping cliffs once lived in by prehistoric communities.
L'Auberge Medievale, where we stayed the night in Audrix, had a sunny terrace with a stunning view. We then made our way to the colourful market at Sarlat, one of France's most medieval towns, then on to the Castle des Miland in Castelnaud La Chapelle, once owned by the American-born cabaret star of 1920s Paris, Josephine Baker. It was here where she housed her adopted children from around the world. A farmhouse rebuilt to take on the guise of a chateau - Le Chateau de Monrecour in Saint Vincent de Cosse - was our plush stop-over, and the welcoming champagne cocktail went down a treat.
Monpazier, a fortified town with a bustling market, broke up the last leg of our Dordogne trip to the legendary barge port of Bergerac on the banks of the Dordogne. Classified a town of art and history, it's well worth a visit, along with surrounding vineyards.
La Romantique in Monbazilliac was our charming guesthouse with pool to cool off in - the other big plus is its proximity to the airport, less that ten minutes drive away.
Kathie Griffiths travelled from Leeds-Bradford Airport to Bergerac Airport with Jet2.com operating flights weekly until September with fares starting at £42 one way including taxes. To book flights visit jet2.com or for package holidays visit jet2holidays.com. Call 0800 408 5599.
Hotels, from 80 euros for a double room, were:
In Perigueux - accorhotels.com/gb/hotel-0636-ibis-perigueux-centre/index.shtml
In Brantome - lesjardinsdebrantome.com/en
In Terasson - lamaisondeleopold.com
In Audrix - auberge-medievale.fr/indexanglais.htm
In Saint Vincent De Cosse - monrecour.com
In Monbazilliac near Beregerac - chambres-hotes.fr/chambres-hotes_la-romantique_monbazillac
For more about the Dordogne visit enjoydordogne.co.uk