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BERGERAC, capital of Périgord Pourpre, lies on the river bank in the wide plain of the Dordogne. Once a flourishing port for the wine trade, it is still the main market centre for the surrounding maize, vine and tobacco farms. Devastated in the Wars of Religion, when most of its Protestant population fled overseas, Bergerac is now essentially a modern town with some interesting and attractive reminders of the past.

The vieille ville is a calm and pleasant area to wander through, with drinking fountains on the street corners and numerous late medieval houses. In rue de l'Ancien-Pont, the splendid seventeenth-century Maison Peyrarè;de houses an informative Musée du Tabac (Tues to Sat 10am to noon & 2 to 6pm, Sun 2.30 to 6.30pm; €2.29), detailing the history of the weed, with collections of pipes and tools of the trade.

Bergerac has a couple of other museums, the best of which is the small Musée Régional de la Batellerie in rue des Conférences in the heart of the old town (mid-March to mid-Nov Tues to Fri 10am to noon & 2 to 5.30pm, Sat 10am to noon, Sun 2 to 6.30pm; rest of year closed Sun; €0.91), with displays on viticulture, barrel-making and the town's once-bustling river-trading past. Outside on the square is a statue in honour of Cyrano de Bergerac, the town's most famous association, on whom a 1990 film starring Gérard Dépardieu was based. The big-nosed lead character in Edmond Rostand's play, though fictional, was inspired by the seventeenth-century philosopher of the same name, who, sadly, had nothing to do with the town.


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