The first place of any size east of Sarlat is Souillac, at the confluence of the Borrèze and Dordogne rivers and on a major road junction. Virginia Woolf stayed here in 1937, and was pleased to meet “no tourists … England seems like a chocolate box bursting with trippers afterward”; things have changed little today, and the town has an understated charm.
Roofed with massive domes like the cathedrals of Périgueux and Cahors, the spacious interior of the twelfth-century church of Ste-Marie creates just the atmosphere for cool reflection on a summer’s day. On the inside of the west door are some of the most wonderful Romanesque sculptures, including a seething mass of beasts devouring each other. The greatest piece of craftsmanship, though, is a bas-relief of Isaiah, fluid and supple, thought to be by one of the artists who worked at Moissac.