To arrive in Limeuil, we follow the signs posted at crossroads pointing us in the direction of the towns we’ll pass through, “Plazac” and “Fleurac” written across a white arrow. No stop signs, no stoplights, only roundabouts and wooden signs. En route to Limeuil we pass through thick birch woods, then Fleurac, with its stone cottages and shutters in red, sky-blue, turquoise, and maroon. In the summer, a drive through the countryside means meadows dotted with poppies and wild orchids; in the fall, forests and pastures enveloped in morning mist.

Out of this mist, castles, ancient cliff dwellings, and villages arise like beacons celebrating the beauty of mankind. Ten of the villages in the Dordogne have been awarded the prestigious label of “Les Plus Beaux Village de France.” While over a hundred and fifty French villages boast this honor, the association’s discriminating standards, and goal of preserving the architecture and heritage of rural France, make these “most beautiful villages” a necessary stop on any visit.

Limeuil is one such village. Perched on a hill overlooking the meeting of the Rivers Dordogne and Vézère, cobblestone walkways lead you through a maze of artist’s ateliers, alongside gardens and restaurants. We wander through dazzling gardens above the banks of the rivers, a glassblower’s studio, and a pottery shop.

On top of the village is a 14th century church, named after St. Catherine, patron saint of boatmen; further up the hill, sits the castle, enclosed by its walled fortress.The Jardin Musée de Limeuil, a botanical garden located beside the château, offers stunning panoramic views of the Dordogne. In the high season of summer, thousands of visitors stream through Limeuil’s medieval corridors, especially during one of France’s biggest pottery fairs, held every July.

The rivers, busy highways of trade in older times, are bustling with canoes in the summer. Limeuil harkens back to its historical importance as a port village with the riverside restaurant of L’ancre de Salut, “the safety anchor” in French. Long ago, Limeuil provided respite for sailors, a place for food, wine, and rest, before returning to the river.

Today, Limeuil provides that same respite for its visitors—cobblestone roads to wander in pursuit of what made us human then and now, and space to revel in community, the beauty of artist’s crafts, and the exquisite je ne sais quoi of French design.