Exploring suburban Bergerac
While it is always interesting to see the historic centre of a French town - and Bergerac is of course no exception - it is also interesting to see what the surrounding 'suburbs' are like, especially if you are visiting from a different country.
Most people who work in Bergerac don't actually live in the historic centre, where property prices are higher and parking is difficult, and usually choose to live:
- in the built up areas around the centre, which in the case of Bergerac spread for about one - two kilometres in all directions, or
- in the surrounding countryside, typically within about 5 - 10 kilometres of the town centre
Where in the Bergerac suburbs to see typical houses
There are three parts of Bergerac where it is particularly easy to see 'traditional' suburbs (i.e. areas where later industrial development has not materially changed the layout), and either makes for a pleasant stroll:
1) The area around Rue des Vaures about 1.5 kilometres to the north-east of the town (follow signs to Perigueux along the N21 then when you reach a large Leclerc supermarket turn right into the side streets). There are a good number of unspoiled suburban streets here.
2) The area towards 'Cotes de Pecharmant' - follow the same directions as above but turn right at the supermarket). Although quite a small area, you can see a good number of larger suburban houses, then carry on into the countryside to explore the well known Pecharmant wine region
3) If you are walking from the town and want to avoid busy roads and light industry the most attractive suburban region of Bergerac, and the main one on the river, is found by heading west from the town centre, into the region known as the 'Musicians Quarter' (so named because the streets are named after writers and composers rather than because of the people who live here!)
Simply head west along the river banks for about a kilometre (a pleasant walk along the 'Promenade du Barrage' even if the houses and architecture don't interest you) then turn right into one of the side streets . We suggest heading north along Rue Maurice Ravel (the last street in the quarter), right onto Rue Camille Saint-Saens at the chapel, right on Rue Jules Verne, left on Rue de la Fontaine, then right on Rue Lamartine to get back to the river.
What are the suburban houses like in Bergerac?
As you explore the suburban areas you will see many houses that have a flight of stairs that lead to a first floor entrance, and these are the most typical type of house in the town. Built in the 1960's and 1970's the living accommodation - typically lounge, kitchen, two bedrooms and a bathroom - is on the first floor (upstairs) while the ground floor was traditionally a 'sous-sol', a large 'above ground cellar' used for parking and storage.
Over the last 40 years a great number of these properties have been renovated to include living accommodation downstairs as well. Since the floor area is of course the same size as the upper floor there is scope to add a great deal of space by renovating the sous-sol into bedrooms, play areas, or a separate apartment.
The main challenges presented during conversion are the ceiling height, which tends to be lower than ideal for living space in the lower part of the house, and the internal stairway between the two floors, which usually only exists as a dark narrow 'cellar entrance' type stairway.
You will also find this style of house in many other towns and cities across France, as well as in the countryside, and it is extremely typical of French houses. In recent decades the trend has been towards building single-storey bungalows rather than two storey houses, so on newer developments you will see more of these.