Issigeac is a pretty medieval town in the south of the Dordogne, situated on the border with the department of the Lot-et-Garonne. Although it is primarily known for dating back to the Middle Ages, it actually dates back to Roman times.

Unlike a lot of medieval towns in the south of the department, Issigeac is not a bastide town with a grid layout of intersecting streets and a central market square. The old town is unique in that it is round with plenty of winding streets and narrow passageways all enveloped by a circular road.

I never tire of Issigeac and one thing I particularly enjoy about the town are the narrow passageways that lead you away from the centre. Here you can be nosey and take a look at pretty courtyards, balconies and hidden gardens, all with interesting names.

The witches' passageway leaves a lot to the imagination

A town full of interesting architecture

Issigeac is particularly interesting for its different styles of architecture representing the thirteenth century with its timbered buildings (colombage), the seventeenth century with the Palais des Eveques de Sarlat (Bishop of Sarlat’s Palace) and the eighteenth-century Provost’s House. The Maison des Têtes on the corner of the Grand Rue features carved heads right at the top and there is also a building called the mushroom house, much photographed for its unusual shape. A large portion of the buildings in Issigeac have been, or are in the process of being, restored. These sit happily next to others that have been left. But sad as this may initially appear, it does gives visitors an authentic feel for the way of life in medieval times.

Beautiful boutiques

Issigeac has just enough, but not too many, cafés, bars and restaurants that have a local rather than tourist feel to them. The town is also a popular choice for artists and craftsmen who have set up shop. And Issigeac has some of my favourite clothing and home decoration boutiques in the Dordogne. One little gem tucked under the beams of a timbered building is a stunning home interiors shop, Bien Chez Soi, run by English couple, Marc and Deb.

As a lover of interior design, for me walking into Bien Chez Soi was like walking into another world. Gorgeous ASA Selection tableware sits next to stylish Cutpol cutlery on a Libeco table checked table cloth. Exquisite Ethnicraft trays are beautifully presented alongside striking, contemporary furniture, all in neutral colours. These are just a few of the high-quality brands Marc and Deb carefully select to work in partnership with.

Originally from a marketing background, Marc met Deb, an ex-fashion designer turned upholsterer, on one of her upholstery courses. They got together and decided to lead the French lifestyle in the Dordogne countryside doing what they both love, home interiors. After battling with the famous French red tape as well as Covid, they have survived and today business is now booming.

“The business keeps growing and growing,” says Marc. “We wanted to keep things local and have a lot repeat business from customers living here full-time but also those with second homes in the Dordogne. We have started to work with interior designers who consult with us on their projects for large houses and châteaux. Life is pretty busy but we love it here, and the French lifestyle, and lots of our customers have become our friends.”

And just like any good business project, Bien Chez Soi has more than one string to its bow. In fact, it has several.

In line with their eco-friendly beliefs, Bien Chez Soi work with Little Greene, suppliers of paint and wallpaper. Little Greene is an eco-friendly, family-run business producing high-quality paints and wallpapers that reference key periods in interior design from the 17th to late 20th century. The results from using these products are stunning. Marc and Deb are both very knowledgeable about this brand and have created a space in the shop dedicated to it.

Marc and Deb are also highly skilled craftsmen, each in their own right, with Deb able to give vintage pieces a new life with her upholstery skills while Marc offers a top-quality picture-framing service.

Hidden away in a small medieval courtyard at the back of Bien Chez Soi is a display of exclusive Glatz parasols, solar-powered lanterns and stylish Houe contemporary outdoor furniture which is made from recycled plastic. It is also open to the public where you can enjoy an ethically sourced, freshly roasted organic coffee and locally-sourced cakes. The café is very popular on Sunday mornings when the market is on but Marc and Deb also use it for private consultations with their clients.

It’s party time!

For a small, medieval town, Issigeac likes to party and this year it kicks off on July 12 with the annual Bodega. In August look out for the medieval festival. Night markets in the summer that take place every Thursday. There is also a great pumpkin festival in October. But perhaps the most well-known event in Issigeac is the Sunday morning market to which people come from all over the department to visit.

 

To visit the Issigeac tourist office click here

To visit Bien Chez Soi for more details, click here