On one of my first trips to France, in 1998 (the year France won the soccer World Cup) I left Paris and drove to Dordogne Region in Southwest France, inland from Bordeaux. What a wonderful choice. For hundreds of years the French and the English faced off across the Dordogne River in a bloody struggle for the territory. You can read about it in Michael Crichton's science fiction novel Timeline published in 2000. The result of the face-off is that there are numerous castles still standing almost opposite each other throughout the territory. (I recommend reading Crichton's novel before going.) The river's a big attraction for swimming, fishing and canoeing and taking tourist boat rides. The summers can be warm, even hot, but there's plenty of shade under the willows on the shore. The town of Sarlat is both touristy and impressive for its feel for the Middle Ages. The architecture and plan of the town is authentic. My favorite passtime there is to lunch at an inexpensive brasserie and imagine what it looked like three or four hundred years ago-that is, what the people looked like. Most of the buildings go back to that time. Many of my friends who don't speak friends have stayed in bed and breakfasts in the Dordogne. It's very easy to make reservations at the tourist office in Sarlat or other towns and large cities like Perigueux (you don't have to know how to pronounce it, but a hint is that French drops most of the endings when a word is spoken, so Perigueux becomes Perigeu. A good trip would be to fly from Paris to Bordeaux, visit that bustling city with a very attractive downtown, then go north or south with a rented car to visit the most famous vinyards in the world. Then, with your car, drive est to Bergerac, where you can visit a wine museum and a tobacco museum (it was Monsieur Nicotine who gave us the chemical name). Between Bergerac and Sarlat you will find a number of stone age caves that are open to visitors. And some of them are hugely impressive with enormous beasts painted on the ceilings of the cave (most of them are original and the art is conscientiously preserved and protected). Visit Sarlat, then continue east to Rocamadour a city built into the rising wall of a cliff (if you're fit you can climb and climb and climb) and realize the hardiness of the people who used to live here. There is no end to sites to be visited in the Dordogne and a lot of people speak basic English, not only in the tourist businesses but in the weekly markets and ordinary businesses. The roads are perfect, even those that wind through the countryside, where you can enjoy the marvelous colors of the corn, the flowers and the ever-changing greens of the vineyards. The English know the Dordogne region very well and many, like Prime Minister Tony Blair, have vacation homes there. Americans are more than welcome.