Friday, October 9, 2015

Castles!

Day 7: Chateau Castelnaud, gabarres trip, Chateau Beynac, Chateau Milandes


This girl was ready to get inside some castles after days of prehistoric caves and cute towns.  It was a beautiful day--perfect clear skies, cool temps. 


First up was Castelnaud.  We loved this place.  It has obviously been reconstructed but was very impressive.  For future visitors, be aware that the parking lot is not a part of the castle, rather it's for the small town so you do have to pay to park.


We made our way to the entrance, paid our fee and took the brochure which guided us pretty well through the castle and displays.  There were maybe 10-20 other people about.  It's really a museum of medieval war with tons of weapons on display.  I had fun looking at all the trebuchets (catapults to me) and swords and imagining how I could use them to win the Game of Thrones!  The views from the keep and the lower terraces were spectacular.  Loved this place.


Castelnaud on its perch










We headed to Beynac because we really wanted to get on the river.  Of course, when we arrived, the gabarres were on lunch break (12-2) so we walked around the town a little, taking pictures, then bought sandwiches and drinks and took them to the river to eat.  At the appointed time, we bought our tickets and boarded the boat for the trip on the river. 


The guide gave us the English handout of what we'd be seeing because he spoke to the group in French.  The boat was about half full.  We were a bit disappointed because the boat just went from Beynac, under the bridge that the resistance used to hide ammunition during WWII, to the Chateau de Fayrac before turning back.  We thought it would get closer to Castelnaud.  Fayrac is not open to the public but was very picturesque and owned by "a couple from San Antonio." Must be nice!


Beynac from the water

Fayac from the water
Back in Beynac, we decided to tour the castle.  We drove up the hill and parked close to the entrance.  Almost no one was around.  We paid our fee and the ticket lady was too busy on the phone to offer us a guide, which we saw other people using once we got inside, so we used the scant information in the Michelin Green Guide to tour this place.  It's undergoing a 100 year long renovation. The views over the Dordogne were impressive.  But without the guide, it was hard to know what was what and what was there was a little faded (thus the renovation).  At any rate, we decided we could have skipped this castle (and maybe toured Marqueyssac instead).















Next up was Milandes.  On our first trip to Paris in 2003, the apartment we stayed in had CDs of Josephine Baker's music which we played every night.  She was something else! We wanted to see her home.


Milandes is much newer than the 13C Castelnaud and Beynac having been built in the late 1400's. It is fairy tale pretty and surrounded by gorgeous grounds.  We paid our entrance fee just after a large tour group that we never saw again--weird.  The guide brochure was very well done and there was also good signage in each room.  We enjoyed learning about the history of the house and Josephine Baker's story.  We liked that each room was decorated in her style. It's a beautiful place.  We bought a few things in the gift shop, wished the video playing was at least subtitled in English because the people watching it were enthralled, walked around the gardens saying hello to the gorgeous (sadly captive) birds of prey, had drinks in the cafĂ©, and lingered.  It was a beautiful setting and still a beautiful day.


I didn't mention how much we enjoyed driving between these three places--the countryside in this area is spectacular, even though the roads were teeny.









As we left Milandes, we could see hot air ballons floating about.  We turned toward Marqueyssac and one was landing.  We parked and watched it for a bit and I walked up to the entrance to Marqueyssac, closed of course.  I encountered a few peacocks trying to relax after being bugged by tourists all day, took a few photos, and we headed back to Sarlat.








We had dinner reservations at L'Instant Delice (again).  It was quieter than the first time we dined there but the food was great again.  Husband had whole liver foie gras and a skewered salad while I had a veggie quiche like thing and salad for starters; husband had stewed goose with veggies and I had cepe ravioli for mains; he had stinky cheese; and we both had cakes for dessert.  Except for the dessert, we loved everything.  We enjoyed both our meals there--consistently good food, attentive non-intrusive service, comfortable environment. 








It was our last night so we walked all around Sarlat-le-Caneda taking pictures and feeling sad.  There was so much we didn't have time to do but we were happy to have scratched the surface of this incredibly beautiful and varied area of France.






Takeaways:
1. Not all castles are worth touring.  I wish we'd have skipped Beynac and gone to Marqueyssac instead.
2. The gabarres trip from Beynac was just ok.  Maybe it's better starting from La Roque Gageac?
3. There's enough to do in the Dordogne area for weeks.
4. The weather and few tourists in October was wonderful. Sarlat was a perfect location for us.


Next: To Amboise we go, with a sad detour

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