Thursday, October 23, 2014

Dodogne Day 1 - Villages both Medieval & troglodyte

We headed out first thing, to the nearest town of Le Bugue, to get ourselves some breakfast; a pain au chocolat and a coffee were definitely on the cards. After that it was a quick trip to the Supermarché to stock up on essentials, plus of course some tea towels so we could remove the much maligned calcer, and a couple of bottles of the local vino.

This eye catching group of trees caught our attention.

On the way back to the campsite we stopped at a plantation of beautiful trees, I’m not sure what sort they were, but as they marched into the distance, under the warm glow of the morning sun, each unswerving column creating its own secret tunnel, they certainly called for a photo or two.

The low sunlight filtering through the trunks gave it a magical feel.
We were there for a little while trying to get all the patterns the trees made.

After unloading our bounty, we drove into Limeuil, classified as one of the most beautiful villages in France. This little hamlet is comparatively quiet compared to some places in the region, which makes navigating the very steep cobbled streets, as they meander past honey coloured houses, a pleasure.

A little alcove of quiet.

After an interesting, and slightly exhausting wander, we stopped at the foot of the village, which looks out to the vast confluence of the Dordogne and the Vézère, one of its main tributaries. And had a baguette under the welcome shade of the shoreline trees, as the sun by now was beating down.

We were joined by a local mutt, who was scrounging for some morsels, which he seemed intent on saving for later. Every time he got thrown a lump of bread, he’d scurry off and bury it, even the smallest scrap was treated to its own internment. It seemed he was half squirrel, half dog. A squog, if you like.

Looking down one of the lanes with the tree covered landscape in
the distance.

We then drove across to Castelnaud-la-Chapelle, home to a very impressive Château of the same name. Castelnaud, or rather, Castelnau, meaning the ‘new castle’ was founded in the 12th century. In 1214, the castle was seized by Simon de Montfort (the same de Montfort who led the rebellion against King Henry III and became de facto ruler of England for a time), when he was sent to the region to crush the Cathar ‘heresy’.

During the Hundred Years War, the château was often in English hands, and it was from its battlements that the English had their standoff with the French troops, stationed in the nearby Château de Beynac.

Looking up at the château from a bridge over the river.

By the 17th century, the château was rarely inhabited. Abandoned after the French Revolution, it fell further into disrepair and, in the 19th century, even served as a stone quarry. Now in private hands, it has been picturesquely restored, and now houses a much visited museum of medieval warfare.

A view from the top of the village.

After getting a few shots of the imposing structure from below, we drove up to the château and surrounding village, with its typical Périgord architecture, and had a mosey around. Once we’d stopped for a coffee we then drove towards Beynac-et-Cazenac, stopping at a suitable spot to get an eyeful of this mightily handsome village.

Beynac-et-Cazenac from a distance.

I wandered off to a nearby church which looked interesting, to see if I could get any photos, but the light wasn’t playing ball, and the interesting side was blanketed by shade. I did get a couple of shots of the beautiful Château Fayrac, as it rose above a grove of walnut trees though, so it wasn’t a complete waste of a wander.

This 15th century castle is privately owned and not open to the public.
Not a bad place to call home!

We then journeyed to La Roque-Gageac, a small but magnificent village nestled at the base, and climbing up, the yellow cliffs that line this section of the Dordogne. Above the buildings, some with significant vestiges of 12th century construction, lie a number of troglodyte dwellings, evidence that this location has been inhabited for a very long time.

I got some shots looking along the breadth of the village, as the late afternoon sunlight rendered the amber
hued buildings a radiant gold.

Finally, it was a visit to Château Montfort, which got its name from the aforementioned Simon de Montfort, which is slightly odd, as he burned it to the ground in the 13th century. In fact the castle has been destroyed four times in total, and it’s probably the most rebuilt castle in the whole region.

The warm stone of the buildings really lends itself to the light of sunset.

The Château sits on a rocky ledge overhanging the cliffs, river and tiny village below, and its setting is quite simply spectacular. This is another castle that is in private hands, so no entry to the public, but some good views can be had from further away, which we took advantage of, as the sun began to set behind us.

A view from the back of the château, This is the remains of one of the
outer walls, with the RIver Dordogne snaking its way behind.

We then took a drive back to the campsite for a banquet of spaghetti pesto and a 2 euro bottle of wine, which all went down an absolute treat.