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Report 1947: The Dordogne

By Winnick from Texas, Spring 2011

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Page 8 of 19: June 20 - Sarlat, Beynac & Castlenaud

photo by Mike Winnick

Beynac - Castle View from La Dordogne

Waking up in our own apartment was a great change from those hotel rooms. Walked to a cute patisserie for breakfast, then got the car and off to Beynac.

Beynac is right on the Dordogne and boasts a castle at its top. The best features of the town are the steeply pitched roofs made from stone (called Lauzes) and the curving streets with pretty houses. But first we took a gabares boat ride on the Dordogne. It was early so the temperature was still cool. The river flows lazily making it easy for the canoeists (of which we will be too Thursday), to paddle up and down river. The river is shallow and the scenery stupendous. Looking up from it at the rising promontory with the castle on top makes one imagine what it must have been like back in the 12C and 13C during the 100 years war. One of the castles we saw is now owned by some Texan who made his fortune, as the French speaking guide noted, in his business crushing cars!

Then a break for some lunch at a riverside restaurant.

After lunch we drove up to Beynac Castle, with amazing views, panoramas, over the countryside and the Dordogne. The Luc Bresson picture 'Jean d'Arc' was filmed here and they even had part of the set still preserved. By the way, we forgot to mention it, but Robin Hood, with Kevin Costner, was filmed at Carcassonne.

But, besides movie sets, the real thing was impressive. Lots of climbing up ramps and stairs, real narrow spiral stone stairs and a superb panoramic view over the valley. This castle was started in the 11C, changed hands many times, was added to over the hundreds of years and even now is being reconstructed after years of being ignored.

Next, a few kilometers away, Castlenaud village and its castle. The village is surprisingly pretty with planter boxes and wisteria. On entering the castle, you proceed up the narrowest of stone spiral staircase, through the turret. The castle houses a siege warfare museum, complete with armor, weaponry and giant sling shots. Another castle with a superb view from the parapets.

This was a picture perfect one. Then off to Vitrac, a small village where we were to pick up our canoe for a trip down the Dordogne. You park there and they bus you up river to get your canoe. You then float, and paddle, back to Vitrac. There are multiple trips with times varying from an hour to four hours, depending just how much you like canoeing. With that checked out we headed back to Sarlat.

We made our final stop for food. We ate in that night and also needed to stock up on breakfast stuff. One thing about living where we do is that we had to park in the pay lot, which is only 50 meters from the apartment, so that we could lug everything (including three bottles of wine which made it all that heavier), into the house. Then back down, pay the 80 cents (for 15 minutes), and put the car into the free lot for overnight use, which is two blocks away.

Simple dinner tonight. Salad, spaghetti al Arabiatta, a good French baguette, olive oil with truffles, wine, coffee and a great chocolaty dessert from the local patisserie.

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