Thursday, April 30, 2015

Tuesday, April 28, 2015 - Sarlat Encore

We had planned to go to a duck farm for lunch today, but Jeri and Paul had an emergency that they had to attend to, so we canceled. Judy needed to see Sarlat and the day was sunny. Furthermore, there was no market in Sarlat today, so we thought we'd see the city without the hoards of people and vendor stalls. It's a wonderful city to wander in because the old center of town is a pedestrian zone.

We followed a couple of walking tours from a guide book, starting with the ecclesiastical buildings. We start by looking at the squares where the canons had their homes. (Remember, canons are the administrators and dignataries of the abbey. They interact with the public.)
houses that were once abbey annexes for abbey business and housing

former abbey buildings

We meander through passageways leading to a chapel and past the chapter house.

chapel entrance - building was locked however

view of cathedral from the cloister square. Building on the right would have been
dormitories for the monks.
Then finally we enter the church grounds behind the cathedral through the graveyard (jardin des enfeus) where the priests were buried. Walled and raised terraces hold grave stones and niches where important people, including rich people of Sarlat, were buried.

This church was built in several parts over several centuries. As you look at the photo below, you can see the 17th century gothic nave which has been attached to the lower 15th century romanesque cruciform choir (the part of a church that includes the altar and all the space behind and around it).
Low part (choir) is 15th century romanesque while tall part (nave) is 17th century gothic
The building of this cathedral was subject to the availability of funds and a powerful abbot and so was never finished in one piece. In the 16th century, the church architect envisioned a whole new space and so demolished the nave (the place where the congregation sits), leaving only the narthex (entrance to the church) and bell tower at the other end. Our of funds again, the space where you now see the gothic nave was empty ground until Abbot Francis II de Salignac de la Mothe Fénélon undertook the building of the nave. This makes for interesting architecture both outside and inside.

Judy, Janis & Clark along the walls in the cemetary (jardin des enfeus)

Knights Templar emblem engraved in the wall of the "jardin des enfeus" 

Once again we visit the Lantern of the Dead at the top of the graveyard. Our guidebook explains that this bullet shaped, single-roomed building was actually quite special to the abbey and while quite unique, was not unknown elsewhere. This shape matches some 4th century drawings of the tomb of Christ in Jerusalem. They believe this Lantern of the Dead was built to be used in a solemn Easter ceremony where the priests would come to the "tomb of Jesus" and find Him risen. While only speculation, that theory makes some sense to us as the inside of the Lantern is like a small chapel.
Notables were buried in the walls as well as in the raised terraces (where the 2 little kids are jumping on grave markers)
The Lantern of the Dead is in the upper level of what would have been additional cemetery space.
Dave & Lynn at Lantern of the Dead
Last stop on this part of the tour is the inside of the church.
Looking down the gothic nave, you can see the 3 arches across the front of the choir.
The 15th century Romanesque choir is behind these pierced openings
that join the Romanesque and Gothic parts of the church.

Looking from the choir to the side aisles of the nave

Added in 1752 above the entrance from the narthex to the nave, this was the first organ
built by Jean François l'Epine who built organs for other large churches, including Toulouse.

Everything in the old center of Sarlat is very compact, so once outside the church, we are ready to start the next part of the tour. There is a large square in front of the Hôtel de Ville which is surprising because the rest of the streets are narrow and compact.

Place de la Liberté
Today called Place de la Liberté, this large square is the center of social life in town. There are shops and cafés and the cathedral entrance is off this square. This is also where the largest concentration of vendors are located during market days. This square is much larger than original small square just at the steps of the hôtel de ville (city hall). A block of buildings burned in 1729 and were never re-built, thus opening the square.

The building straight ahead with the domed tower is the home of a wealthy family.
On the left is the parish church of St Mary.
The size of the square can be seen from this view taken in front of  the church of St. Mary. The Hotel de Ville is on left with the taller white awning. The Cathedral tower is in the background.
Sarlat is a good look at medieval social structure. There were two sources of power - ecclesiastical and consular. Both powerful, both wealthy and frequently at odds with each other. Consuls were generally heads of wealthy families with holdings in lands (think Beynac) or businesses (think shipping and trading of goods). The parish church of St. Mary (now an indoor market) was a symbol of the consular power while the cathedral of St. Sacerdos was the symbol of ecclesiastical power.
Italian Renaissance house across from Cathedral of St. Sacerdos

Wandering narrow streets past old houses onto the Place des Oies (former market square where geese were sold)

House just off the Place des Oies
Geese in Place des Oies 

Looking back at the bell tower of St. Mary's at the Place des Oies
A couple of interesting photos found along the way:

In the 1600s a wealthy man wanted to build a house in town, but in typical medieval style, there were no parcels of land left in the town. So he bought 3 run-down buildings, side by side and turned it into a fancy house with entry in the center bottom and a renaissance terrace topping the entrance. He made special staircases that joined access to the houses whose floors were at different levels from each other.

Dinner that night was hamburgers with foie gras.

Bread pudding with cognac sauce for dessert

Followed by an after dinner walk around the neighborhood
Judy has Les Millandes in the palm of her hand

Bezenac church

Our local castle: Pannaseau

It takes a team to hold Pannaseau in the palm of our hands

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Monday, April 27, 2915 - Lascaux II, St. Amand de Coly , and dinner out

We gave ourselves a sleep-in morning as we had decided we would have brunch, skip lunch so we'd have room for our dinner at La Gabarre restaurant this evening.

After lunch we head off to Montignac to buy our tickets to Lascaux II, the reproduction of the original Lascaux. It's a grey rainy afternoon and we've decided this will be a good activity for just such a day.

We are surprised that there is a line and a half-hour wait to even buy tickets. They take 2000 people per day, 40 people at a time on 40 minute guided tours of 4 rooms - two introductory and 2 exact replica galleries where they claim one can see 90% of the drawings in the cave. When we get to the front, we learn there are no other English tours today and the next available French tour is at 4:20.

the ticket line

That works for us, as we know we must leave by 5 pm to get home in time to get ready for dinner. Lesson learned: don't wait till the afternoon to buy your Lascaux tickets if you must see the cave on the same day. And if you want an English tour, you may need to go a day or two ahead to get the tickets. We are surprised by how many people are wanting to go to this cave given that its a replica.

Us waiting in the ticket line
We now have a couple of hours till our tour starts, so we decide to drive to St. Amand-de-Coly, one of the Most Beautiful villages which has a fortified church. We park at the edge of town and walk in. There's no mistaking where the church is.
St. Amand-de-Coly

This town is well sign-posted in both English and French and teaches us much about the life of an abbey in the middle ages. This abbey developed on the site where a 6th century hermit named St. Amand lived. By 1048, there was already written evidence of an abbey on the site. The height of its influence was in the 13th and 14th centuries. The abbey suffered, as did every town, as a result of the 100 Years War and the Wars of Religion. But it was rebuilt in the 18th century.

Two sorts of religious folk lived in an abbey. Monks who led a solitary life close to the earth and withdrew from society. And canons (chanoines), men of letters who managed the lands, investments, and wealth of the abbatial community. They interacted with the larger society, working with parishioners to be sure crops are planted, taxes paid, and fining those who got out of line, They were merchants, procuring materials needed by the abbey. And some of them lived away from the abbey to manage territories under the control of the abbey. They depended on their parishioners to provide them the foods and materials they needed to live.

Church fortifications: Because abbeys were wealthy, they were good prey during the Hundred Years War and the Wars of Religion. Since the abbey didn't have a fortified hill-top position, it needed a building that could protect the religious and the parishioners in time of need.   Notice the curtain wall surrounding the church and the dry moat surrounding it. Arrow slits and supports for wooden "hourds" (wooden shelters attached when needed on the outside of the church from which defenders could shoot arrows or drop things on attackers.

Church interior:

Romanesque house
Lynn, Dave, Janis, Clark, Judy in front of a Romanesque house.
The street level when built was about 4 feet lower

Around town
Having a source of water was critical to the success of a fortified town.
Since there is no river or stream nearby, a system of wells is necessary.

Church in background is softened by the blossoms on this tree

A village house getting its mortar repointed

Stone steps seem brighter with the tree blossoms

I love this blue. It brightens the stone and adds a spot of bright color to make you smile.-

We have no photos of Lascaux II since you can't take photos inside. Our French guide spoke really fast and with children and echoes, I didn't catch everything. Our conclusion for this visit is.

  1. It's worth it to see the images even though they're copies
  2. 40 people on a tour is too many to be able to appreciate the experience
  3. The way tickets are purchased is much harder than it should be
  4. The first two rooms are info anyway and wouldn't have to be so dark
  5. Some sort of English audio made available for non-French speakers on French tours would be helpful
  6. You need to accept that this is a bit of a Disneyland type environment and just suck it up
We're home by 6 and have time to freshen up for our dinner out in honor of Clark and Janis' birthdays. La Gabarre has been recommended to us by Jeri and Paul and it doesn't disappoint. Located 35 minutes from here about 15 minutes from Sarlat, it sits right on the Dordogne River in St. Julien-de-Lampon. Unfortunately the weather isn't conducive to sitting out on their riverside terrace, so we are ushered into a downstairs room of only 4 tables. Upstairs has been reserved for a large dinner party of about 15. 

Walking from car park to the restaurant. The Dordogne is brown from the rain we've had the past few days.

This restaurant cooks menus based on what's available and in season with a 3-course option (appetizer, main course, dessert) at 27,50 or 36,50 Euros. 

We make our choices with the excellent English translation of our waiter (whom we suspect is also the owner). We notice that 3 of the 4 tables here are English speaking and the 4th is a French couple eating here for the first time.  Photos of our main courses 
Beef cheeks, grilled, with polenta

lamb with potato pie

troute with risotto

and desserts below. Drooling optional.
Chocolate filled pastry with home made ice cream (the little ball upper left)

a made to order brioche-type confection with home made ice cream

strawberries and cream on a crunchy cookie
This all sounds better in French, but it is all totally delicious to eat.
That's all folks!