Dale's first castle - Beynac just happens to be our neighborhood castle - just 5 km down the road from our house. It also happens to be the best medieval castle we've ever seen, in our opinion. Dale has never seen a castle before, so he's starting with the best, we think. It's possible to drive up behind the castle (where we took this photo) and park in a lot just outside the upper town walls. Because it's not high tourist season, we are able to park in the closest lot to the castle. How pleasant!
|Could this be any more French?|
|Looking up from inside the main gate, but outside the outer courtyard.|
It's mind-boggling to think of the effort and manpower it took to build this castle clinging to the cliff. From the back view, you can see that they must have brought building materials up this way, rather than up the cliff as you can see from looking down.
|Looking over the cliff edge down on the river side|
We pay our 8 Euros each to enter and receive an English guide to the castle. It's good that there is no tour as we ended up spending 2 hours wandering the rooms and lingering over the views. Everyone took photos in the hundreds, I think. You can read the history of the castle from Beynac's official web site.
|Dale, Barb, Janis, Clark, Lynn at panorama of the Dordogne from the castle courtyard|
|looking up from the inside the outer walls|
The entrance to the church is in the outer courtyard as are stables and the rooms of the captain of the guard. We also see evidence of other buildings that were in this courtyard.
|Notre-dame de Beynac is now a parish church|
In shadow, even inside the outer courtyard, the castle looks forbidding.
|the outer courtyard at Beynac|
In we go, to explore the castle interior. This castle is being lovingly restored in a 100 year project by the current owners. Several rooms have already been completed and give a good feel for how the castle might have functioned.
The 13th century guard room is first on the tour.
|Apparently, you parked your sword while you ate dinner. How polite.|
|Dale looks out slit window from guard room|
|What Dale was looking at.|
Up some stairs to a 14th century part of the castle, complete with latrines.
|This latrine hangs out over the outer walls. Look out below!|
The medieval state hall was remodeled in the 17th century to create a meeting room for the States General of Perigord. Nobility of the 4 Baronies of Perigord met here to manage the politics of the region.
|The State Hall|
Up a spiral staircase to the upper levels of the castle, we could walk through a guard room (with a doorway so low, I had to duck) out on to a south facing terrace. We were now 450 feet above the river level.
|These stairs were treacherous because of how worn they were. Lots of soldiers climbed these steps.|
Outside are expansive views of the whole Dordogne valley. We linger for a long time soaking in all the views.
|View from top of steps. The Dordogne and the castle church peek out below this defensive tower.|
|Happy Birthday, Janis. You get to stand 450 feet above the River!|
Walking back down to the state hall, we look into the medieval courtyard to which a 17th century Florentine Renaissance stairway which now leads to living quarters of the current owner.
|A Renaissance dining room|
Continuing down the large spiral staircase, we end up in the kitchen. A unique feature of this kitchen is the ramp allowing a rider on horse to ride all the way up to the inner courtyard without dismounting.
|The ramp going up from castle kitchen to the State Hall. A rider would not have to dismount before getting to the inner courtyard. Not sure what it does for the flavor of the food....|
Hanging on the wall are the helmets and shields of Baron Adhemar Beynac from the crusade in 1090.
We exit by the barbicon.
We ask a woman about the tree outside her restaurant. It is tall, thin, and has both a sign and some French flags on it. She explains that it is a regional custom called a "pin" (French word for pine) and is part of the May 1 Labor Day celebration. Workers create the pin and give it to their boss who in return provides a glass of wine or a small meal to thank them. It is also given to elected leaders of a town. A sign on the pin gives "honneur au patron" (honor to the owner) or "honneur aux élus" (honor to the elected officials). Apparently, the pin is left in place until a new one replaces it. I'll be on the lookout for a good photo of one of these - probably on May 1, I should be able to see new ones?
On to lunch in La Roque-Gageac. It's Janis' birthday and we thought we'd try "La Belle Etoile" restaurant. Unfortunately they are closed Mondays. We find another outdoor cafe to eat lunch at.
|Salade Perigordine - duck gizzards, dried duck, foie gras. All local specialties.|