Saturday, April 18, 2015

Thursday, April 16, 2015 - Castle Encore

Today is Barb and Dale's last day with us and we had decided we'd like to take the gabarre boat ride that leaves from Beynac. We are still in early season and so the boats aren't as frequent. The first boat is at 11, so we are there plenty early to buy tickets.
Barb and Dale looking out over the Dordogne

The tour is mostly in French with a few notes to us in English from our guide who speaks excellent English and lived in California for a few years. We also have a 4-page information brochure in English. As I listen, he's not really embellishing his narrative beyond what is in our brochure, it just seems like he must be because it takes forever for him to do the French and just a sentence or two in English. He does however answer any of our questions in English.
happy sailors

our gabarre
While waiting for the tour to start, we watch a man come and measure the road (path?) just above the docks using a tape measure. Then we see a white delivery truck start backing down the path. Clearly he wasn't sure if he fit and determined he could make it. You can see how little space was left between truck and walls. Unbelievable.

Barb, Dale, Lynn and Dave

Of course, we now have another perspective on Beynac, Marqueyssac, Castlenaud and Fayrac.

A new perspective of Beynac
Warning: more Beynac photos!

The wall with the holes is a pigeon house. Pigeons were important sources of food and fertilizer in the middle ages.

We learn that Marqueyssac chateau was built on the ruins of a castle that was an outpost for Beynac (and the French) while Fayrac was used to garrison English troops belonging to Castelnaud. These two castles are directly opposite each other and more importantly, overlook a ford in the river. Even now the water is shallow, no more than 3 feet and in summer, a sandbar can appear in the middle of the river.

Janis and Dave looking at Fayrac

Another new feature of the river that is pointed out is the railroad bridge. On this bridge you can see flood level marks at the moss-covered tops of the small columns on the bridge pillars. You can also see small openings at the bottom of the pillars which were used by the Resistance in WWII to hide weapons.
The black tops of the white columns marks the high water level of a flood year. Now there are dams that control the water, but that affect the natural populations of fish in the Dordogne

Weapons cache in base of railroad bridge

We eat our sandwiches at home and then head out in separate ways - Dale and Barb to wander around St. Cyprien and Janis, Clark, Dave and I to visit Puymartin, our missed stop from yesterday's tour.

Puymartin is much nearer when you go directly there. Maybe a 15 minute drive. You can visit the castle which is still in the possession of its original owners. It's a guided tour in English and French and there are about 15 of us on the tour. We're the only English speakers. But our guide gives us complete information on each room and its furnishings.
Puymartin tower and prison of La Dame Blanche
A bell for Clark

Begun in the 13th century, the castle was taken over by the English. The French offered to buy back the castle and when the English left, the French demolished it so it couldn't be used by the English again. In the 15th century the castle was rebuilt, later added to in Renaissance style with only the 13th century tower remaining of the original castle. Times of restoring and abandoning succeeded one another, but the castle has always remained in the family of the original owners. Thus, there are original furnishings, paintings and rooms of Aubuisson tapistries to be seen. No photos allowed of the furnished rooms.

There is a legend of a ghost called "La Dame Blanche", the wife of one of the seigneurs of the castle who was caught with her lover by her husband and imprisoned for 15 years in an upper tower room with food dropped down from a small door in the ceiling of her room. When she died, she was entombed in the wall of the room. It is said she roams the castle even now, but not as a shivery spooky feeling but as a feeling of energy. We didn't see her.

We do get to see the attic of the building with the lauzes stone roofs. Since there's no mortar, you can see daylight between the stones. However, our guide tells us that the attic is so dry that no spiders live there. You can also see the upside down boat rafters that support the lauze tiles. We've been told other places that shipbuilders were often hired to do this construction since the framing is the same as you'd create for a ship.

Our last stop is to visit the family chapel where the stained glass window of St Mark has the head of the seigneur of the castle in place of St. Mark's.
The chapel is small, intended only for the family of the chateau

Door to the chapel

St. Mark with the head of the Lord of Puymartin

Today, we head home in a timely way since it is our last meal with Barb and Dale. We are having aperos followed by a salad of cold duck breast and brie "en croute" (wrapped in pastry). We say our goodbyes to Barb and Dale in the evening as they plan to be on the road to Bordeaux by 6 AM and we don't get up that early.
Good food, good friends, beautiful surroundings. What more could we need?

As Dave would say, "Another shitty day in paradise."
Jeri, Lynn and Janis under the wisteria in full bloom

The owner of the "shitty day in paradise" attitude

trees bud over the Dordogne; Spring is here

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