Saturday, April 18, 2015

Wednesday, April 15, 2015 - It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood

The day starts with shopping chores in Sarlat and ends with a beautiful duck dinner. Everyone but me heads to Sarlat where Dale and Barb will tour the old city and the rest will do the marketing.  I need to catch up on this blog and the farmhouse is sunny, warm and comfortable as today's temperatures will again push 80 degrees.

Our new supply of Lucques olives from the market

As I've mentioned, posting to the Internet from here is a slow process requiring lots of patience. We are in a very rural area which has limited Internet access. We are lucky that Paul and Jeri have set up a wi-fi connection that works. And of course, we are many people trying to use the same Internet access from computers, iPads, and phones. We, who are used to being constantly connected, are stressing the system,  As a result, for each day's photos, the ones I pick for upload must be compressed before I try to put them into the day's story. Then uploaded to Blogger, which from here can take from a half hour to several hours. The automatic save function of Blogger doesn't always get signal and so one must be patient to be sure that the page actually saves and loads before doing other things. Once uploaded, I don't try to do much page layout which I regret, but which would just take too long to accomplish. I hope that doesn't detract too much from reading.

After lunch at home, we decide to take a Michelin tour of our neighborhood. It's 60 km and Michelin says to allow a half day.  So we start in St. Cyprien at the church we attended for Easter.

Now we can say we've seen this bridge (at Cahors)

St Cyprien's Abbey church
The church seems over-sized for the town and I notice a street sign called Rue de l'Abbaye Augustins. So it must have been an abbey at one point which makes us curious about its history. This site seems to have some pretty good info on it.  The town is named for a hermit (aren't they all?) named Cyprien who lived in the 600s. An abbey grew up and was once fortified for protection during the Norman invasions of the 9th century. It flourished in the 11th century but suffered during the Hundred Years War and Wars of Religion. The church is Romanesque with a 12th century bell tower and a Gothic nave and chancel.
St. Cyprien
Altar at St. Cyprien

Nave of St. Cyprien

Carved pulpit at St. Cyprien
St. Cyprien's organ gives an impressive sound

Abbey buildings would have been to the left. They are now rebuilt into apartments

Our Michelin Green Guide says "Close to the village are the carefully restored ruins of Château de Fages".
This sign is at the farm and appears just before the road turns to a tractor path

So off we go using our large Michelin map as a guide to find the château. Well. We continue up the slopes to a small, unmarked turn-off. We drive down a narrow paved lane, which becomes a gravel lane and curves through a farm before turning into a tractor path that dead ends at the gate in the wall of - TA-DA - Château de Fages.
Chateau la Fage

looking back on the tractor path from the farm

Large lock on gate, signage about the ruin and rebuilding of the château.
cool lock

Reading the signs posted about the chateau. Mostly stuff about it being ruined

To the left of the gate is a small window boarded over by a piece of grey weathered plywood and a hand-lettered sign saying "sonnez le cloche" (ring the bell). So Clark rings the bell. Shortly we hear shuffling of shoes on gravel and the plywood is pushed to the side and a small head asks us (in French) what we wanted. It's like we're in the movie "The Wizard of Oz".
Clark is always up for ringing a bell
This lovely man answered the bell

I explain that we are following the Michelin tour and were interested in seeing the château. He explains that the whole site is a hard-hat area construction zone and he has been there 50 years and is the only person working on restoring the château. It would be too dangerous to let us in. He excuses his dress as he is working today on the restoration. I apologize for disturbing him and he says he's glad we rang the bell because when people don't he is taken by surprise or misses a postal delivery. We ask if we can take a photo and he says yes and leaves the plywood ajar so we can take a photo through the opening.
Chateau la Fage - doesn't look bad from this view through the little window

We laugh as we leave because if you simply walk to the left end of the wall, the whole east side of the estate is open to the valley and you could easily get onto the property.
Chateau wall that ends if you walk around the corner

But out of respect, we climb back in our car to make our way out of the farm (stopping for sheep photos) and back to the main road.

Next stop: Chapelle de Redon-Espic. (only it's a priory "prieuré")

Once more off (WAY OFF) the beaten path on a one car-width mostly paved road back in the woods, we find the ruins of a small monastery ruined in the Wars of Religion.
Redon Espic chapel

This would have been the cloister at Redon-Espic

Romanesque vaulting inside Redon-Espic

The 12th century Romanesque chapel is still intact (and used occasionally for a pilgrimage or for concerts). A sign gives us information on the history and look of the priory.

We wander a few roads to find our way to Les Cabanes de Breuil.

A few words about roads: If it has a white line down the middle, it's a highway, meaning 2 cars can pass each other without slowing down or moving over. Don't count on any shoulders however. Actually, don't count on shoulders on any French road.  Speed limit outside of towns is 90 km (about 60 mph), curves might be marked by signs, but rarely by a reduction in speed limit. Paved roads with no line are usually 70 km (45 mph), two way traffic, and cars need to hug the edge of the road to be able to pass.
This is a 2 way highway as can clearly be seen by the fact that there's room on each side of the tractor
God save you if you meet a bus or a big truck. Sometimes there are places where you can pull to the side. We usually slow down, making any French driver behind us very impatient.  Country roads are like the above, just narrower, sometimes requiring negotiating who moves aside and who goes first. These are the roads you hope you don't meet anyone on. This is the kind of road we drove to Redon-Espic and some of the way to Les Cabanes.

Les Cabanes turns out to be cooler and more interesting than we expected. The Michelin guide says there are 5 drystone houses in a grouping, rare for this area.
Les Cabenes de Breuil

When we get there, we find a working farm run by the grandson whose grandmother inherited the "pile of rocks" from her family and moved with her husband to this land in 1947.
collection of bories

They rebuilt these round bories which had been inhabited at least since the 1400s. Drystone (or stacked stone) houses are built without any mortar by stacking rocks on top of each other to form a base and then stacking stones to create a roof.
inside one of the bories

looking toward the roof of the borie

There are chickens, ducks and peacocks roaming the area as well as an angry goose locked into one of the houses. Sheep and goats are in a nearby pasture. These houses look like they have been here for a thousand years.

a tractor for you Chuck Bowen

It's now late in the afternoon and we have duck to cook. So we head home. Puymartin castle is all that remains on the tour. Another day. Dave takes us home via a viewpoint he discovered while hiking last week with Katie and Randy. You'll never guess what it is....
view of Beynac castle

One last stop, because it is so close, is the church at Cazenac. It's locked, but it has bells for Clark. In the graveyard are lots of family graves, but they seem to be new above ground sepultures with lots of small plaques on them with inscriptions to family members who have died.

Home at last, we start the duck breasts in a honey/balsamic glaze. And we have white asparagus purchased from the grower across the road. (Spring has sprung here.) It turns out fantastic.

We hear stories from Barb and Dale about their day in Sarlat. They found a better tour than the Michelin guide, so we will have to get a copy from the tourist office the next time we have time to look around the old town. Everyone's had a good day. And tomorrow we get to do it all again. What a life!

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