Saturday, May 30, 2015

Tuesday, May 26, 2015 - Lascaux, Montignac & Eyrignac Gardens

Gotta see Lascaux II if you've come all this way, so we head to Montignac for tickets.  The line is small today, so we get an English tour that starts in only 40 minutes.
The line to buy tickets in Montignac
The lack of line at noon - everyone's at lunch

That gives us some time to look around the old part of Montignac just across the road from the ticket office.  The Vézère river location gave this town a prosperous medieval period with houses of business men clustered not far from the river.
15th century houses in Montignac

old door in Montignac
Lascaux is busy today with busloads of school groups.  And another sign of the beginning of tourist season: the bookstore doesn't close for lunch.  Our tour leader is the same man as last time and we learn new details that we missed last time. And each time you see the drawings, you see something new.

We lunch at a small park in Montignac next to a spring before heading to the Jardins et Chateau d'Eyrignac.  This privately owned chateau can't be visited, but it's gardens cover acres of area around the chateau with French and Italian inspired gardens.

entrance to the chateau

5 full-time gardeners are working hard to trim the new growth on the thousands of sculpted boxwoods.

Japanese influence was popular "in the day" and the shaded pagoda and white gardens show off this feature.  The white garden is garlanded in white roses which also fill the spaces inside the boxwoods that line both sides of the four paths that lead to a central fountain where frogs spout arches of water into the pool.  I get to spend a half hour doing needlework in a sunny spot in one of the red-laquered arbors.  So peaceful and calming. I could spend a lot of time here.

Karen,,Nancy & Lynn at the pagoda

the white garden

frog pond in the white garden

Monday, May 25, 2015 - Canoeing the Dordogne and Visiting Belves

Destination Cénac to repeat the canoe adventure we had done before, this time with Dennis, Karen and Nancy. I will wander and then meet them at lunch at Castelnaud's pull out. The day is partly sunny with a cool breeze. The water level had been high enough a week ago, that canoes weren't allowed on the river. But the water level is down to what it was and canoeing is a popular activity on this nice day.

Once again, the start is at Cénac and they will pass La Roque Gageac, Castelnaud, Marqueyssac, Feyrac and Beynac.
booking the canoes

map of the route - we started from Cenac (center bottom) and continued downstream
(to the left - west - on this map)

Where we put in

The usual variety of birds can be seen: ducks, swans, and herons nest along this stretch of the river.  And of course the castles never get old.

Karen and Dennis and the castle at LaRoque Gageac



While they are canoeing, I wander (in car) the streets of Cénac. Old houses cling to the cliff side under Domme and the few roads on the hillside are narrow and steep, keeping me to just a quick look and attentive driving. There are a couple of shops at the foot of Castelnaud along the river, so I check them out and find a cross-stitch magazine to read while waiting for the canoers to arrive. I expect them around noon and at 12:30 begin to get nervous that something has happened. They finally arrive at 12:45 - a lot later than we had scheduled.  However, all is well and they just puttered along enjoying all the great sights along the way.
Our picnic lunch at the river in Castelnaud

After lunch, they put back in and I have an hour and a half to wait for them to get back to the Cénac base.  So I head back to Cénac and have coffee and ice cream at the snack bar at the boat launch, keeping busy with needlework and people-watching.

Tourist season is hitting its stride as even the little snack bar at the put-out is now open and inviting waiting canoers to have a snack.
snack bar at the put out just west of Beynac

Since it's still early in the afternoon, we decide to head to Belvès to do the walking tour we didn't have time to do before. We start by running into the large church at the end of the town. Notre-Dame de l'Assumption de Montcuq was constructed as we see it in the 13th century with the porch added in the 15th century. However, there was a Benedictine monastery and some sort of church since the 9th century, likely built of wood as no trace of it can be found. Viking invasions caused the abbey to be replaced by a simple but active priory.
Belvès - Notre Dame de l'Assumption de Montcuq

The medieval part of Belvès was built as a fortified town along a ridge. It still possesses parts of its walls and fortified towers.

Where the first walls were. The building on the left is for sale. Any takers?

The hospital is built on top of the old city walls which were built on top of that big chunk of rock.

Some sights seen while wandering the streets of Belvès:

Market hall - Dave, Lynn and Karen waiting for Nancy and Dennis

This is the white wysteria that was covered in blooms the last time we were in Belvès.

13th century building refitted with Renaissance details and windows

The lavoir - where the townspeople came to do their laundry

These bronze boars were coming over the hedge at a sculptor's house.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Sunday, May 24, 2015 - St Cyprien Market, Lunch at Home & Domme in the afternoon

If it's Sunday, it's St. Cyprien Market. You can see from our lunch that cherries and flat peaches are in season now.  Melons continue to be sweet and juicy and of course, there are still strawberries from just south of here.  After stuffing all the good fruits and veggies into the "frigo" we have lunch in the garden .

In the afternoon, Dave, Dennis, Karen and Nancy went to Domme to do the walking tour while I stayed home in the garden doing needlework on a lovely day.

What's new to report about Domme?

The gate with the Templars prison with the two towers was a traffic jam today.  Domme is crawling with weekend visitors.

And there's only one tour per day for the tour of the Templars prison - at 2 pm, and they missed it.

And there's apparently something political going on - there are signs on the mayor's office and the Templars gate both which seem to suggest that there's controversy about the closing of a local school.

And I had asked Dave to buy a copy of Jacou le Croquant, the novel by Eugene le Roy, whose personnage we keep encountering in all these French towns. So he went to this fantastic little bookstore in Domme which is full of all kinds of books in all kinds of languages. But alas, no Jacou le Croquant, the personification of the Perigordian spirit. (It's about a peasant uprising against the nobility.)  However, there's a free download available at Amazon, so I can read it on my Kindle.

Like every town in France, there is a war memorial for the first and second world wars. Typically, the list of names for WWI is a lot longer than for WWII, making us wonder how there were enough children to send off to WWII. 3 sides of this memorial list the deaths from WWI. Of course, WWI was generally a trench warfare situation while WWII was a much more mechanical war. And of course the French capitulated in WWII, saving many lives. This memorial lists WWII deaths by deportation, combat and gunned down (presumably by Nazi death squads).

Duck tonight. Yum.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Saturday, May 23, 2015 - Cahors & St. Cirq-LaPopie

We've lunched at the Cahors bridge with Janis and Clark and now want to go back to see the old medieval town.  Then for the afternoon, we will visit a "Most Beautiful Village" St. Cirq-LaPopie (pronounced San sear la po py), population 217 in the summer, 30 in the winter.

We arrive in Cahors shortly before 11 and head for the tourist office where we get not only a map of the town, but a wine map of the Cahors region like the one we got for Bergerac.  Then we head off for the medieval city center with a warning that there's a market today.
Flower market on the large square outside the old part of the city and in front of the tourist office.

And what a market - starting outside the tourist office with a flower market before even entering the market square a couple of blocks later.

The market is buzzing today and totally overrun with people. More crowded than Sarlat which we thought was impossible. But fewer tourists. These folks are serious shoppers as can be judged by their carts and baskets.
Locals have carts, bags and baskets for transporting their purchases
It's a good thing 'cuz the bags get heavy, we've noticed.

The market is, as usual, a lively place to visit

Elbow to elbow crowds at the market. Church watchtower in background
Taken in Market square

There are the usual food stuffs - fish, meat, cheese, vegetables and local specialties. But also clothes, household goods, shoes, bags and accessories. Markets typically only last a half day, closing around noon.  Once closing time is reached, vendors pack up to get ready for whichever town they will be at on the next day.
Market over, panel trucks (mostly white) pack up the tables, umbrellas, and stock to take to the whatever  market is the next day

We fight our way to the end of the market square to the 12th century Cathedrale de St-Etienne de Cahors. This building looks fortified for good reason - the powerful bishops of Cahors were also counts and barons, powerful feudal lords of the region.
The center bell tower is flanked by two watchtowers reminding of its one-time military function

Flamboyant gothic cloister reminiscent of Cadouin, but with much less intact sculpture.
The towers and domes of the church rise above the cloister.

The cathedral has 2 large frescoed Byzantine-style domes in an otherwise Romanesque fortified church.  There is a huge organ over the narthex which happily for us is being played in concert, complete with a planned program and an organist explaining the pieces being played.  We've arrived near the end of the free concert, so I sit to listen to the last piece. The music fills the church with sound that would impress any congregant. At the end, the organist comes down and I'm able to get a photo of him.

seats had been turned toward the back of the church for the organ concert

the organ

the organist

We continue our walking tour of the old city which has several narrow streets of medieval and 15th century buildings.  Along the way, we come to the river where we see a heron standing in the spillway of the dam.

Besides the historic tour, Cahors has a small garden tour. The city has planted many small gardens to with a variety of themes like the rectory kitchen gardens, a medicinal garden, and a garden with specimens of trees mentioned in the Bible.

Renovated house with lovely garden

We lunch at the Cahors bridge, photos of which are in a previous post, then make our way to a Most Beautiful Village, St. Cirq-LaPopie.  The place is crawling with tourists, which we should have expected if we had looked at the calendar and realized this was Pentecost Sunday and a National Holiday and long weekend. Oh, well. The French must consider this a good thing to visit on their long weekend, so I guess we're in good company.

The village has 217 full time residents and only 30 in the winter. I'm thinking if I were a resident, I'd want to be there in the winter and leave for the summer. It must be impossible with all the tourists.  There's a ruined castle once the stronghold of the LaPopie family, hence the second part of the town's name. The entire town perches on a narrow ridge and is rarely wider than one street, The steepness of the ridge makes for stunning vistas of the surrounding countryside and views of red-tiled roofs of the buildings below the town place. Of course it's a town of restaurants and tourist shops.  Nevertheless, it's a beautiful place to see.  Oh, and a fortified church, which with its castle reminds of its early life as a strategic defense along the Lot River which flows below it.
View of the town and the River Lot below it.

View of the river and surrounding countryside from just below the church

View of the main square of the town. This is the most open area in the whole town.

Looking through a "ruelle" passageway to a back street

Looking down from the main square of town to the street below. Steep streets make for difficult walking and sore knees.

Dennis at the edge of town. Notice the roof tiles behind him. The hill drops off 15 feet to the next level.