Yesterday was a historical feast with a visit to two fabulous castles, and an early morning visit to the huge and vibrant market in beautiful Sarlat. After breakfast in the stately dining room, we set off early to capture a slice of French daily life in the Saturday market and we were not disappointed. The market was a real treat – massive, bustling, colourful, assaulting our senses on every level with its sights, sounds and delicious aromas wafting through the air as we walked through the medieval streets, all brimming with local street vendors. The beautifully displayed fresh produce is so enticing, and we are all looking forward to our villa stay, so we can hop from market to market, shopping for daily requirements.
The food is displayed in a variety of ways from simple tables and crates, to the most sophisticated refrigerated trailers – for goods such as meat and fish. The varieties of breads, olives, sausages and cheeses had me drooling, and we left the market with freshly made filled baguettes for a picnic lunch on the patio adjoining our two rooms.
Many other goods are available here – clothing, bags, belts, tools, books, toys, knives, herbs, oils, foie gras, confit de canard, hats, beautiful table cloths, shoes, and scarves galore – it was so hard to choose from the vast array of scarves, but I came away with two and will be finding more I am sure! Oh yes, and in case we need them, handcuffs are also available!
On our return from the market, we passed back through the beautiful village of La Rocque Gageac. It is quite simply breathtaking, with the river running below it, and the houses jutting out from the rock face. It has one main street, and high above, you can see where 12th century cave dwellers settled. We found it by serendipty and it was a real bonus.
After our delicious lunch we set off in search of a bit of medieval history – first stop? Chateau de Castelnaud, across the river from Beynac, which houses a museum of medieval warfare, and pretty impressive it was too ! The initial interior ascent is not for the claustrophobic, as you must climb a couple of flights of very steep and narrow stairs (which I managed), but if this does not suit, you can ascend via the exterior paths. The rooms housing the weaponry are very impressive and video clips play the history associated with each room. The suits of armour and weapons are well-preserved, and the weapons look lethal. Once at the top and standing on the ramparts, the view is spectacular.
Next, we returned to the other side of the river to Chateau de Beynac, which we can see from our hotel room. It is an imposing structure, sitting high on top of a cliff, with the feudal village of Beynac unfolding beneath it, down to the Dordogne River below. With very little furnishing, it is sparse compared to Castelnaud, but nonetheless evocative of its time. Luc Bresson’s 1999 movie The Messenger : the Story of Joan of Arc was filmed here – it surely must have been the perfect setting for the movie- it has such a sense of history about it, with its brooding and crumbling walls. Once at the top, the views afforded from the ramparts are expansive – but don’t look down if you are not keen on heights!
After a wonderful day in the beautiful Dordogne, we set off for dinner at a local riverside restaurant where we struck the rudest, grumpiest and most unhelpful young woman, who “greeted” us when we arrived. Thankfully, this was our first such encounter, but we were not about to let Miss Grumpypants spoil what had been another fabulous experience, and there is so much more to come ….