Chapter Five: Josephine & Dordogne’s Beautiful Villages
Day Six – There’s A Man With A Gun Over There, Visiting Chateau Josephine Baker, For The Birds, Chasing Windmills, A Domme Good Lunch, Chats & Chats, No Bertha Butt, Watch Out For Falling Rocks, Seeing Beynac In A New Light, Inhaling Soap and I Can See Russia From My Dessert
The weather reports didn’t lie (for a change). It was a gorgeous Sunday morning, and after finding a café au lait and croissant in town, it was back in the car for our initial stop of the day, Château des Milandes, quickly dubbed Château Josephine Baker.
That’s because the most famous owner of this chateau had been Folies Bergères, movie and singing star, Josephine Baker.
As we drove along a small road with water on the right on the way to her chateau, our attention was quickly drawn to a few men on the left holding shotguns. Worried that I had broken an unknown French traffic law, I started to put the pedal to the metal. Kim (the only one of us who has actually hunted anything in his life) assured me these were just a few guys out in the walnut orchard shooting at birds. I just hoped there wasn’t a flock flying next to our car.
Undeterred by potential buckshot, we arrived at the chateau (9€) right as it opened at 10 a.m. We strolled around the lovely garden that occupies the grounds in front of the structure. The inside of Château Des Milandes is a tribute to the American-born singer, dancer and actress, who became not only an icon in France, but around the world.
There are many of her outrageous outfits and beautiful gowns on display (image is from website…photos not allowed inside), along with numerous photos from her illustrious career.
Some of the rooms were stunning (dining room was gorgeous), and the art deco bathrooms were fun to see.
They have done a great job maintaining the chateau. Besides being a huge star, Baker was also served as a spy for the French in World War II, and there are documents of gratitude for her service; one from General Charles de Gaulle.
Baker raised 13 children (12 of them adopted) here at the chateau, and she also had an affinity for animals, especially birds.
After touring the chateau, we were told that there would be a Birds Of Prey Show in about 20 minutes on the backside of the chateau. I wondered if they were just going to have those hunters come over and shoot some unsuspecting feathered friends, but I guess the chateau already has some in stock.
There are plenty of owls and other birds of prey that live on the grounds. Unfortunately, their quarters are not quite as comfy as those inside the chateau.
We took some photos of the beautiful creatures, but left before the show. I guess I’m just one who doesn’t think such exotic creatures should have to live their life in a cage.
Meanwhile, Kim and Mary meandered over to the 15th century chapel on the premises… …and ducked inside (you have to duck everywhere in the Dordogne).
Next stop on the Dordogne town tour was a fortified, medieval village…the bastide town of of Domme, which we quickly renamed Domme DeLuise (only highbrow humor from this group).
Domme is another of the three million towns listed as Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, which translated means, “yeah this is a pretty cute town.”
Tracy took some quick photos of the beautiful stained glass windows in the church (Notre Dame de l’Assomption), and, after looking at the lovely view, it was off for another Tom Wild Goose Chase (not literally…no geese were injured in this pursuit).
One of us had read about a windmill in Domme (sadly, I believe I was the culprit), and, in a Don Quixote minute, we were off chasing after that windmill.
We walked for quite a ways past some unusual residences, when I said, “I hope finding this windmill is not an Impossible Dream.” At that moment I felt a little Robert Goulet coming on, but onward we trudged.
Finally we reached the elusive and rather underwhelming windmill (although it looks a lot better in the photo), and to take a good picture of it, we had to stand in an awkward position. “Now we’re really tilting at windmills,” I said.
There was silence, which either meant the joke fell flat, or the group was hungry again.
Domme is full of of colorful shops along with lovely, tree-lined lanes lanes, but the crew was right…
Walking past the little train (Domme Express or Le Petite Train) that takes wimpy tourists (who don’t walk half an hour in search of a stupid windmill) around the village, we found a nice spot on an outside patio at the Restaurant La Poiriére.
As we dined, Mary said she missed her conversations with her daughter. I said I missed our cats. Tracy remarked, “Mary misses her chats, and Tom misses his chats.” Like I said, only highbrow humor from this crew.
Driving out of Domme we saw another cute restaurant and passed through the Porte des Tours, which were converted into prisons in 1307 when the Knights Templers were arrested by the king.
It was such a beautiful day that we decided to revisit a couple of places that we had given short shrift to the day before; one because of the weather and the other because we had a boat to catch. Stopping back by La Roque-Gageac, we walked past the War Memorial.
La Rocque Gagnac is nestled in a beautiful spot on the Dordogne River’s north bank. It looks pretty similar to the way it looked 300 years ago, although I wasn’t around at that time, so I’ll take the locals’ word for it.
I was hoping we could see the Fort troglodytique de la Roque Gageac (Troglodytic Fort) that was built in the 12th century.
Sadly (as told by Tracy’s and Mary’s facial expressions), there were no signs of Bertha Butt and the Butt Sisters (please see: Jimmy Castor), because falling rocks had damaged the Troglodytic Fort to the extent that no visitors could safely view them.
Since we had already walked up nearly 150 steps only to get shut out, we decided to take the “high road” through LRG. We stopped by a small church.
As we walked (a little more slowly after all those stairs) along the narrow street, we discovered it wasn’t only the fort that got hammered by rocks, which does not seem unusual since many of these homes are built right into or very near the rock(s).
There were numerous structures that had significant damage from these huge boulders. The views were gorgeous.
Our final stop of the day was our first stop from yesterday, Beynac. In the light of day, it took on a new look and up we walked again to scope out the terrific views from Beynac.
We spent about 45 minutes walking through…
…then up and back down through this pretty town.
But, it was time to leave Beynac…there was laundry to do!
Late afternoon had arrived, so we spent a little more patio time at Villa des Consuls, while we gathered some laundry. Another great advantage of this hotel is it has washers and dryers that guests can use for free. Detergent was only .50€ per load.
Tracy had commented how nice the pillows smelled, so after purchasing the detergent capsule, for some odd reason, she decided to take a big sniff of it. Not a good idea since, although a capsule, she inhaled a good amount of detergent, which resulted in a sneezing frenzy.
Due to the fact it was Sunday (lots of restaurants and markets are closed), I had asked David at the hotel about a place called Chez Vicky, which looked nice on the inside (although pretty pink) from the outside. It was one of the few places I knew that was open.
Without hesitation, David shook his head and said, “Perhaps the worst.” Luckily, he made a great suggestion and got us reservations at L Bistro l’Octroi, only a few blocks away at 111 Avenue Selves.
We walked over to the restaurant past a cute little plaza full of foliage, and at 8 p.m. we were seated on the second floor.
Just like the previous evening, this place was buzzing.
After our gluttonous five-course extravaganza the previous evening, Kim decided he was not going to overeat anymore on this trip. I decided to take up the slack and ordered way too much food…again.
For his meal, Kim limited himself to the Salad de Gambas, or as we call it, a Grilled Shrimp Salad (17€). Mary decided on the 19.50€ that included Duck Foie Gras (tough to escape that on any menu in Sarlat), the boeuf special and a dessert to be named later.
Tracy opted for the White Beans with Ham, while I started with a “Wow” Melone y Jambon with salad and onion jam (the best melon/ham combo I have had in quite some time) and then the boeuf special with scalloped potatoes.
For dessert, Mary ordered the Ile Flottante with a scrumptious caramel coulis. Mary asked the waiter if she had ordered a good dessert. He answered, “Not the best, but very good.” And it was damned good.
But the dessert that Tracy and I ordered was double-damned good. We ordered the Baked Alaska (incroyable), and after eating it I swore I could see Russia from my table and hear Paul Revere ringing those bells as he rode through Boston warning the British (thanks Sarah).
Needless to say (but I guess I am anyway), the caloric intake of our desserts exceeded the daily maximum limit for any human being. The entire bill, including the requisite bottle of vin rouge (a 2010 Perigord Noir Vin de Domme DeLuise), was 90€. We were also impressed with the plating and presentation of all our meals. Up to this point in the trip, Bistro d’Octroi had now vaulted to #1 on the restaurant list. Of course, it was still early in the trip.
Speaking of early, I had to rally the troops because tomorrow was going to be a big day, and we would need lots of energy to get a quick start in the morning. The short drives of the past few days were over (at least for tomorrow). Our plans would include descending into the bowels of the earth, a visit to a religious shrine and a driving route that would take us through some more of the most beautiful villages of France.
Next: Day Seven – Wow What A View, Wrong Way Maitai, How Many Stairs Is That Again, A River Runs Through It, The View Was Better, Our Most Beautiful Village, (No Offense) Our Most Overrated Village, Carennac The Magnificent, Seeing Red and Restaurant Faux Pas