Chapter Four: Markets, Chateaus, Gardens & Boats
Day Five – Going To Market, Cum On Feel The Noix, Cashed Out, Chateau Hopping, Sir Bleed-A-Lot, Jardin Party, Roque & Rolling On The River, Gizzard Wizards and Where’s Anthony Quinn
I will be the first to admit it; I really don’t care for Market Days in Europe (or anywhere else for that matter). Yes, I know I am in the minority, but I can shop for crappy trinkets and various fresh produce items at a number of Farmers Markets in and around where I live. But as the leader of Tom’s Tuscan (Sometimes France) Tours, I listen to those traveling with me, and they were all excited and ready to explore the famed Sarlat Market Day on Saturday morning.
Since the slight drizzle wasn’t supposed to clear for a while, if we were going to see one of these things, today would be as good a day as any, not that I thought the Sarlat market would be anything special.
As we all have found out on these trips, I’ve also been known to be wrong, and today, once again, I was wrong. I hate that!
The Sarlat Market Day had a much better vibe than most every other one of these trinket festivals I have ever attended. From the main drag to the side streets, Sarlat’s Market booths and tables kept me interested, and the stuff they were selling actually looked useful/delicious, at least for the most part.
After stopping by numerous booths (thankfully, without buying anything), we ducked (everything has to do with duck in the Dordogne) into the Eglise Saint-Sacerdos.
The belfry dates from the 9th century, but rebuilding of the church was not completed until the late 1600s.
I thought I might escape Market Day without making any purchases, but I saw a guy who was selling unique liqueurs or at least ones that were not familiar to moi. I succumbed to his selling technique and bought a melon liqueur, but as I began to walk away I saw he was also selling something called Liqueur de Noix.
Well, I had never tried Walnut Liqueur, so I bought a bottle of that, too, but still I was happy getting away from the market for only about 16€. Wrong again!
Kim and I then walked through the covered market (open year-round)…
…and stopped by a little store for a healthy and nutritious sugar crepe.
Soon, we stumbled upon Tracy and Mary standing next to a table full of linens. Their eyes had little euro signs in them, so we knew we were in trouble.
Damned if Tracy and Mary hadn’t found the Jacquard Tablecloth Man, and remembering what happened on a trip to Alsace about a decade ago, I knew there was no escaping his evil grasp. Tracy purchased two tablecloths, and Mary purchased one, so Kim and I, whose wallets were full of Euros only moments ago, were suddenly Sarladais (see, I pay attention) paupers.
Tracy found it interesting that there were no matching napkins for the tablecloths. I just found it less expensive.
As a matter of fact, French restaurants seemed to be all over the paper napkin craze (high end paper napkins), even at some of the higher end places we visited. I’m not sure we had a cloth napkin at any restaurant where we dined on this trip, not that I really keep notes on those type of facts.
Replenishing our ever-dwindling euro supply, it was time to leave Sarlat and hit the road. We were now on our way to Beynac, where we would check out our first chateau (of many). Madame Bleu seemed to be at odds with road signs at times.
As we were to find out, just about every important site in this area is about 10-25 minutes from Sarlat, not counting my circuitous trips around the many ringstrasses, which is what we call all roundabouts since our first Vienna trip in 1996 (it doesn’t have to make any sense..don’t worry).
We arrived in Beynac, which has been around for about 900 or so years. Perched high atop the town sits the Chateau Beynac, which I thought we might walk up to on this still drizzly morning (I took the photo below later in the week when the weather was a tad better).
A quick stop at the TI made us think differently. The woman said we could walk up to the chateau, but cautioned that we should be careful because the walk was extra slippery due to the rain. She then told us we could also drive there, which seemed like a much more prudent (and relaxing) decision.
Ten minutes (and 7€ apiece) later we were exploring the grounds of the 12th century castle. This was a great castle that all four of us enjoyed a lot.
This castle was originally constructed in the 12th century by the Barons of Beynac to defend its strategically important location. Since 1961 the castle has been under constant renovation.
With numerous cool rooms, lots of stairs (a must for this group) and incredible views out over the river valley, we toured (you are given an English handout) Chateau Beynac for about an hour.
Of course, if we ave an opportunity while visiting a castle, we like to pose for a Monty Python & The Holy Grail moment.
Even better, as we descended from the top, there were blue skies in the distance meaning that the weather gods were going to be on our side as the day (and weekend) progressed.
Fall was definitely in the air…and in the leaves.
Another short drive took us over the Dordogne River to the Chateau Castelnaud, but before our visit, it was time to eat.
In the town below the castle, all the restaurants were closed, but we found a pretty good one after we parked, the Restaurant de Pays Les Tilleuls…
…which was located below the castle walls.
After some filling omelettes, a Croque monsieur and a barrelful of pommes frites (why do they taste so good over here?), we headed to Chateau Castelnaud, whose inhabitants fought with Chateau Beynac all those years ago just so tourists could come and visit these places in the 21st century. You see, war can be good for tourism.
We walked by a knight in shining armor riding a stuffed horse (we think the horse was really stuffed, as were we after lunch)….
….looked at weapons used to kill the other side and once again were met by incredible vistas accompanied by blue skies and white clouds when we walked the ramparts.
As we entered a courtyard to take a goofy picture of Tracy and me and Tracy and Mary as Knights, complete with our heads sticking out from one of those touristy, cardboard cut-out tableaux, Tracy accidentally cut me with her wedding ring on my right forearm, once again drawing blood. Bandages were not far behind.
It was at this inglorious point that Kim and Tracy dubbed me, Sir Bleed-A-Lot, leader of the Knights Of Transfusions. Trying to stay positive (AB, to be exact), I took it all in vein.
Soon, we all ventured down a path looking for some Old Town supposedly located near Castelnaud, but after 10 minutes of walking and finding nothing of interest, we said “to hell with it” and made the arduous walk back up to the parking lot. They might want to have defibrillator booths alongside that path for old tourists who are suckered in to trying to find that town. It was early afternoon as we scooted back across the river for my first real attempt to get Tracy to some gardens. These excursions usually end up in disappointment, as we always seem to arrive at the wrong time of year, but on to the Château de Marqueyssac we traveled.
Bertrand Vernet de Marqueyssac, who was the counselor to Louis XIV, built the chateau in the 1600s.
It supposedly has about 150,000 hand-pruned box woods, some more than 150 years old.
It was hard to doubt those numbers after walking around the grounds.
There are numerous trails, and once again there were terrific views out on to the Dordogne Valley.
We could have walked out to a spectacular panorama of the valley, but it was 25 minutes each way (plus we had already seen about 40,000 boxwoods), and I could sense our collective legs might not want to make that trek.
We would, however, see that lookout just a short time later from a much different vantage point.
Although there were really no flowers blooming to speak of, this garden was well worth the trip.
They must have a heck of a lot of gardeners.
Near the parking lot I said goodbye to some sheep you happened to be nearby, but we could not exchange pleasantries for long as we had another stop.
It was about 4 p.m. when we headed for La Roque-Gageac, yet another town deemed one of the “Most Beautiful Villages in France.”
Similar to Beynac, La Roque-Gageac seems to be carved right out of the mountainside.
I ostensibly was driving here to check out where we could take a ride on the Gabares (traditional flat-bottomed boats used for transporting goods on the Dordogne River in the olden days) in the next few days.
By now, the sky was blue with those great white, fluffy clouds that make photographers want to snap more photos. We parked near where the Gabares Norbert and Gabares Caminade booths were stationed.
It just so happened that the Gabares Caminade had a boat that was ready to depart in ten minutes, and, since there’s no time like the present, we purchased our 9€ ticket (that included audio guide), and it was off for a relaxing hour ride along the Dordogne River.
The audio guide was a tad bit cheesy (it was told from the viewpoint of the boat owners’ ancestor), but it was informative and fortunately no one sang,“Yo ho, Yo ho, a pirates life for me.”
Looking at the town and buildings embracing the cliffs from our boat was pretty fantastic. The ride takes you from La Roque-Gageac to Chateau Castelnaud and back. The sun on the cliffs made the scenery even more beautiful…not to mention, the boat kept us off our feet for an hour.
Speaking of feet, from the boat we saw the lookout point at Chateau de Marqueyssac, and although I’m sure the view is spectacular, all of our feet were happy we had made the decision to forego the hike.
This is another highly recommended thing to do while visiting this area, if for nothing else to take a load off.
Back in Sarlat, we had some wine and breadsticks on our Villa des Consuls terrace before heading into town for dinner.
Dinner which turned out to be a rather good one at Le tourney, 1 Rue Tourny. The place was jammed when we arrived about 7:45 and stayed that way all night.
My 22€ menu had five courses that included fried duck gizzards with peach sauce (I was definitely stepping outside my comfort zone on this trip). I also downed a ½ melon filled with white wine (Monbazillac), Duck á la Orange, a goat cheese/walnut salad course and, not to be denied that 5th course, a tasty Citron Merangue for dessert. I then exploded.
Also a gizzard wizard was Mary who had the Gizzard Salad with walnuts and some Coq a Vin. Tracy eschewed the gizzards (and the five courses), and dined on a white bean soup and a Cassoulet de Canard.
Kim liked his Foie gras on toast, Canard avec Noix Truffle Perfume and Crème Brulee.
Rolling back to the hotel through the Place de la Liberté (which is full of cafes and was full of touristas on this evening) a band started playing the theme to Zorba The Greek. It got a lot of the crowd dancing and, although I enjoy the tune, it stayed in my head all night. Fortunately I didn’t stomp around the apartment at 3 a.m. It had been a large dinner, so a longer walk through town was good for our bodies, plus the night was spectacular.
Before hitting the sack, we toasted the day with some Melon and Noix liqueur back at the hotel. Our apartment at Villa des Consuls also had a nice living room area and a decent-sized kitchen. We checked the weather report (which predicted sunny days were in our future) on our iPad, and that was a good thing because we still had lots more of the Dordogne to explore and only three more days to do it.
Next: 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