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Dordogne, Part II

It was simply too difficult to put this trip into one blog. So today, I will wrap up this week long trip. Castles, Ancient Caves, and Yes, Bergerac, where Cyrano never lived. LeRaque-Gageac is virtually built into the side of the cliffs overlooking the Dordogne. New houses have been built at the river front, and by this I mean 1500’s is newer. Had a wonderful meal here in the heart of “Geese country”

A salad with 4 types of Duck/ Goose meat. Fantastic. Loved the gizzards and pate.
Stone houses in the front date to the 1500-1600’s. Earlier homes were built into the caves of the cliffs. City was never taken in war, as it was too difficult to attack, plus the citizens built a hospital at the edge of the city to cure leprosy. No invading force would go near.
Just a few of the early houses built into the caves. Easy to defend if needed. In some areas, these are being restored to make open to the public for viewing.
Create your terrace where you can. Jan loved this.
River Front with canoeist enjoying the Dordogne. Cleanest river in France. One can see the river bottom and fish swimming. All brought about by changing farming methods and cleaning up industrial waste.
Enjoyed a nice ride on the tour boat, as well as learning much about the area.
Castelnaud seen from the river. This Castle, and the one at Beynac continually changed hands between the French and English during the 100 Years War. One army would attack and storm one or the other castle, the defending army would then move on the attacking castle and take it.

So Castelnaud was actually in a state of disrepair when it was bought by a very successful businessman. He loved the place and spent millions to restore it. Today it is a tourist attraction ( for a fee) that is worth the effort for the information, views, and the surrounding village.

View of the main keep from the Village. One has to park about 500 meters away and walk in and then up.
The castle is quite large with this building being the “Keep” or the last place to defend. Photo was taken from the top of an adjoining area in the castle walls.
Beynac as seen from the Castelnaud ramparts. Approximately 6 miles distance.
Chateau LaCoste seen across the valley in the other direction. Obviously, no shortage of lords, earls, etc. in this region.
The small door at the bottom right is the only direct entrance to the castle. This made it very difficult to attack.
Can you imagine being the soldier attempting to attack this fort?

One of the highlights of this trip was the drive up to the Grote de Lascaux, the International Center for Cave Art. While no one is allowed to enter the actual caves any longer (other than specific team members doing research), the new presentation is not to be missed. The original cave was open to the public for years after the discovery, but the change in the humidity in the cave was damaging the paintings. A small exhibit was built that can still be visited, but this new version is all one needs to get the feeling of being these boys that discovered the cave and be overwhelmed by the art. The actual cave is located in the hillside above this building. Hoping to show this to my grandson’s when they visit next time

One of the displays showing the boys and then the experts that came to inspect the find. You can see the actual size of the paintings compared to the grown men.
Seeing this photo, makes the tour even more impressive in that you are actually in a modern cave that has been constructed down to the last detail. In this tour now photographs are allowed. Two reasons, the groups are spaced about 20 minutes apart, and if any of the members of different groups starting shooting, it would slow the process, plus you are in a cave that is barely lit. It would require flashbulbs and the art has been redone using the same technique as the original. So these too would begin to be damaged by the flash.
One is allowed to photograph in the workshop area. Notice how these ancient people drew/painted over the different paintings.
The colors are amazing, considering the original paintings were done over 22,000 years ago.
Many different animals were drawn, including horses.
Just one more.

Our last few days in the regions were spent in Bergerac. A much newer town than Sarlat. It is in the heart of the wine growing region for this sector. There is a small old town, that is quite charming, has plenty of good dining choices and many interesting buildings. The new part of town is not really anything special. In fact as one drives into the town center, you almost feel you made a mistake in adding this to the trip. Do not give up. Get to the “hotel row” on the edge of the old town and enjoy a few days walk around town.

This has to be the narrowest church I have seen in France. Steeple makes up for it, towers over the city.
This inspired me to drink more wine, just kidding, but I did save my corks and made a Christmas wreath.
Much of the old town is narrow streets lined with half timbered houses.
Each one was built slightly different than the next
Notice how the second floor extends out, this saved tax dollars as the tax was based on the size at the ground level.
Many of the homes were really nicely fixed.
Park your bike and use it for a flower stand.
Several nice plaza ( place in France) to enjoy an adult bev. Yes that is a bit of grey starting to show around the edges.
So for the bad news, there was NO Cyrano in Bergerac. He is a figure in a play only, but if that happens, at least create a statue in his honor. In fact there are several around the town. This was my favorite.
We visited Chateau Monbasillac just outside of town. Ancient chateau and vineyards that had been let die, Group of growers in 1960 purchased the grounds restored the vineyards and today have some fine wines for sale.
Looking back at Bergerac from the Chateau. I have cropped out the modern part of town in this photo. Notice how the church towers over the village.

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