The Nagasawa family trip to France: May 1 - 15, 2011
Castle #1: Chateau de Beynac
This castle was built in the 12th century by one of the barons of Beynac. It was strategic because it overlooked the north bank of the Dordogne River and the whole valley below.
The Dordogne River (below) was once the boundary between England and France. During the Hundred Years War, the French occuped the Chateau de Beynac (from where we're standing) while the English occuped the Chateau de Castelnard (pictured in the upper left just past the hill). I'm not sure what the smaller chateau on the right is. Apparently the castles fell more often through trickery and intrigue rather than direct assault. They were too well defended and it was far too costly to attack directly.
Here we are starting near the top of the chateau and walking downward towards the town that now sits of the Dordogne River.
Hello? Anybody home?
This part of the castle wall has fallen down and was being repaired. I was impressed by the thickness of the wall.
The road wasn't very smooth.
Small residences lined the road. This is someone's front yard.
Walking, walking downward.
A contrast between old and new. Notice that the car can drive through these narrow streets.
The view from someone's yard, overlooking the Dordogne River.
This is someone's garage. They cut away into the rock a bit more and then built a roof over it.
I was interested in doors and what they communicated.
When we got down to the level of the river, we started to see people kayaking along.
This nice couple gave us directions. They had lots of wild roses growing around their doors and windows.
This is another look at that elderly couple and their home.
A few paces backward so you can see the couple and their rose-covered home, and the Chateau de Beynac on top of the cliff.
We stopped in a boulangerie (bakery) to eat breakfast: croissants, chocolate croissants, and an apple-filled pastry.
Another good example of the blending of old and new: a hair salon in the old stone building.
When we walked back up the streets to the Chateau level where we parked, the kids got a bit tired.
Castle #2: Chateau de Castelnaud
Then we drove down into the valley and along the river to see the Chateau de Castelnard, the large castle on the other side of the valley which was occupied by the English in the Hundred Years War. I love this picture because you can see a farmer driving his tractor in his fields below.
Another view of Castelnard.
We drove up to the castle from the back and started our tour. Here's Ming reading some of the history.
Looking back towards the Chateau de Beynac across the valley of the Dordogne River.
The Chateau de Baynac, the rival castle of Castelnaud during the Hundred Years' War, from the vantage point of the walls of Castelnaud.
Looking at models of seige warfare machinery made us think of the battle scenes in The Two Towers and The Return of the King where the orcs had machines like these:
A knight's armor. If you look carefully, you can see Zoe's head in the shadows. I tried putting her on my shoulders and holding her up to be the knight. She was a bit too small yet.
John and Zoe copying the stance in which the armor was placed.
This was the well in the castle courtyard. I wonder how deep they had to dig? Seems hard to build a castle somewhere on a high hill and then expect to strike water by digging...
This was the kitchen. Notice that they ate pheasant, rabbit, and cornish hens.
Their china cabinet and cupboard.
John and Zoe climbed the stairs to get to the catapults on the right.
A bit of fun...
John climbing the rocks near the base of the castle, a good shot for perspective.
Driving out from the castle area, we noticed a museum of walnuts. It seemed to be a grove of walnut trees, really.
Walnuts are really big in this region. The Dordogne region is actually quite famous for them. We had yummy sweet walnut bread later.
This was an open air market that was nearby.
Cheeses and walnut bread.
This was a restaurant right between the mountain and the river, called Hotel Belle Etoile. This is where we had lunch.
A nice mushroom soup.
These were the appetizers: white asparagus surrounding a creamy center with greens on top; fried jumbo shrimp with onions, and a truffle soup. The Dordogne region is also famous for truffles.
Salmon with onion with cooked fennel.
Chicken cooked with mushrooms under the skin for flavor, and risotto.
Duck with long macaroni.
A chocolate mousse cake
A chocolate fudge cake topped with raspberries.
Strawberry sorbet topped with fresh blueberries, strawberries, and red gooseberries.
A pistachio flavored dessert with caramelized crunchy topping. This was amazing.
Cave #3: Pech Merle
After lunch, we drove to another cave called Pech Merle. We didn't have the time to go in, much to our disappointment. This is an example of a ancient rock carving of a woman.
We learned about just how many caves had been discovered with ancient cave paintings. Quite a few!
Pech Merle had what is believed to be an older style of painting. More simple lines.
Dappled horses. Notice the hand prints!
Arriving at Richard and Mari's place!
We loved seeing Lucas again. He's quite good at posing for pictures!
Uncle Richard and niece Gabrielle. Gabby turns 1 in June.
Auntie Mari had a delicious Moroccan lamb dish cooking for us. We ate dinner in proper French style, with appetizers, then main dishes, then salad and cheeses. When we finished eating, it must have been 10pm!