Monday, 7 July 2008

La Belle France 4

This picture is halfway up from the river to Beynac Chateau.

In searing heat, the kind that makes you leap up in haste when you sat down on a stone or tile surface, it is an effort, but it is worth it. You can drive up and go in at the top, but driving up must be hair raising as the street is Narrow. And anyway, it would be cheating, and you'd miss all the little quirky bits that are so delightful.

The rewards are good. This is the view from the top, though if you suffer from vertigo I wouldn't go too close to the edge as it's a straight drop down onto the houses below.

On the other side of the river is another castle. Castelnaud is the name and it is surrounded by trees.

If you click on the pics, they should all enlarge.

Beynac is definitely a place for romantic medievalists. For 7 euros you get to walk around what they call the enceinte which I always think means preganant but in this case means surrounding wall and some of the building. The States Chamber building is three floored and impressive. The guard room is so dark we blundered around by feel. Above that is a huge room with a wooden floor that looks as if its been there since 1100 or so. I stepped out onto it gingerly at first. There are all sorts of curious little corners, an oratory and rooms, most looking out over the precipice to the river. Easy to imagine the demoiselle sitting in the sunshine, sewing. Or freezing in winter, huddled in a blanket trying to avoid the drafts.

For the intrepid there a spiral stair that takes you right to the top of the tallest tower and you feel as if you are above the world. In the lower regions, the spirals are very dark, lit only by wicks in oil, flaring and wobbling as people pass by, and with puddles of sand beneath to catch the drips. It really gives a feeling for how it would have been so long ago.

There is evidence for lots of domestic buildings within the enceinte but most have gone now. But outside the walls, domestic residences abound on the top of the jutting rock 150 metres above the Dordogne. There are restaurants, craft shops and a church. People live there, and it is amazing to find a modern car parked up in a garage that seems impossible to reach on four wheels. If it got in, how will it ever get out? Enough to give nervous drivers the heebie jeebies.

The walk down is easy, with time to notice the things you missed as you panted your way up. This is a close-up of the old stone tiles that make up the roof. Yes, it has grass and flowers growing on it. Not unusual. Beneath the overhand is what I think is an owl window.

All over Perigord, houses are built with triangular owl windows in the roof. They allow the hunting owls into the roof spaces to clean out the mice and whatever else happens to be living there that the occupants rather wished shouldn't be living there. Kinda cute, eh?

Hear a thump and a squeak in the middle of the night, and turn over and go to sleep. It's not Dracula in the attic, just the owls hunting down the little creatures.

H'mmm. Not sure about that.

1 comment:

Anne Whitfield - author said...

Hi Jen.

Really enjoyed your posts about France, though green with envy of course! LOL