May 6 - May 10:  Bonjour from Sarlat

We spent five nights in the Perigord region of Southern France seeing the sights near the Dordogne and Vezere Rivers. This area of France is stunning. The architecture is totally different than other places we’ve been. The stones for homes is yellower and the stones for roofs are dark brown. The roofs are very steeply pitched and the towers have pointy brown hats. There are many beautiful chateaus from medieval times that were built as fortress chateaus. In one area you can see 4 at one time up on the bluffs. There is one charming village after another. Lots of wisteria, foie gras, truffles, and walnut products. There are many, many pens of fat geese in the countryside. We did NOT watch the force feeding of the geese, which are later slaughtered for their livers.

Our room in Sarlat was cute. We had the family room up in the medieval tower with windows wrapping around 3 sides and castle-like ramparts. Sarlat is a nice size and very quaint. They have a great market on Saturday. During the right time of year, they have a small square that gets filled with live geese for sale.

Nearby, there are numerous Cro-Magnon caves to visit. We went to Font-de-Gaume which has 14,000 year old cave drawings of bison, reindeer, and horses in red and black. It is the last polychrome cave in Europe where you can view the real thing. (There is a more famous cave, Lascaux, nearby, but you cannot go inside any more. They have recreated it as Lascaux II for visitors in order to preserve the originals.) We also went to La Roque St. Christophe which has had cliff dwellings from 50,000 years ago until the 1500’s. That’s Neanderthal through medieval times. The setting was beautiful on the Vezere River.

On Saturday, May 8, David’s 12th birthday and VE Day, we met up with Nelly, Nick, and Louis to see some sights and celebrate David’s day. We went to a fun chateau, Castelnaud, which was a Cathar hangout at one time. They did a great job explaining medieval weaponry, armor, and especially catapults. We then saw two cute villages, La Roque-Gageac on the side of a cliff, and Domme which is where Nelly and Nick were staying in Louis’ country fixer-upper house he bought last year. The view from Domme is breathtaking. I can see why our friends like to visit this region, which is only two hours from Toulouse. The rest of the drive was stunning, with many villages and chateaus.

Another day we went to Rocamadour, another village built into a canyon. This one is on the pilgrimage path to Compostela in Spain and the church is dedicated to Mary. There is a nice Museum of Sacred Art with many Madonnas depicting miraculous occurrences at the site starting around 1000 AD. The oldest statue from the church is a black faced Madonna. Many religious statues were vandalized during the French Revolution and we have seen evidence of this in many places. Many beheaded statues. The Madonnas in this town often had their hands amputated.

We also went to La foret des singes to walk among 130 Barbary macaques! They were amazing. They took popcorn right out of our hands (provided by the keepers). David is very fond of “monkeys.”

The last day we went to Chateau des Milandes which is run by Marie-France Manoncourt’s niece. It was bought by Josephine Baker and she lived there from 1947-1968. It is a J.B. museum in all the rooms. She was quite a character. She started as a half nude dancer, then turned film star. She was an African-American from St. Louis, and the French fell in love with her when she performed in Paris at age 20. She fell in love with France, too. She was married 4 times, adopted 12 children of all different nationalities and lived the high life until she lost the chateau in bankruptcy. She was a champion of civil rights. There was a falcon show at the chateau, also. That was really fun.

Our last event was a tour boat ride down a stretch of the Dordogne River. I had hoped to canoe on it, but the river runs too high this time of year. It was nice, and fun to see villages and chateaus from the river. Wish the ride was longer. We are off to the Loire Valley to see some more chateaus, this time pleasure homes, not fortress chateaus.

Hope all is well, Pat