Saturday, May 8:  Birth Day, V-E Day

Its David’s 12th birthday and also Victory-in-Europe day. We began the day with presents, a wallet from Carcassonne from me, a ceramic cow from San Gimigano from Robert and a sun/moon wind-blown decoration from Vaison-la-Romaine from Pat, were the main attractions. (Photo 102)

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Photo 106  Rocque St. Christophe
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Photo 107  Plaza 8 May 1945
Market Day in Sarlat, so we set out after breakfast to check it out. Strawberries, foie gras, walnuts and mushrooms were available everywhere. Hit a gift shop and Pat got some tableware, while Robert purchased a ten centimeter high replica of a knight in armor on a wooden base. We walked the perfectly straight rue Republique, which is being redone as a more pedestrian-friendly boulevard, as the rain again began to fall. A rag-tag band of about ten instruments and three drums processed loudly through he crowds. At the end, we saw that the plaza named “8 May 1945” was very clearly snazzed up a bit for some sort of activity. (Photo 107) I asked a vendor and he was able to communicate that things would begin at noon, a half-hour later. Just enough time for a family Internet stop just down the street.

The ceremony was interesting to watch for a few minutes, but with all the speeches in French it couldn’t hold our interest for long. The boys and I got tuna sandwiches to go, while Pat went back too the market for rice and shellfish. Nelly, Louis and Nick then picked us up about 2 PM in Louis’ 7-seater Toyota van for more sightseeing.

First stop: Castlenaud. (Photo 110) This is a refurbished castle above the Dordogne River, in Louis’ old neighborhood. The castle is impressive by itself, but the walk through takes you to several high vantage points above the river and several interesting locations within the castle complex. There is a variety of armor and weapons on display, and several short videos run continuously at various locations. The video, model and replica of one of the catapult siege machines was especially enjoyable. It was one of my favorite field trips so far, for its mix of authenticity, approachability and education. Of course, Robert spent most of the time roughhousing with Nick, the genial punching bag.

Second stop: Rouge-Gegeac. (Photo 108) We stopped at this small village, sandwiched between the Dordogne River and the base of a cliff, for a quick walk around just as a rain squall ended. With the recent rains, the river was high and fast, rushing over the short piers used as walkways to the tour boats. It was clear that a canoe “float” was not in our future. At one house along the main road, various stone plaques commemorated particularly devastating floods with dates and prominent horizontal lines.

Third stop: Domme. This is Louis’ adopted town, where he has bought a fixer-upper house to escape to. We climbed the steep road up to the town on the dome of land, then went to the house. Its liveable now, and Louis showed us the results of several projects, a few projects underway, and plans for many more. The patio faces south, as does the main bedroom window, with an extremely picturesque view down the valley. The house has a lot of character and potential, so I’m sure it will keep Louis and Nelly busy for some time. After some drinks and bread, we wandered through the town -- conversing more than looking, and I got Nelly caught up on some of the changes around UPS.

With a bit of time to kill, Louis took a very scenic route back to Sarlat and then everybody came up for a peek at our room in the fortified tower. Surprise! Nick, Nelly and Louis had popped into the gift shop at the castle to procure a birthday present for David and an early present for Robert. David has a model of the catapult to build, and Robert has a very accurate ceramic model of the castle, about 6 centimeters tall. We’d invited them all for dinner here in the hotel, so we headed downstairs to celebrate David’s birthday. Our table was on the mezzanine level, perhaps as much for the boys’ enjoyment, as for the protection of the guests. Everyone seemed to enjoy the meal, especially the wine Nelly and Louis picked out. The boys had a sample, so we could toast David’s birthday and our French friends. Pat gave instructions, gleaned from our Figeac stay, and we did 21 “clinkings” of our glasses. Dessert was a chocolate cake and the remainder of the restaurant joined in to the singing and applause.

By my estimation, we are at the half-way point of our trip. Lets do it all again. . .