This morning we set out to explore a group of towns along the Dordogne River that are only 12 or 15 kms away from our hotel. It was a cold morning with the temperature sitting at only 5C when we left and it was quite foggy. Along the river, visibility was rather poor which was quite disappointing as the towns in this area are very beautiful.
We reached our first planned stop at La Roque-Gageac but the fog pretty well prevented us from getting much of a view at all. We decided to head further along the river and give the fog some time to lift. At the little town of Castlenaud, the sky was clear and we could get a wonderful view of the castle above the village. This is is a medieval fortress which was erected in the 13th century to face its rival, the Château de Beynac, further along the river. Today, the chateau is in private ownership and is open to the public. It houses a popular museum of medieval warfare, featuring reconstructions of siege engines, mangonneaux, and trebuchets.
We then headed back towards our planned destination and stopped at Beynac where there is a gorgeous village that lies under the cliffs with the imposing Chateau Beynac above. This village is just beautiful and hard to describe. It is probably best to let my photo of the village speak for itself. This village dates back to 1115 when Maynard de Beynac made a gift to the sisters at Fontevrault Abbey. In 1827, the communes of Beynac and Cazenac were merged under the current name.
We spent so much time looking at these places that it was lunch time by the time we returned to La Roque-Gageac and the fog had well and truly lifted. Perched along the Dordogne River, the village is a member of the Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (“The most beautiful villages of France”) association. It looks like a lot of money has been recently spent in upgrading the river front. It looks splendid!
After lunch, which I managed to order entirely in French, we took a one-hour ride in a boat along the river. The boats are modelled on the original ones used for carrying freight along the river. It was a beautiful sunny day and it was very enjoyable just being able to relax in the sun as we floated along the river.
Our final vist for the day was to the tiny fortified town of Domme. To reach the town, we had to wind up a steep zig-zag road to the top of a hill just across the river. We entered the town through one of the original narrow gates and then had to find our way to the centre of the town through a maze of narrow streets. Many were one way and others were for pedestrians only. This was one occasion in which I was very glad to have my GPS and let it direct me along the way to the parking area outside the Marie.
Domme has a population of around 1000 people and is 250 metres above sea level on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Dordogne River. It has had a long history of conflict. It was first founded as a stronghold in 1281 by Philip the Bold following his campaign along the Dordogne river. As a result, Domme obtained the privilege of minting its own currency. During the Hundred Years’ War, the town was coveted by the English who first captured it in 1347 and then it repeatedly changed rulers throughout the war until 1437 when it finally fell under French rule again. The later Wars of Religion brought new turmoil. Protestants took the city in 1588 by climbing the cliffs at night to open the gates. It was a short success, as the Protestant captain was forced to hand the city back to the Catholics in 1592. The city then witnessed popular revolts in 1594 and 1637. After prospering throughout the 17th century, its decline thereafter, was fortunate as it became too unimportant to fight over and this facilitated its preservation.
There is an expansive panorama from the cliff top that extends across the valley of the Dordogne. This view gives a very good impression of the style of the local area. Overall, we had a wonderful time today visiting these beautiful towns. We had lots of ‘wow’ moments.