Monpazier

Monpazier, “the most perfect bastide”, (which is a fortified town), designed in a neat rectangular grid around an arcaded square with a market and church is one of “Plus beaux villages de France” with 32 listed buildings. It was founded late as bastides go, in 1284, by Edward 1 of England. It prospered long enough to have a perfectly rotten 14th Century, when the town was a football which was kicked around during the Hundred Years War, then came bad harvests, typhoid fever, and finally the Black Death. However, life in Monpazier continued.

It was during the next round of warfare, over religion, that the Duke of Sully recorded a story about Monpazier which is worthy of a Monty Python sketch: by sheer coincidence Monpazier decided to raid Villefranche-du-Perigord, the next bastide to the east, on the same night that Villefranche decided to do the same to Monpazier. By chance each took a different road; each was delighted to find their goal undefended and easy plunder, and carried its booty back-to ransacked homes. An agreement was struck, and both sides gave back everything that they had stolen and peace was restored.

Note that the regulation cornieres, or arcades around the square are irregular.

A town with history

A town with history

Every time we go to France we plan our next visit to Monpazier, it is always worth a visit, especially on a Thursday, market day.

Market square

Market square

You can see the gorgeous vaulted ceilings as you walk around the square.

On the right is my favourite clothes shop.

On the right is my favourite clothes shop. (“one” of [added by Paul])

We had to stop and buy a selection of olives, the smell was gorgeous, herbs, garlic, cheeses etc

Olives

Olives

Just look at the variety and size of the locally grown tomatoes, they tasted good too.

tomatoes

Tomatoes

This was taken just off the market square.

Underneath the arches

Underneath the arches

Buskers outside the church

Busking in the sun

Busking in the sun

You are being watched! We have been to Monpazier several times and have only recently noticed these wonderfully artistic carvings

live wood carving

live wood carving

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Belvès

Belvès is a medieval “bastide” town perched on a rocky spur above the Nauze Valley. It is about 20 Kilometres West and a little North of Daglan. In early August the town reverts to the 15th Century for their summer festival where you can see falconry, jugglers, costumes etc. We have not yet had the opportunity to see this spectacle but we will be definitely going to see the medieval festival when we move to France, we can not wait!

From the car park (at the bottom of this picture) walk up to the town square

The way in

The way in

This photo was taken at the top of the road leading up to the town square. On the left you can just see the market hall.

Belves market square

Belves market square

The 15 Century covered market hall. There is a pillory chain on one of the pillars which was put around the neck of criminals for at least two to three days. Thank goodness this does not happen today. Market days are on each Saturday in the Market hall with evening markets in the months of July and August. The evening markets are for anyone to buy food to eat at the many tables next to the market. Bring your own napkin, knife and fork.

Belves market hall

Belves market hall

Narrow streets full of shops in the medieval quarter. We have been twice to Belves arriving each time at lunch time so the shops were either shutting or shut, the next time we will go earlier in the day. Be warned that in France all shops close from about 12.30 to 2 or even 4 o’clock This includes tourist sites, smaller supermarkets, everything except cafes and restaurants.

Lively and narrow streets

Lively and narrow streets

Belves is famous for its seven bell towers and is listed as “one of the most beautiful villagers in France”.

One of seven bell towers

One of seven bell towers

This is a private Chateau.

Chateau.

Chateau.

Gorgeous 15 and 16 Century buildings line narrow streets.

15 and 16 Century buildings abound

15 and 16 Century buildings abound

Hidden Gems of Belves

The “troglodyte” caves

From the town square you will see a bell tower with a clock on the side, go to the side entrance and you will find the tourist office. Here you buy your ticket and arrange a tour guide to the caves. We joined a large tour that was just about to leave, you can not go to the caves unless it is with a guided tour of people.

Finding the tourist office

Finding the tourist office

The entrance to the caves is found in a narrow street off the main square, seen on the right hand side of this photo, just beyond the motorbike. It is well hidden although not too far to walk from the tourist office, which is located in the street to the left of this photo

Hidden entrance

Hidden entrance

The cave dwellings are where the poorest people lived between the 13th and 18th Century. You can see the interior of eight cave dwellings on the guided tour.

Neat kitchen shelves

Neat kitchen shelves

Light is at a premium so you can just see if you squint a little, the spinning wheel which was used in one of the caves.

Home industry

Home industry

A large fireplace where people cooked and sat around for warmth.

Comfort around the fireplace

Comfort around the fireplace

This is a water system that was used in one of the later caves. Water was gathered from the water which would seep from above ground to trickle along the wooden tough and drip into a container below.

Running water, troglodyte style

Running water, troglodyte style

Sarlat-la-Caneda

Market days in Sarlat-la-Caneda are tremendously busy but a must to see, Wednesday is mainly for food and Saturday for the main market which incorporates food, clothes, shoes, antiques, tablecloths etc. The Market runs down the main shopping street (Rue de la Republique) and the medieval quarter including the Place de la Liberte.

This is a picture looking down to the market in the Place de la Liberte from the steps. There are several café’s dotted about so it’s a great place to stop and buy a coffee and watch the world pass by.

Market Day In Sarlat

Looking at the market

The French law on the restoration of conservation areas was first introduced in Sarlat, resulting in many listed building and monuments being saved.

An example of the many wonderful architectural buildings of the medieval period to be found in Sarlat.

architectural buildings of Sarlat

architectural buildings of the medieval period.

If travelling by car then aim to arrive early on market days. Here are a couple of printable maps showing the layout of the city and car parks http://www.sarlat.com/geographie/

Hidden gems of Sarlat-la-Canada

Lanternes des Morts

Behind the cathedral of Saint Sacerdos you can find the lantern for the dead towering over the cemetery. There are several possible reasons to why it was built, one theory is thought to be that during the middle ages the tradition was to save the soul of the deceased by lighting a candle in this monument and keeping it burning until the body was buried. Another idea is that the name was originally “Lantern of the Moors”, a monument built in memory of the second crusade, this would explain its Islamic style. At that time not many people could read or write, the pronunciation of “Moors” is the same as “Morts” (meaning dead)

During the summer months Sarlat holds several festivals that spread throughout the streets of Sarlat. To the right of the lanternes des morts is a natural amphitheatre where concerts are held.

Lantern of the dead

Lantern of the dead

This is an unusual view of the Cathedral of Saint Sacerdos

massive buttresses

notice the massive buttresses which are not so obvious from the front.

In the stone wall at the left hand side and rear of the cathedral there are several medieval tombs.

Tombs behind the cathedral

tombs behind the cathedral


Manor De Gisson

The Manor de Gisson, is a listed building in the protected old quarter of Sarlat and is well worth a visit. It is to be found at the top end of the Place de la Liberte, just past the indoor market. You will pass the massive doors on the left that lead to what was the ancient church of Sainte-Marie which is now the indoor market, selling the most delicious macaroons you have ever tasted. The walnut stall sells walnuts covered in toffee or chocolate, other stalls sell cakes, local wines and cheeses etc.

Manor De Gisson

Manor De Gisson

The Manor De Gisson is formed by two constructions of different architecture, linked with each other by a grand spiral staircase inside a hexagonal tower, which dates back to the 13th century.

Stone spiral staircase

Stone spiral staircase

La Cuisine

La Cuisine

La Boudoir

La Boudoir

There is much more to see including “the terrasse”, which overlooks the indoor market, “the grand salon” depicting domestic luxury at the height of 17th century and the “strange cabinet of curiosities”.

http://manoirdegisson.com/

Hidden gems of Beynac

You will remember our blog posted on April 27, 2013 which featured the gorgeous castle of Beynac towering above the village of Beynac-et-Cazenac. Well here are a few of the village of Beynac-et-Cazenac’s hidden gems. You need to walk up the fairly steep road between the gorgeous houses as seen bottom centre in the photograph below and shown in the film ‘Chocolate’.

The majestic Beynac castle

The majestic Beynac castle towering above the rocks, with the village of Beynac-et-Cazenac below.

On your walk up the steep road you may need to stop and take in the magnificent and breathtaking views of the River Dordogne and surrounding countryside.

Road with a vew

Road with a vew

This was interesting, we stopped to look into a small medieval courtyard and found, what I can only describe as a display of a replica Bayeux Tapestry along the wall.

Tapestry

Bayeux Tapestry ?

This medieval stone staircase was on the right of the same courtyard

courtyard

The medieval staircase

You will arrive at a junction, up to the castle, down to the village centre. We have walked up to the castle twice before and I can tell you that it is not for the faint hearted, it is very steep. This time our choice was to go down to the restaurants, shops and the river with the ‘gabarres de Beynac’ (replica river barges) at the village centre. You will pass this very unusual house close to a junction.

very unusual house

A very unusual house

The medieval village of Beynac is well worth a visit. You will pass this pretty well on the way down to the village.

A well as a display feature

A well as a display feature

This fascinating water fountain is to be found outside the pharmacy in the village

This font is outside the pharmacy

This font is outside the pharmacy