Childrens Carnival

The Judgement of Pétassou

Last Wednesday on a gorgeous sunny day the children from Three local Primary schools got together for the Children’s Carnival and the Judgement of Pétassou.

The tradition dates to the Medieval period and is performed all over south western France to welcome the start of Spring. Pétassou was the object of a thousand evils from theft to explosions, he is tried by the children and condemned, then burned for his faults, therefore bringing an end to the cold and frosts of winter.

The Carnival ProcessionThe Carnival Procession was lead out of our local Primary School and around the village by Maire P. Dussol and 2nd adjoint Thierry Cabianca.

You can see the effigy of Petassou in the trailer on the back of the tractor.
 

So cuteSo cute, dressed in animal or insect costumes.
 

Superb head dressersAnother school sported superb head dresses.
 

Walking FishThis class had made themselves up to be fish.
 

Bless her,Bless her, a sit down at the front of our home. She did rejoin the Carnival on their return through the village.
 

Anita, and one of the mothers  enjoying the day.Anita, and one of the mothers in face paint enjoying the day.
 

Singing and dancing was performed by all of the children.
 

Burning of PetassouPétassou’s effigy is burned in the open ground at the Salle des fêtes in the village.
 

Spring is hereSpring is here.

More pictures at the schools of the RPI vallee du Céou website.
 

 

Events:-

Château de Castelnaud-la-Chapelle from April 1st to May 1st, sword fighting lessons for children aged five to fourteen. From April, Demonstrations of a crossbow from the Hundred Years War.

Easter Monday, Sarlat Easter Egg Hunt around the Medieval Town.
 

 

Truffle Festival

This is undoubtedly the highlight of January, Sarlat Truffle Festival which ran for two days last weekend. There are not many things that would entice me to leave the warmth of a log fire when the temperature outside is -2 and I have a bad cold but the prospect of buying a truffle wins every time.

At up to one thousand euros a kilo the fusty, musty, heady truffle is among the worlds most expensive foods, comparable to caviar that is a similar price.

You can find truffles used in moose, macerons, chocolate, and thinly sliced on top or in various meat and vegetarian dishes. When Paul and I had a holiday in Umbria many years ago we were introduced to truffle ice cream, sounds a bit icky but it was so delicious.

Due to the fact that it can be used to flavour foods before you actually use the truffle it can be quite economical. Dropped in with other foods such as eggs, pasta, chicken or rice so the truffle aroma and taste will permeate most food products you can make a small truffle last for several meals.
 

Medieval Quarter in Sarlat Medieval Quarter in Sarlat where truffle hunters and Chiefs from all over the Perigord Black sell their truffles and truffle creations.

There have always been truffles in the Perigord Black but due to the First and Second World Wars, the nurture of the truffle went into decline, on one hand due to the loss of the smallholders and on the other hand the shrinking forests due to changes of land use and the exhaustion of truffle friendly trees. Across France in the 1930’s, the truffle harvest was roughly 1000 tons. During the 1960’s replanting of trees such as the French Oak was introduced plus other trees to test the growth of truffles. Now however is the constant threat of climate change. Hotter Summers and less rainfalls in other parts of France is reducing the growth of the truffle. So as the harvest starts to decline so the price increases. Today in sharp contrast it is only about 50 tons.
 

Truffles on displayVery proud owners of the truffle selling their finds at various weights and quality.
 

Truffle mooseTruffles made into moose with grated truffle on top, or thinly sliced between pate.
 

Two young Chiefs Two young Chiefs competing for the best truffle macerons. We did buy two macerons from them and ate them while the Chiefs waited for our response. Truly delicious boys.
 

Truffle maceronsOf course we had to buy two large macerons from another Chief to take home with us. You can not beat coffee or chocolate macerons made with truffles, the flavour is magnificent.
 

Our little truffleOur little prize along side a dessert spoon, we only paid fifteen euros so a really good price. We placed the truffle on top of eggs and left them over night. The truffle had permeated the egg shell by the morning giving the scrambled eggs the luxury flavour of truffle. Now the truffle is sitting in the rice container to flavour the rice.

A pig or a dog is usually used to sniff and find truffles in the forests, however I think that we may have the first truffle cat! Our kitten Cleo loves the smell of truffle.
 

Events:-

Castelnaud-la-Chapelle 28th and 29th January for the International Céou Canoe Race.

Daglan 19th March for the Second Spring Festival of Flowers.

Medieval Garrison. – Part Two.

Medieval Garrison at Château de Castelnaud, (Chevalier et gens d’armes en parade).

Last Sunday was outstanding, entertaining and very informative. I personally learned a lot about the Medieval period. I studied Medieval costume as part of my course in dress design many years ago when I was at College however, I never studied weapons and armour in detail. What a privilege it turned out to be to gain knowledge from various Medieval historians about its use in that period in time.

Weapons handling demonstrationWeapons handling demonstration.

First the historian would show you the sword, dagger, pike or crossbow and explain what it was made from and why it was made in a particular way. Then he would demonstrate its use on the volunteer and where it would cause the most damage. We must have listened for half an hour or so. I found it so interesting probably because I changed my career from dress designer to psychologist, then specialised in forensic psychology, the why and how people behave in this way and what weapons they used still holds a fascination for me.

 

Medieval kitchenYou could smell the aroma of the kitchen from quite a distance away.

A lit fire, Medieval baking of pies, biscuits and bread.

 

Loading the trebuchetDemonstration of the firing of the trebuchet.

 

Firing of the trebuchetThere it goes.

A wonderful, educational and entertaining experience that I could not recommend more highly.

 

Events:-from the 26th to the 30th December you will be able to see Merlin at the Château de Castelnaud, telling stories with the aid of shadow puppets for the children.

Medieval Garrison. – Part One.

Medieval Garrison at Château de Castelnaud, (Chevalier et gens d’armes en parade).

What a treat last Sunday was at Château de Castelnaud, the deployment of a Medieval Garrison, weapon handling demonstration, presentation of armour and the firing of the trebuchet, brilliant.

On arrival at the Château Paul and I followed the growing crowd of people who were heading towards the Château’s main gate where we were greeted by “the guardians of the gate”, who proceeded to make everyone join two lines, one line was formed for the gentlemen and one line for the ladies. At this point the men at the front of the line were asked questions to establish if we were friends or foe. On hearing the answers to the questions posed, the guards ran inside and shut the gate shouting loudly that we were all foe. After which they shouted “parley”, this we did and the gates were opened to let everyone through.

Château de Castelnaud, Chevalier et gens d'armes en paradeUnsure if this guard walking towards me was going to detain me or not we quickly made our way into the Châteaus grounds.
 
The costumes of the Medieval Period where magnificent and were worn by historians of the period and volunteers.

Laid out on the lawn were various pieces of armour which were worn by the knights in the Medieval period. Each piece was described by an historian, stating who would have worn the armour and how it was designed and made.

Chevalier et gens d'armes en paradePresentation of armour.

I had often seen helmets in museums with a raised section along the centreline which I always thought was a design feature or that it was made in two pieces. How wrong I was, it was made in one piece and the raised section was there to deflect a sword and prevent it from penetrating the helmet. In fact everything about the helmets had a protection function, as did the rest of the armour.

 
Gorgeous, armoured waistcoatThis gorgeous, armoured waistcoat was worn by a Baron. Decorated red velvet on the outside and sheets of metal on the inside. They used sheets of metal rather than one piece of armour for ease of movement. This item of clothing was used at banquets!

 
Dressing of the armourA volunteer for the dressing of the armour. It took two men to dress half of his body in about five minutes.

 
Medieval Garrison at Château de CastelnaudWhen you watch films about the Medieval Period, the armour always seems to be cumbersome, when in fact it is was flexible and very easy to move about in. It was the chain mail that was the most difficult to manage.

Paul tried one of the armoured gloves on, although not a light weight the craftsmanship was excellent, you could move your fingers and wrist normally and use your hand perfectly well.

 

Events:- Halloween this weekend then on Tuesday 1st November it is All Saints Day, (the day of the dead) which is a National Holiday in France, shops and offices will be closed so that people can go to the cemeteries to honour their ancestors. Candles are lit and chrysanthemums are placed on the tombs.

 
 

New to Castelnaud

A few weeks ago we took a friend to Castelnaud were I am delighted to say they have a few new and interesting exhibits to see and to play! One of which is the new computer game where your task is to save a captured prince from the castle using your knowledge of Castelnaud. Our friend played the game while Paul and I observed and helped where we could. After successfully saving the prince and the game had ended, we were walking away when we heard the computer saying that our friend had won a prize and to write down the code on the screen to be presented at the reception desk. Armed with this knowledge we continued out visit and found another computer, on which my friend played the game once more and won another prize. After collecting both prizes she gave one to me.

CastelnaudNow we both have a poster which is great, ours is on display on our office wall and every time I see it, it brings back fond memories of her holiday with us.

Another new find at Castelnaud is the Nine Worthies: which is a new wall painting created as it would have been in the Middle Ages. The theme of the Nine Worthies was highly prized by the nobility for decorating their castle walls. These notable chevaliers illustrate a whole segment of narrative literature, painted using the traditional techniques of the period. Popular heroes and paradigms of chivalry are divided into three groups of three: the Pagans (Hector, Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar), the Jews (Joshua, David and Judas Maccabeus) and the Christians (Arthur, Charlemagne and Godfrey of Bouillon). They look brilliant and there is a film about how the artists worked and painted to create this piece of art.

CastelnaudArthur and Charlemagne
See the video of how the mural of the Nine Worthies was made

Event:- Château de Castelnaud 22 and 23rd October, “Chevaliers et gens d’armes en parade”. Where you will see the deployment of armed men, ladies, maids, blacksmith and a master chef. Weapons handling demonstrations, trying on armour and the shooting of the trebuchet, I can not wait.
http://castelnaud.com/en

 

Summer is ending!

As Summer slowly passes in the Perigord I am reminded that one of my favourite things about living here is experiencing the advancing of the seasons. Each season arrives over a few weeks with gradual alterations to the countryside that makes watching the newly progressing season a constant treat. As summer winds down it brings cooler air in the mornings and more and more of the forest transforms to a wonderful rust coloured brown. It is still quite warm in the late Summer sun with temperatures in the higher twenties or lower thirties, but not the “wow I am so hot”, feeling that Paul and I have experienced over the last month or so. Eating alfresco and long walks are certainly more pleasant through the months of September and October.

“But when fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the midpoint of September, it stays awhile like an old friend that you have missed. It settles in the way an old friend will settle into your favourite chair and take out his pipe and light it and then fill the afternoon with stories of places he has been and things he has done since last he saw you.”
Stephen King, Salem’s Lot.

 

changing of the seasonFirst signs of Autumn, the falling leaves in the lane as we walk towards the old mill.
 

changing of the seasonThe old former mill in Daglan on a gorgeous late summer day.
 

changing of the seasonTaking a relaxing few minutes, watching the gentle steam of water go by. It is hard to believe that the water level in the Céou has reduced so significantly over the Summer months.
 

changing of the seasonThe Summer months have exposed the various islands in the Dordogne river at Castelnaud-la-Chapelle
 

changing of the seasonHeron hunting for fish it completely ignored Paul while he was taking this picture.
 

changing of the seasonThe chalk cliff face on our walk from Castelnaud-la-Chapelle to Milandes. Well to be honest that was my plan but I think on that particular day we walked half way then had to turn around and walk back. We need to get fitter.

September is the ideal month for visiting the Perigord, with much reduced tourist traffic and more comfortable temperatures. On that note we are having two lots of visitors to our home this month. The first is a friend whom I have known for at least thirty five years. It will be her first visit to the area and I am so looking forward to seeing her and showing her our gorgeous village of Daglan and the surrounding area. The second visit is from our son, so we have been making a list of things for him to see and experience, One or two of the many Cro-Magnon caves in the area are in order and canoeing on the Dordogne with Paul, while I sit on the bank, camera at the ready ;-)… or read my book.

“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”
― John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America.

Alien garden at La Roque-Gageac

Part two of our trip to La Rogue-Gageac.

 

Last Sunday morning we paid a visit to the brocante at La Roque-Gageac. We have been to see the tropical gardens there many times but this time after we had parked the car I noticed a small lane at the back of the car park that we had not previously explored. So after looking around the Brocante we meandered our way up the small lane and through the tropical undergrowth.

This tropical style exotic garden is well worth a visit or two. The variety of plants is made possible because it is backed by the south facing cliff behind the village which stores heat all summer long and protects the plants in winter by slowly releasing the heat, giving the garden an all year round tropical microclimate. It was created by Gerard Dorin in 1970 and has grown and flourished ever since.

DSCN1767Tropical plants with their curious alien like seed pods.
DSCN1769Here is a close up of the pods, they reminded me of a scene from the film “Alien”, not a pleasant thought for me, far too much imagination!
Tropical garden at La Roque-GageacThis view was taken from the car park looking up towards the cliffs.
DSCN1768I wish that I knew what this plant was with its gorgeous red flowers, if anyone knows let me know please.


Events:- 10th Organ Academy Master Class which is run by Michel Bourard and Yasuko at 8.30 from the 7th to the 11th September at Cathédrale Saint Sacerdos, Sarlat.

Also, in Sarlat:- on the 17th September at 8 o’clock Sarlat will be lit by ten thousand candles to celebrate European Heritage Days. This year the theme is; Heritage and Citizenship. There is also an evening concert in the Cathedral.

It will be the 17th Castelnaud Canoe/Kayak Marathon on the 11th September, everybody is welcome to join in the fun.