Vitrac & Vitrac Port.

Vitrac consists of a port and a small village near the hamlet of Monfort. Vitrac Port is located on the D46 between Sarlat and Cénac et Saint Julien, Vitrac village is about a kilometre away along the D55.

Although we drive through Vitrac Port a couple of times each week on our way to and from Sarlat we have never stopped to look at the twin villages before, so on a very cold but sunny day we ventured out to take a look.
 

dscn2016A magnificent Château is to be found at the entrance to Vitrac village
 

dscn2017Vistas over the Château grounds to the swirling mist on the hills and the dordogne river in the distance.

The village itself is quite small, in the main square is the church of Saint Martin, opposite is a narrow lane that leads off to the artists studio.
 

dscn2022This photograph taken at Vitrac Port reminded me so much of a scene from the film ‘A Good Year’, staring Russel Crow. If you have seen the film it is the scene when he is taking photograhs of the grounds in order to sell the estate. However, each photogragh he takes reminds him of his deseased Uncle and the wonderful memories of his childhood. The photogragh just needed a smoked cigar in an ashtray on the table to complete the scene.
 

dscn2023The rushing water of the Dordogne completes this magnifisent property.
 

dscn2019Just over the bridge there is an excellent park area where each table and benches are enclosed in a horse shoe shaped hedge.

Of course in Spring and Summer you can rent a canoe or two from Vitrac Port and slowly meander your way down the river. Or you could go further along the road and visit Monfort, Domme, Daglan or Sarlat.
 

Close by is the Château de Montfort.
dscn2232aThe Château has had a turbulent history starting with Bernard de Casnac who was not a very pleasent person to meet if you were Catholic for he swore “to cut to pieces” any Catholic that he enounted. Which was at odds with the peaceful Cathars at that time! Then came the infamous Simon de Montfort and a list of others throughout history who pilaged, burned, rebuilt and destroyed again. In fact it is quite a feat for the Château to be here at all, but I am glad it is.

Sadly it is in private hands so not open to the public but it is still worth a visit just to see its magnifisant turrets.

 

 

 

 

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

 

What a wonderful week!

Our friend of many years, (about thirty five); came for her first visit to the Perigord Noir last week and what a wonderful time we had, catching up on the latest news from England and visiting some of the attractions of the area. There is never enough time and we were sorry to see her go last Saturday, however we were already planning her next trip while we waited for her flight at Bergerac airport, which will include vineyards and horse riding, wonderful.

I just had to take her to see the home of Josephine Baker, Château des Milandes and its park. When we were last at Milandes last May with my sister, part of the park was being transformed, so I was particularly pleased that it was now open to the public and we could look around.

In the 1900’s Charles Claverie had the entire park laid out by Jules Vacherot who was the landscape architect in Chief of Paris at that time. Through Jules Vacherot guidelines the park was then set out into a large grid with lawns, terraces, balustrades and sculptures to create and enhance the park.

Since 2003, a succession of works have been completed such as boxwood hedges surrounding the terraces and flower garden at the front of the Château.

In the spring of this year work was started on the “Renaissance” of the Château and the park. The restoration of Jules Vacherot park now blends the Renaissance Period, with Art Nouveau and the Modernism periods together.

 

Château des Milandes dscn1811One fascinating thing that I had missed on previous visits to Milandes was the bell at the front of the Château. Unsure what it could be used for I imagined sitting in the garden and ringing the bell to summon tea or perhaps is was a fire bell?
 

Château des Milandes dscn1807How gorgeous is this? It certainly has the Wow factor.
 

Château des Milandes dscn1802Cascading water features and the infinity pool.
 

Château des Milandes dscn1803This fountain is to be found on the right of the new garden with excellent seating area to relax for a few moments shaded from the sun.
 

Château des Milandes dscn1799I just had to take another picture of the gargoyle
 

Château des Milandes dscn1791This is Monsieur Steene the Chief Falconer at Milandes with one of the protected birds of prey that he presents several times a day until the end of October. I love the moustache on this little bird.

The falconers look after about seventy birds of prey at Milandes and their shows are always a treat to see.
 

Château des MilandesThis is a new bird which has been added to the collection of birds of prey. We do not recognise the bird, if anyone can tell me please I would be very grateful. It hopped and ran alongside the falconer and only flew when it could not keep up.
 

Château des Milandes

A visit by my wonderful sister is always a treat after a thirty year separation; the more we see each other the more we find out that we have a vast amount in common.  One of which is our love of gorgeous Château’s, so we had to take her to see Château des Milanders.  I fell in love with Milanders from our first visit years ago and it never looses its charm.  It was called “Sleeping Beauty Castle” in 1937 when Josephine Baker first looked at the Château, so it comes at no surprise that she rented and then purchased the Château in 1947.

A visit to the Château is like a journey through the genius of Josephine Baker, who lived with her husband, Joe Bouillon and their twelve children, adopted from all over the world. Through the fourteen fully furnished rooms you can see the famous “banana belt” and the magnificent costumes of Josephine’s stage performances.  Not forgetting the very “diva” bathrooms that were designed just for her, one of which has gold leaf around the ceiling.

What is not commonly known is that Josephine worked extensively in the French Resistance and she was awarded various medals, one of which was the Legion of Honour.  She was a passionate campaigner for human rights walking along side Martin Luther King in his various marchers in the USA.

DSCN1303My sister and I with Château Milandes in the background, we were not saying cheese to the camera, but saying “this is our home” – well maybe if we win the lottery, who knows.

 

One of the highlight’s of a visit is the birds of pray demonstrations held in the garden at the rear of the Château.

DSCN1298A magnificent falcon which flew around our heads several times before he got his treat, wonderful.

 

DSCN1282The Eagle Owl considering my camera

 

DSCN1304Here is my sister admiring the statue of Josephine Baker giving a hug to one of her children.  The statue was unveiled in 2006 for the centenary of the birth of Josephine.  It is to be found in front of the bus shelter that Josephine had built for the children to shelter while they waited for the school bus to arrive.

 

Château des MilandesIn the bus shelter are pictures of Josephine and her husband with their children.

 

DSCN1306The letters are from famous people to Josephine, one of whom was Charles de Gaul.

 

 

Events: – Daglan this Saturday and Sunday for the Antique Fair.

 

 

Stormy Weather

The Art of Rain
Falling down, pooling up
Out of the sky and into my cup.

What is this wet that comes from above,
That some call disaster, and others find love.

The harder it falls, the less it is nice,
The colder it falls the harder the ice.

The rain has an art that I may not get,
So I stand still and get soaking wet.

By M.D. Wilson

 

This was our first major power cut during a violent storm last Monday afternoon. Thunder, lighting, rain and hail hit our village at about one thirty in the afternoon.

I was working on our computer at the time, when everything just stopped, lights, heating, computer and even mobile phones until about six hours later. Luckily we have a wood burning fire, a gas cooker and candles.

DSCN1091Our problem was what do we do? Play cards, cludo, or read my Kindle book!

But first and foremost we needed to inform our son in England who Paul managed to contact by driving to the next village which did not have a power cut.

I in the mean time went all Jane Austin and decided to write a letter by candle light. Candles flickered and the fire was warm and cosy, so it was quite nice for a few hours, then we got the message that the power may be out all night! Thoughts of defrosted food and freezing beds came to mind.

My heart goes out to the people in the North West, and Yorkshire in England who have had rain since last September, causing extreme flooding, where people have been made homeless, bridges collapsing and roads being literally swept away by the force of the water.

DSCN1092The Ceou River that passes through our village, almost breaching the bank on the right and bringing down part of the defence wall near the top of the picture.

 

DSCN1098On the outskirts of the village things were a little different

 

DSCN1097This was just one of the waterlogged fields that we saw on our way to Sarlat.
You can just see the campsite notice on the tree.

 

Back to the romance of the area –

DSCN1072bCastelnaud in the fog and mist, just looks like a castle floating above the clouds – magical.

 

Events :-

Truffle Festival this weekend in Sarlat.

Wrap up warm for this the temperature will be in minus figures by the weekend. There will be workshops for truffle identification. A truffle hunting demonstration. Chefs from Sarlat will be demonstrating how to cook truffles. Truffles for sale, small to large (the large ones sell for hundreds of euros)