It was fitting that the last day spent with M&J was a visit to Chateau de Castlenaud-la-Chapelle, since this impressive castle was a frequent focal point during our outings in the region.
The community of Castlenaud-la-Chapelle sits above the confluence o the Dordogne and Ceou Rivers. The medieval fortress is estimated to have been constructed in the 13th century in defense of the rival Chateau de Beynac. The long and sordid history of the Chateau includes being nearly destroyed taken by rivals, reclaimed and the reconstructed. This history repeats over many years! Thankfully what is still standing has been preserved and restored for our enjoyment.
We spent nearly two hours in Castlenaud and took a tour of the Chateau – now a museum of sorts, filled with the kinds of artifacts one expects from a medieval castle, i.e., weapons, arrows, suits of armor, as well as interesting furnishing and even textiles. It was inside the castle where we learned about the long history of Castlenaud through visual re-enactments of battles between the commune and local rivals
One of the most interesting parts of the museum was the reconstruction of a trebuchet, a sort of catapult was used to wage war in medieval times. The displays included videos that demonstrated how the trebuchets were used to attach and break down the fortresses surround Chateaus such as Castlenaud and Beynac.
We wandered around the outside of the Chateau which gave lovely views of the valley and an appreciation for the scope of Castlenaud.
We are still catching up on highlights from our December trip to France! Most certainly, the long walk around la Roque Gegeac that included a trip to Marqueyssac was a favorite.
We set off on foot from the apartment where we stayed with M&J along a route Jen had designed. We left the village and walked through farmlands, past a lovely church and ultimately to the Marqueyssac gardens. The gardens were enchanting, with varied landscape, topiary, cliffs, sculpture and even a via Ferrata! The photos speak for themselves!
From the highest point in the Marqueyssac (photo above) we were able to look back to the village of la Roque Gegeac and the apartment where we were staying. From there we dropped back onto the valley and walked through fields along the Dordogne River to return to where we began. It was a lovely day! Great hike Jen!
This years selection of Christmas cards was very diverse, with a mixture of traditional, modern, and exotic images to adorn them. We appreciated every one, especially those that were home-crafted or included a personal note. As in previous years we’d like to use our blog to share our favorite designs and in doing so we hope to inspire you to keep this festive ritual alive for years to come.
Very near to the town of La Roque Gegeac is Sarlat, a medieval town that grew around a Benedictine Abby of Carolingian origin. Our plan was to arrive mid-morning so that we could explore the Christmas Market and “ice rink” before lunch. M&J were eager to take us to a favorite restaurant for lunch. It turned out we also had time before our 12:30 pm lunch reservation for a stroll through along a main thoroughfare that was lined with shops and cafes.
One of our favorite things in Sarlat were the Christmas bears perched on ledges, window sills and clinging to lampposts.
While shopping in Sarlat we sampled several walnut liquors, choosing two to bring home. After a very lovely lunch, we went grocery shopping at one of the local markets and also the Bio Marche (Organic Market). It is always fun to see the produce offered in different countries and in France, the number of aisles dedicated to wine.
One of the reasons we selected December as timing to visit our friends M & J in France was that they would be staying in the Dordogne region. It was their recollections of lovely walks from their previous trips to the Dordogne that tempted us. Oh, and the walnut liquors they shared when the returned!
It turns out the two go together! We experienced this with several walks during our stay. We rambled through the river valleys, in and out of small villages and hamlets, across farmlands, and beside ruins, castles and churches. Along, the way there were walnut groves, everywhere. The photos below were taken during our fist walk, on the day after we arrived.
A week before Christmas we flew to Paris to celebrate the season with friends and family. In spite of strikes that have impacted public transportation throughout France since early December, we arrived in Paris and took a train to the city of Bordeaux as planned. We were met at the train station by our friends Mark and Jen who are currently living in France.
From the station we took a short journey on a local bus to a Christmas Market near the center of the city. The stroll through the market gave us the chance to stretch our legs. It was also a good introduction to holiday markets that we would explore for the next two weeks. The wooden booths offered hand-crafted jewelry, clothing, leather goods, art work, and of course, cheeses, sausage and vin chaud (hot wine). After making a few purchases and sampling some savory pastries we made our way to the Dordogne Region where Mark and Jen were spending the Christmas Holidays.
After an hour on the motorway and another hour of driving through rural villages, we arrived at La Roque Gegeac, a small village that sits below rock ledges and cliffs that rise from the banks of the Dordogne River. La Roque Gegeac is a lively, tourist town in the summer, but in mid-December it is a sleepy town with very few residents making it a peaceful and relaxing place to stay.
Mark and Jen welcomed us to stay with them in a two-bedroom apartment that looked over the Dordogne River. Heavy rains in the region prior to our visit caused the river flood the main road through the village. The river was nearly at the doorstep to the apartment!
After a long journey, we were grateful to settle into a cozy space and enjoy some of Jen’s cooking which we have missed over the last few months. We relaxed into the evening, and while we were tempted to walk through town under the lighted cliffs, we were happy to make our first night in France an early one. Evening walks by the cliffs could wait…
Following our hike up to the summit of Mount Chocorua, we were emboldened to try a second winter hike with Mike and Denise. We chose Mount Cube because it appeared to be on our way home to Connecticut (sort of) and it was on the 52WAV list.
After a lengthy drive we made it to the trailhead about an hour later than planned. Not deterred, we set off and started walking briskly up the path. Both Zealand and Mesa were excited to be back on the trail and we made good progress. As we climbed up the snow got gradually deeper, and the temperature started to fall. By the time we were drawing near to the summit it was full-on winter conditions. We paused briefly below the peak to put on our mittens, hats, buffs, etc and spent just a few minutes at the summit admiring the view of the setting sun.
We quickly turned around and headed back to the car, hoping to get back before darkness fell. Once we were off the summit we took a short break to inhale our lunch and cram in some calories before our hands got too cold. Then we hot-footed it back to the car.
We all agreed that Mount Cube was a beautiful summit, and well worthy of a return visit in the summer time when we could linger and really enjoy the views.