It does rain in the Dordogne

At the pigeonnaire there’s a black Labrador called Boy. The owners use the same sort of electric fence as we do with the poodles in order to keep Boy away from the guest accommodation. He’s a lovely boisterous dog who takes great delight in greeting us. He does have one minor flaw, however.

The church bells here in Liorac, go off, chiming every hour (as you’d expect) from 7am and, occasionally for no reason I can ascertain, they just chime. These strange periods of bell ringing tend to go on a bit longer than just indicating the number of hours. It’s these that Boy doesn’t like.

I haven’t actually counted them but I assume he knows when there’s been more than 12 and then starts to yell for them to stop. Maybe he has inside knowledge about the counting ability of the bell ringer, I don’t know, but once they’ve been ringing for too long he starts howling after each peal.

So, try and imagine this:

BONG – HOWWWWWL – BONG – HOWWWWWL – BONG – HOWWWWWL – BONG – HOWWWWWL – BONG – HOWWWWWL and so on until the bells stop.
It’s a bit odd to say the least. He stops as soon as the bells take heed of his howls so it’s not like the countryside is left with his wolfish emanations for longer than is entirely necessary.

We have successfully rephrased the old saying to “if wishes were clothes horses, beggars would wash.” For no reason other than the lack of the Internet. It was also a good way to greet the wet morning that rained in over the valley in front of the loggia. As Mirinda remarked “It looks just like England.

It was a slightly drizzly but decidedly damp drive we started on. Today we were headed for the most beautiful bastide (Montpazier) at least according to the lady who lives in the big house, followed by a pop into another chateau in a tiny place called Biron. Things didn’t look promising.

However, as we approached Monpazier, the rain decided to go somewhere else, leaving only grey clouds which meant we could have a jolly good wander around the beautiful town.

Actually it came back a few times giving me the opportunity to take a photo of Mirinda with an umbrella just to prove it did rain this holiday.

Umbrellas are not just good for keeping the sun off

The town was founded in 1284 by the English King Edward I and has changed little over the centuries. Even though there has been a fair amount of trouble within the town, it still retains a wonderful medieval feel with very few modern intrusions…ignoring the shop signs, of course.

Outside the bastide town of Monpazier

We managed to wander around just about the entire grid. Bastides are made up of the main central roads, secondary internal roads and the back alleys that give access to the houses. Mirinda likes to walk down as many of each of these as possible. At Monpazier, we just about managed it.

The thing about a proper bastide is the square in the centre which should be surrounded by colonnaded buildings and Monpazier has them in spades. It all looks wonderfully medieval.

Looking into the past

To complete our perfect trip around Monpazier, we decided to try the Bistrot 2 for lunch. Given we’re off north tomorrow, we figured a nice slap up meal was just what we needed. We were not wrong. I had one of the nicest entrées I’ve ever had. It’s not going to sound nice but it was delicious. It was cauliflower infused with horse radish, topped with smoked salmon and fish eggs, surrounded by asparagus spears. An amazing experience.

The rest of the meal was delicious especially the dessert which was all kinds of almonds (ice cream, marshmallow, toffee). We left feeling adequately replete. We needed a bit of a walk and then we climbed back into the car for the short trip to Chateau Biron.

What an amazing place! It sits on a hill with wonderful views over the countryside for miles around. You can wander all over it, in and out of rooms, towers and the chapel. We thoroughly enjoyed it all.

One thing that could be improved (and this has been the case with most places we’ve been to) would be an English guide book. Most places have a French one and surely it can’t cost that much to get an English one printed. If they haven’t any guide books, that’s fine but these places have a lot of English speaking tourists and I feel sure most of them would buy a cheap guide book. I know I would.

The side view of Chateau Biron

But enough of that…on to the chateau! You walk up a very long set of steps before emerging through the entrance gate where you find the ticket desk. You pay your euros and you’re in. They even hand you a free typed booklet which is not very helpful. Mirinda normally has these and talks me through everywhere we walk but here she gave up after the first thing we saw which was the chapel.

Beaufitul carvings in the chapel

Inside this massive building (more a cathedral than a chapel) are two burials. They once had the figures of Pons and his brother Armand (owners of the chateau back in the 15th century) reclining on them but, sadly, the French Revolution decided to hack them up a bit. What remains are a few lovely Italianate carvings.

Similarly to the chapel, most of Chateau Biron is empty yet intriguing. Large rooms with very big fireplaces, elaborate floors which the visitor sometimes has to skate over on sliding patches of felt.

Mirinda shows off her wood skating skills

Not only do they prevent damage to the wood flooring but they also keep it well polished for free.

The view from the top is, obviously, pretty spectacular and nowhere near as frightening as yesterday. Mirinda managed to get to the top and wandered all over it quite happily.

The view from the top of the tower

There are a few rooms that are not empty. Down, down, deep in the depths of the chateau is the dungeon and torture rooms. Strange items of furniture looking vaguely threatening, sit waiting to receive any poor unfortunate prisoner. Cages hang from the ceiling, some with possibly human shapes within them. Everything looks creepy.

But this isn’t actually real. Film production companies use Chateau Biron as a set very often and the dungeon is just that. In fact, looking at the location of this dungeon, I’d venture to suggest that it was originally simply a cellar for storing vegetables and wine. But that’s not nearly as much fun.

Speaking of actual uses for rooms…how’s this for a reasonably sized kitchen?

Mirinda decides what kitchen units to buy

We had a lovely visit at Chateau Biron but it was soon time to go (having seen everything and wandered everywhere) so we cast one last glance back at the old place…

Last long look

…collected the car and set Linda to take us back to our little pigeonnaire in the country.

It was our last night in Liorac so, after a late dinner, we took a final wander through the village. It all looked so lovely, we may very well come back next year.

This entry was posted in Dordogne 2012, Gary's Posts and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to It does rain in the Dordogne

  1. mum cook says:

    Loved the Chateau and great you both got to the top. Medieval I love what history love mum

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