Following a night of pain, caused by my wretched knee (somewhat alleviated in the middle of the night by Mirinda’s emergency painkiller), I woke up to rain. This meant we lazed around the house for the morning. Apart from enjoying a jolly good laze, it was also welcomed by my injury.
There was an attempt to visit a chemist for antiseptic, bandage and gauze but the old French habit of a two hour lunch break scuppered it somewhat. The errand was achieved, however, after 2pm, when the weather changed completely. After the chemist in Cenac, sunshine and blue skies saw us heading off to wander the old, old streets of Sarlat-la-Caneda, capitol of the Perigord Noir.
We’ve driven through (and around) Sarlat a few times this trip and I, for one, didn’t think it was that impressive. However, hidden behind the traffic filled streets that surround the centre, is a world of medieval charm. It’s no wonder that Sarlat is regularly used for period dramas.
Sarlat could easily have gone the way of a lot of post-war French towns and been extensively modernised but for the hard work and determination of Andre Malraux. He instigated a concept called secteur sauvgarde which means protected area – sort of like our Grade listing in the UK. In 1962, Sarlat became a pilot for the scheme and managed to retain its medieval heart.
There are 65 protected monuments in Sarlat. This makes it the most visited place in the whole of the Dordogne, something the crowds today attest to. I’d hate to be there in the height of the season! It must be horrendous. Particularly if you factor in the awful body odour of some French people.
During our wanderings, and passing the giant doors of the old church of St Mary, we discovered the Manoir de Gisson (a house once owned by a guy called Gisson). Gisson was so powerful that he had the choir end of the church removed because it blocked out the sunlight to his terrace. Given the way most medieval folk felt about the church, he was clearly a free thinking radical.
The Manoir starts off with a few dozen rooms composed of ‘curiosities’. And an odd collection of things it is too. From weird preserved creatures that look completely alien to little china figurines engaged in joyous sex. From puppets to postcards. It’s all a bit odd.
On the other floors, however, the house is decorated as it would have been when Gisson lived there. You climb the stairs, you wander round and there’s no pesky velvet rope holding you back from entering rooms. You are actually free to wander around. This makes for such a better experience.
Of course you must steel yourself against touching the beautifully worked walnut furniture – walnut is called the King of Wood and is (or was) much used in the Dordogne.
We had a lovely wander around (ignoring the VERY smelly French woman – why she doesn’t wash is beyond me) before heading back out into one of the squares for a much needed drink. It also afforded Bob a chance to take a photograph of the biggest doors we’d ever seen. He’s going to ask Stockwell’s whether they could make a set the same size.
We visited the cathedral which the Rough Guide describes as “…large and unexciting…” but which I found to be bright and interesting. And also, not that large for a cathedral. Most interesting (for me) were the misericords. It’s the first time I’ve seen them in a European church – they are nearly always present in English churches.
Misericords (‘mercy seats’) are small carvings beneath little ledges in choir stalls. Because people couldn’t sit in the choir stalls (presumably god doesn’t like it) they made these little ledges in order to support their weight by, sort of, leaning back on them. Being human, people carved little figures beneath them. They can be anything from the mythological to the actual.
I couldn’t see all of them at the cathedral in Sarlat and it was a bit difficult to photograph them because you couldn’t go into the choir but I did find what appears to be, a green man and snapped a blurry shot of him.
There’s a lot to love about Sarlat but I think my favourite thing is the Lamp of Death (Lanterns des Morts). It was built in the 12th century and no-on knows why. Brilliant. I think it was a prototype rocket ship to the moon.
And that was about it for today. I’d have liked to add some stuff about the Gissons but I haven’t been able to find out anything.
After a bit of a rest back at the house we went into Domme for dinner. We’d seen the rather swish looking L’Esplanade when we visited the other day and decided we would try it tonight. Wow, wow and triple wow! Excellent food with more twists than the road up to Domme.
And presentation is amazing. Here’s my entree (fluffy zucchini):
My main course (pork):
My dessert (truffle ice cream):
It was a wonderful food experience and my tastebuds were delirious with it all. Obviously dad wouldn’t have eaten any of it…though we did have a cheese course which he would have liked.