Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Château In An Eagle's Nest

Château de Belcastel, Lot, France

This is Château de Belcastel (Belcastel Castle) in Lot department (there’s another castle of the same name in Aveyron). From the town of Lacave, one can take the D23 (the name of the road) going uphill and this view of the castle will greet you.

The château is not open to visitors, but a view on the roadside is enough to have a glimpse of its beauty and its strategic importance during the middle ages. Although most of the castle has been heavily reconstructed, it is still a marvel to look at, especially with what remains of the fortified wall running along the rocky outcrop. It was the seat of one of the most powerful feudal families in the Quercy region in the middle ages and one of the first strongholds taken by the English at the start of The Hundred Years' War (source: Vallée de la Dordogne, Gallimard, 2005)

I am not surprised that this was a coveted bastion during medieval times. It strategic site – a promontory where Ouysee and Dordogne rivers meet and a dominating view of the valley is an excellent position in those days of warring kingdoms and unstable political atmosphere; where geographical location is as important as weapons, fortifications and army in warfare; where a difficulty of access for the attacking troops can sometimes be the only difference between defeat and victory.

It must be wonderful to live in such a place vibrating with history (for I believe the castle is still inhabited). Maintenance of the place must cost quite a fortune, but then, even if one is not that interested in history, the view of the river and the surrounding valley is surely magnificent. It must be even more splendid on a foggy morning --- as you sip a mug of hot chocolate, a warm quilt over you, looking out a latticed window with a good fire burning in the hearth. Just no headless ghosts or sound of a chain being dragged at night, please :).


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