Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Going Up or Down

a view of the upper section of the town near the castle

The castle of Beynac-et-Cazenac stands on top of a hill overlooking the beautiful Dordogne River. The hillside leading to the river is dotted with flagstone-roofed houses of the villagers. Both the castle and the town have retained their medieval appearance, turning the visit to one of the great baronies in the Perigord into a travel back in time.

There are two ways to reach the castle. One is through a winding paved road on the hillside by car; the other is through the village by foot. If it’s hard to find a parking space at the entrance of the village (which is often the case), it would be advisable to take the hillside road because there is a wide parking space on top near the castle. It might sound less “scenic” than by walking upward through the village, but there’s a wonderful view of the castle --- woods in the foreground, green hills in the background and a fine mist covering the château on a cold day to make this route an attractive alternative. And from the parking lot, after visiting the castle, you can visit the village by taking the narrow steep road leading down to it.

We opted to park near the château as the sky was overcast and it might rain any minute (which in fact happened as soon as we entered the keep of the castle). But we did try to go down the village after making the tour of the castle and the rain had let up. The village is divided into three sections. The quarter nearest the castle ( barri del Cap de Bainac) can be reached after passing through the Widow Gate (la porte Veuve) --- a remnant of the city wall separating the castle grounds from the village. A narrow, serpentine, steep road will take you to the middle neighborhood (see second photo above) called barri de la Caforca with a nice view of the valley. And the area nearest the river is called barri del Port where villagers whose livelihood is tied to the river lived. (source: Vallée de la Dordogne, Gallimard Loisirs, 2005)

We would have walked down to last section of the village (or the first one if you’re coming from the foot of the hill) if not for the rain. We were forced to go back to the castle (well, actually the parking lot near it) for it started raining again. The road was quite slippery because of it. Taking this road is already a rather arduous task on a sunny day because of its abruptness, but on a wet day, extra caution is a must or else you’ll be like Jack and Jill tumbling down... only this time instead of grass-covered ground, you’ll be hitting stone-paved road and walls –-- which I believe is only amusing if you don’t break a bone or too.

(last photo: a view of the Dordogne river and valley from the upper quarters)

Well, I guess the villagers back then must really have strong legs to go up and down these streets. And to take this route with a heavy load (I don’t think carts can pass through it)…whew! But of course, the nearer they are to the castle, the better are their chances of getting inside its fortified walls in case of a siege. I believe in those times, survival and not comfort is the prime focus in choosing one’s lodging. On the lighter side, I think the view as they look out from their windows is not only worth their security but also a good way to end a hard, tiring day.

(Château de Beynac–et-Cazenac part II, see part I)


Davidlind said...

Nice photos. This started me thinking about good vision. If you couldn't see well you were out of luck. No beautiful views. And so many other things would suffer as well. Social relationships might suffer because you couldn't identify friends at some distance.
It would be tough for sure.

lareine said...

davidlind, you're right... it's sad that some people just couldn't seem to see pass through the outside trappings, hence, their relationships are based on shallow foundations... thanks for dropping by :)...

jose said...

Olá Lareine,
Belo web site com fotografias lindas.
Gostei especialmente do castelo.
Deve ser difícil caminhar por essas ruas. Os habitantes deviam sair poucas vezes. Mas deve ser muito bela a aldeia.

Até à próxima

lisaschaos said...

Oh what a wonderful place to explore! I like how empty the place looks, you avoided all people. I can imagine walking around!

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