Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Doing Dordogne - Day 10 - "Les Plus Beaux Villages de France
Thursday, September 15th
Today is small villages day! We found a map marked with a wandering 150 mile driving circuit labeled "les plus beaux villages de France"...the most beautiful villages in France. Too long by far for a single day's exploration, but we decided to do part of it, and the four of us set off in the car for another adventure.
Belvès, is an ancient town. Early in its history a defensive tower was built, with a deep moat around it. By the 11th century it had been built into a bell tower that can been seen today. There is a cave beneath the tower where village residents could hide in case of attack by marauders.
There were colorful decorations still strung above the intersection in front of the town hall the day we visited, left over from a festival a few days before.
Monpazier is another ancient bastide, a fortified town from thee 1200's. It was home to Eleanor of Aquitane and Richard II of England for a time in the late 1300's.
We strolled down the main street, window shopping in of the old part of town, and discovered a covered market stall and stone arcades with shops surrounding the old town square.
Ken and Gail Tuley, members of our group who were wandering on their own, joined us for a drink and some refreshment under the square canvas umbrellas of an outdoor cafe.
Continuing our explorations, we drove through the villages of Beaumont and Issigeac, and then up a hill through hundreds of acres of grape vines to Chateau Monbazillac.
As we approached the chateau we saw bunches of dark purple grapes ready for picking.
Although both red and white varieties of grapes are grown in this valley, the wine from this region is most famous for its white grapes, which are allowed to stay on the vine until they acquire a fungus that doesn't harm the grapes, but draws the water out of them, concentrating the sugar content. These super-sugared grapes are then harvested and turned into the sweet white wine for which this region is known.
It was late afternoon by the time we neared our starting point, and we stopped for dinner at a sidewalk cafe by the Dordogne River in the village of La Roc Gageac.