Sunday, September 18, 2011
Doing Dordogne - Day Six
Sunday, September 11th
We woke to the sound of church bells. Oh yeah, it's Sunday! They faded away, but came back a half hour later as if to say, "Yes, we know you went back to sleep and ignored us the first time, but now we're going to continue this melodious clamor until you get up and get ready to observe Sunday properly!"
We decided to skip breakfast. We joined Bill and Miriam in the car, and headed down along the banks of the Dordogne River about 10 km to the town of St. Cyprian where we had heard there was a Sunday market.
We found a parking place at the edge of the town center. The main street was blocked off to vehicular traffic, but there were hundreds and hundreds of people crowded shoulder to shoulder, ambling along congenially, perusing the amazing variety of goods in the vending stalls that were stretched side by side for perhaps a half mile along both sides of the street.
There were Nigerian vendors selling cloth purses, leather belts, incense, key chain charms and hats. There were vendors selling 23 different kinds of olives. There were booths where you could buy ten or twelve kinds of bread, or 15 different kinds of pastry, and others that offered a dozen or more kinds of cheese. We each bought a large cinnamon-raisin roll to eat while strolling.
There were table cloths and meat and fish and baskets and fruit. There were bottles of wine and mounds of exotic spices and shoes and scarves and sweaters.
There were onion sets and fresh carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, beans, corn, and watermelon. There were bananas and peaches and apples and plums strawberries and pomegranates and kiwi.
There were buskers playing guitars and sitars and Peruvian quenas and flutes. There were baskets of flowers, a tinkling fountain, and huge curved pans of paella, and loungers sipping espresso at sidewalk cafes. The market was filled with sounds and smells and sensation. What an amazing morning!
Heading back toward the east, we turned away from the Dordogne River just before reaching Beynac on a one-lane road that wound up through dense woods that formed a leafy green tunnel, emerging high on the open bluffs that overlook the river. We cautiously navigated the narrow lanes that constituted the main streets of the tiny village of Cazenac, then back down again by an alternate route that brought us to Beynac. We took the single street straight up the hill through the town, through woods again, and up to grassy meadows.
Doubling back toward the river, the road ended at the Chateau de Beynac, a forbidding-looking fortified castle at the edge of the cliff overlooking the town and the river far below. It looks impregnable, but in 1199 AD Richard the Lionheart of England captured it by sending his men to scale the 600 foot cliff walls at a spot no one had thought to defend.
We found a nice little cafe just outside the castle keep, with an open terrace where we enjoyed lunch before heading back down to the hotel for a much needed nap.
Feeling refreshed, Jane and I ventured out in the late afternoon to explore the steep, narrow cobblestone streets of Beynac that wend their way upward so sharply that it seems at times as if you would be in danger of sliding back down were it not for the small, rough stones used for paving. Eventually we found ourselves back at the Chateau de Beynac, and spent some time exploring the portcullis gate and the ramparts before heading back again down paths and streets not quite so steep as those we had climbed.
Later we found a small open air bistro overlooking the river. The sun dipped below the gray clouds that had been hovering overhead all day, turning the edges delicate shades of pink that almost matched the color of the vin rose we sipped while dined on delicious, moist fluffy omelets.