At Last- the Chateau de Beynac

Chateau de Beynac. Perched on the edge of a sheer cliff high above our site and flanked by its church, the two imposing buildings glowing honey-coloured in the bright sunshine. The chateau calls us to climb, just a short walk across the road from our site to the first incline, a sloping lane between rows of sandstone cottages. It’s not that we don’t want to climb up to view this wondrous site. It’s that the temperature has leapt up the scale, rendering every task impossible, like a labour of Hercules.

We’re under the trees in this very shaded site, as is everyone else. The shade is vital. All domestic tasks need to be undertaken in the early morning, before the sun climbs too high. The rest of the time we’re polaxed, draped over our chairs in a stupor, reading or dozing. Eventually, even the reading comes to a standstill when my Kindle declares it has reached the limits of its temperature range and will have to shut down. I can’t say I blame it- I’m feeling like shutting down myself.

Nights have begun to be restless, sweaty, disturbed intervals. We’ve deployed all the technology we can muster- a skylight fan, an additional fan, all available windows and skylights. This night begins hot and ends with rain, cooling the air a little but adding to the humidity. In the morning it’s cloudy but dry- except for the ground, which has renewed muddy patches in this newish area of the site.

However, with clouds protecting us, we decide to attempt the ascent to the chateau and set off after lunch, striding up the first lane between the yellow houses. Then the sun appears. As we turn the corner to make the next zig-zag upwards the pathway becomes uber-steep and I’m glad of my walking shoes with a good tread on the stones- still slippery from last night’s rain.

We turn the next corner and there are some rudimentary steps, although several visitors are coming down and it’s best to keep out of their way, since they are wearing dressy footwear and one is carrying a dog. What is it about dogs in France, that they are unable to use their legs? They’re either riding in a bike basket or trailer or being carried- often in a bag!

Once up the steps we’ve pretty much reached the top. The chateau is more spectacular from below than close up but the views over the countryside repay the effort of climbing. At the top there is the inevitable smattering of gift shops and cafes plus a very welcome ice cream kiosk. Further up still there is a car park and it’s clear that most sightseers have got to the top by this route.

There’s nothing more to do than to descend- and by the way we came, which I always find far more tricky than climbing. Once back on ground level we sit under a shade at a small bistro offering local produce plus wines and beers, although I’m unable to get a ‘diabolo’- my go-to summer French soft drink and have to make do with apple juice.

Is time we were off and we’ve one more Dordogne stop planned before we scamper of to our favourite SW seaside place, but the weather is getting no cooler…

Climbing Cliffs and Soaring Temperatures

We are on our way towards Beynac, in the Dordogne and it’s getting hotter…and hotter. We’ve left Souillac behind and have plunged into Dordogne proper, mostly following the lovely river. It’s a scenic drive and we’d love to stop and get lunch in any one of the outrageously beautiful villages on our route, but they are steadfastly anti-campervan, all car parks having low barriers or ‘no camping car’ signs.

On our way to Beynac there are plenty of great sights and we go first to Domme, a village perched on a hilltop [of course], where at least there is an allocated space for campervans next to a serviced aire. It’s a walk up, naturally, to the medieval village, which is very pretty, has wonderful views over the surrounding countryside and the usual array of tourist shops plus a Noddy train. There are also some splendid grottes, allegedly, although while we are enthused at the prospect of going underground to view the stallectites etc, not to mention getting into the cool caves away from the heat, the next ‘tour’ has just left…So we content ourselves with the views, the gardens, the architecture and a walk round the sightseeing trail- all very pleasant.

Then it’s on towards Beynac and, mid-afternoon we feel obliged to stop and park up to see Le Roche Gageac, a partly troglodyte village clinging on to a steep cliff. I’m a sucker for troglodyte communities, finding a fascination in homes that are burrowed into rock face with an outwardly conventional facade and an inner cave. There is an allocated field for campervans and motorhomes but the parking machine is unfathomable, refusing all efforts to pay, so I scribble a note: ‘nous sommes desolees’ and we head off across the car park proper- where we spot the parking warden, checking tickets. This is not good news. I tackle him and explain our problem, although he’s not amenable. Eventually he relents and gets our tickets for us.

We slog up to the lofty houses, stopping for a sorbet half way up, served by a sluggish teenager. The village is worth the effort of climbing in a heatwave, honey coloured cottages clinging to the cliff and swathed in riotous vines and roses and again, breathtaking views of the river below, miniature pleasure boats cruising and turning. A pale, fairytale chateau at the end of the village provides a backdrop.

Feeling we should get to our site as the afternoon progresses we call it a day and return to the van, which has become an oven; then it’s onwards to Beynac, where our chosen site lies almost opposite the Chateau de Beynac and its church, perched precariously, towering over the village, the road and the site. As we pull into the driveway a quick look reveals it’s busy- maybe ‘complet’? But no, the receptionist tells us there are spaces, which is a relief. The Dordogne is heaving with tourists, mainly Dutch and German with a smattering of we British.

Finding our pitch, however is like some devilish reality TV game, the site having been extended and the numbers along the shady alleyways seeming haphazard, but we get there. The rain we’d experienced in Souillac has churned much of the field into mud, which is drying slowly but is a little mucky. Nevertheless we are in- and the site is almost entirely shaded, which under the circumstances is a very good thing, because the heat is on, and is only going to rise…