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…

Tales from the Towpath [Part 2]-The Re-appearance…

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Last week’s episode described how, like an old Brian Rix farce, Husband beetled over the canal bridge and I, in my ever-present need to take the easier option, scooted around a narrow, lumpy path that wound underneath, resulting in each of us losing sight of the other.
I ploughed on towards Josselin, searching the verges and benches for Husband, or at least his bike. When the turrets of the chateau appeared above the trees I felt sure he’d have stopped at the fence where we’d locked the bikes on our previous visit [from the opposite direction, you understand]. But no-neither Husband nor the bike was there, neither was he installed in the nearby bar, cold beer in hand [an obvious place to look for him].
I gulped some more water-the temperature was continuing to climb at 8.00pm-and turned back. I stopped a few people and asked if they’d seen ‘un homme avec un T-shirt noir et un velo rose’ and was met with negative responses from all. I’d spot the glint of a lone helmet in the distance and think it was Husband but many lone cyclists passed by and still no sign. I cycled back-and back.

After what seemed an interminable peddle back towards Le Roc St Andre, and after seeing no-one as the sun began to dip I caught sight of a cyclist approaching-dark T, black helmet and sweat-soaked-and yes-it was Husband.

We downed what was left of the water, by way of celebration [we are still able to celebrate finding each other after all these years] and peddled slowly back, stopping at a hostelry not far from our site, on a bend in the canal, to throw back a medicinal cold beer or two.

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The following morning, following a sticky, uncomfortable night, rather than easing, the temperature at Le Roc soared higher, climbing through the 30s and tipping over into the 40s. Many resorted to the site’s tiny pool, many others [including ourselves] squidged into any bit of shade available, lounging, sprawling, sleeping. It was a disquieting insight into how things may become as summers heat up. Cycling seemed less appealing, but we gamely prepared in the late afternoon and set off in the opposite direction to Josselin, achieving, perhaps, 100 metres or so before Husband’s bike, the improbably named Charge Cooker came to a standstill, the back wheel having seized up.

Reception directed us to a repair shop up the road, which turned out to be splendid at repairing lawn mowers, ‘le patron’, a humourless, moustachioed gent, redirecting us to a cycle shop at St Congard-a small village that was easily included into our itinerary. We returned to the site, me gliding down and over the bridge, Husband half-carrying the recalcitrant Charge Cooker on its one functioning wheel. At this point an ice cream seemed a fair alternative to a cycle in 40 degrees. We spent another uncomfortable hot night and moved on next day to St Congard-first stop the bike shop.

Here, the proprietor, a jovial woman who clearly loved her job dealing with everything bike-related told us that the extreme temperatures had caused the brakes to swell and jam the wheel; that we should pour cold water on it. Simples!

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We stayed at St Congard’s small municipal site for 11E and I undertook a short, solitary cycle to Malestroit, all of which was unremarkable except for the pair of beautiful otters I spotted on the return. Tiny St Congard’s one and only bar was firmly closed.

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En route to St Martin sur Oust we paused to look at Rochefort en Terre, alleged ‘most beautiful village’, which was indeed beautiful, but also wanted 5E to stay in a car park without water, emptying or anything else. We’d have liked to have purchased items in the shops but came to the conclusion that the stores must be part of the decor, since nobody seemed inclined to serve us. The poor citizens of Rochefort en Terre must be starving, since baguette availability was nil [we were offered a half of a baguette in a restaurant and decided to scarper before we were told the price]. After a quick look we moved on to a less pretentious place, and back to the canal!