In this posting I’m going to share a lovely, four-hour ride that my wife Jan and I took on this beautiful, sunny day — including a lot of photos of the Greater Daglan Area and the Dordogne Valley as it blossoms. Now let’s be off.
It’s 11 a.m., and we hop on our hybrid bikes and go about five metres before Jan realizes that her seat had been set too low for her, when one of our friends borrowed Jan’s bike. She makes the adjustment, and we ride another 50 metres or so, before we stop to chat with neighbours Pierre and Michele, as Michele hangs up her laundry. After several minutes we shove off, leave Daglan proper, and stop to chat with English friends Joan and Peter, who have been staying at their holiday home just outside the village.
And then we’re really off and riding, enjoying views of the farmland along the Céou River Valley, like this field that’s just been ploughed and is ready for seeding:
Some early crops are already up, like this field of a cereal plant — oats? wheat? barley? — that’s a few centimetres high:
As we head north, we come upon the area where limestone cliffs make a perfect nesting site for Peregrine falcons, and where rock climbers can often be found. We see (and hear) the climbers, but don’t find any sign of Peregrines:
Just before noon, having dawdled a fair bit along the way, we reach Castelnaud-la-Chapelle, and I suggest to Jan that we have an early lunch. My idea is that that we could cycle farther north after lunch and visit Château des Milandes (if it’s open), and perhaps watch its afternoon show of such raptors as hawks and falcons, known in French as “le spectacle de rapaces.”
So we plunk down at La Plage, the café/brasserie/pizzeria, and order lunch. For Jan, a steak with salad and frites; for me, a croque monsieur with salad and frites too. Plus a pichet of rosé wine, followed by coffees. Here’s where we ate:
Then it was back on the bikes, riding beside the Dordogne River for much of the way up to another of the five châteaux in this valley. Here’s the sign for it:
This château is the only one in the Valley of the 5 Châteaux that is private — no visitors allowed. But at the edge of its property is a lovely little cemetery that is open to the public, and so Jan and I spent some time walking through it, and looking at the little chapel at one side of the cemetery. Here it is, with our bikes parked just in front:
And here’s a look back at the château from the wall around the cemetery:
To give you an idea of how impressive these structures can be, here’s a view of the château itself:
And then it was on to our destination, the home of Josephine Baker in her later years. (You may recall that she was a young black singer and dancer who left the United States for Paris during the Jazz Age, and became a sensation in France. Later she became known as a heroine of World War II, and turned her château into something of an orphanage. An amazing story.)
As you’ll see from the sign, we were exactly a day early: the château opens for the 2012 tourist season tomorrow, Sunday, April 1:
As you’ll see, it’s a lovely place. This is the château itself, photographed from outside the grounds:
And here’s a view of some of the grounds around the château, including its little chapel:
While we took photos, we met a young couple who had hoped to visit the château, and started chatting with them. It turns out they were fellow Canadians, who were touring France before returning to their life in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, running their own bed and breakfast place. It was a lovely discussion, and gave us a chance to offer them some tips about sightseeing and dining in our area, before they head south for Carcassonne and points beyond.
Once we said our goodbyes, Jan and I headed back the way we had come. Here’s one of the views as you leave the Château des Milandes area and head up a gentle slope on the road back to Castelnaud:
Now we come to one of my personal favourite views when cycling in the Greater Daglan Area — the road leading away from Château des Milandes sweeps down from a hill, and you suddenly get a view across the Dordogne River of Château de Beynac, former home of Richard the Lionheart. There it is, in the distance:
As Jan and I cycled back along the Dordogne, we came upon this lone swan, swimming gracefully on the river:
Not far from where we saw the swan, we got a nice view of yet another of the 5 Châteaux — the 17th Century Château de Marqueyssac, which is not only open to the public but has beautiful grounds for strolling, and some wonderful lookout points. There it is, across the river in the distance:
Then we just kept on going, past the café where we’d had lunch, past the cliffs where rock climbers and Peregrines hang out, past the fields and walnut groves and wooded hills of the Céou River Valley. We arrived home almost exactly four hours after we’d left, at 3 p.m., having covered a bit more than 30 kilometres, with very little huffing and puffing (except for the short, sharp climb up the hill on which Château des Milandes sits). So we had lots of time to freshen up and then drive into Cénac for a bit of shopping.
After all, we don’t want to be missing any ingredients tomorrow, when Sunday lunch will be a roast young duckling with a raspberry, walnut and Armagnac sauce. One does have one’s standards.