Duck, Duck, GOOSE!

Trip Start Jul 23, 2012
Trip End Aug 15, 2012

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What I did
Grotte de Rouffingnac
Chateau de Puymartin

Flag of France  , Aquitaine,
Thursday, August 2, 2012

Oh, California and whatever other places have banned foie gras, you don't know what you’re missing.  When a block of foie gras is offered for the first course of every single menu in the Dordogne/Periogord region, it’s hard to avoid indulging.  We have consumed so, so, so much delicious (not-tritious) fattened liver, pate, rillettes, gizzards, and sausages made from various parts of these beautiful creatures and I don’t feel one lick of guilt about it.  Except that I didn’t indulge more.  We had a fun-filled third day in the Dordogne, and here’s the highlight reel: We started the morning with a trip to Chateau de Puymartin, a castle built in 1270.  It has just a couple of 'claims to fame’.  One such claim is their cabinet mythologique (room of mythology) that has painted panels of scenes from Greek mythology on the walls.  Unfortunately, this room is quite fragile, so instead the tour guide shuffles everyone into an ‘exact replica’ of the room.  (Yeah, right.  Replicas is just a fancy word for copies.)   The other reason I’m sure many people make the trek to this remote chateau is the legend of the Dame Blanche, a ghost that supposedly haunts the castle.  Therese de Saint-Clar was the wife of a lord of the castle, and her husband caught her in the arms of a lover after returning from what I assume is pillaging other villages.  The lover was stabbed to death with a sword, and the Therese was imprisoned by her loving husband in a tower room.  She was fed meals through a trap door in the ceiling, and had one tiny window with a view of the gardens.  She died in the room after 15 years later, and was buried behind one of the walls.  The current owner of the castle claims that he sees her ghost, a lady in white, wandering the halls late at night.  <Shudder>   We had an extremely enthusiastic young tour guide who led the group through most of the rooms, but the whole tour was in French.  This means that I understood about 1-5% and Mark understood about 15-20%.  

After we had our fill of castle-ing (just made up that word), we made our way to see some Cro-Magnon caves (grottes).   This region is well-known for cave dwellings built into rock walls, and has several well-preserved prehistoric cave paintings.  After a few attempts to get into the better-known caves, we gave up and drove a bit out of the way to the Grotte de Rouffignac, a subterranean cave with wall drawings.  What seemed at first a little hokey (you tour the caves on a Disneyland-esque mini-train underground) turned out to be pretty awesome.  As we delved deeper into the caves, you could see ‘bear nests’, which was where prehistoric bears dug little craters out to hibernate, and scratches on the walls where bears sharpened their nails after they woke up. <Extra shudder>  Further in, there were several wall etchings of wooly mammoths that were gouged out with the artists’ fingers.  As if that wasn’t cool enough, even deeper in were rooms with drawings covering the walls and ceilings: rhinoceroses, mammoth herds, horses, mountain goats, and ligers (just kidding-seeing if you’re still paying attention).  We weren’t allowed to take any pictures inside the caves, but I’m sure my stunning descriptions have left you reeling…calm down!

We returned to Sarlat ready to chow down on an epic dinner to cap off our time in this magical village.  After wandering around aimlessly from foie gras menu to menu, we decided to go back to Le Gaulois.  More plates of shaved meats and melted cheese were consumed, and all was good.  After dinner, we headed back out of town to the gorgeous Jardins de Marqueyssac.  Every Thursday night, the gardens are lined with candles, and several musicians are stationed thoughout the park.  It was like something out of a movie, only with crying French children everywhere because it was past their bedtimes.  We heard some great saxophone and guitar music,and made many vain attempts to take the perfect nighttime picture.  Apologies for all of the out of focus, snowy, weird shots.  Is it the moon?  Or a lamp?  Only we will know...

We packed up the next morning, took another nice walk through Sarlat, picked up some super stinky cured sausage with goat cheese for a picnic and strawberries to munch on in the car.  We had one last delicious lunch-fresh ravioli stuffed with gorgonzola and walnuts, and tortellini stuffed with local mushrooms.  Those of you who know us well know that we are total mushroom-phobes, so for Mark to purposely order them was a pretty big deal.  Be proud of him. 

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