A week or so ago we visited a wonderful chateau and garden called Les Jardin Suspensdus de Marqueyssac. It is a magical place. We had a perfect day for it too- a bit overcast and slightly cool. The French for it is "Frais" or fresh, which is the perfect way to describe it. There is a chateau of course and the gardens closest to the chateau have box hedges that are cut into balls and swirls and all kinds of cool shapes. I tried to get a good picture of it but never really captured it (think Edward Scissorhands). The link above has a great picture of the swirly hedges. The entire place is perched atop a mountain or plateau type area with amazing views all around. It also had scary drops and cliffs and all sorts of areas that make parents of 3 and 5 year olds cringe with fear. We spent half the day telling them to "watch out!", "no running!" or "hold hands!". Despite that, it was one of our best days here. The kids had a blast and we were wide-eyed and in awe the while time. For a taste of some of those sheer drops, have a look at this...
On the sides of this balcony is a drop off, really, really steep and high. It was an awesome view though! Wandering throughout the property were peacocks. The kids thought that was one of the coolest things they had seen in a while. We watched him for a long time. He was enjoying the view too. Sayer was worried about him falling off. He kept asking me "what would happen if he slipped?" and "Can he fly?". They both jumped about 2 feet high when he perked up his feathers and started to screech. He opened his beak way up and let out a really loud call.
Two of my favorite plants are rosemary and lavender. Here they are perfectly paired and coifed. The fragrance was beautiful.
This place was perfectly paced for a family outing. Every so often (right around the time when the kids would start complaining about the hike) there would be some cool little discovery or activity. At one point there was a table out on the lawn where they got to do an art project (they painted rocks). A while after the rocks we found this cool tree house, a playground and a cold drink machine stocked with their favorite, Orangina (think of them saying it like Orange-Gina).
On top of one of the trails, we found this monument. Looking out at this view on top of this bluff, you could see why they built this. Whatever your God may be, this is one of those places in the world where you feel just a little closer to it.
True to the form of this place, after the cool trimmed hedges, the peacocks, the curvy rosemary, the rock painting, the religious experience and the tree house, you stumble upon this...
Atop one cliff we found this cloche style structure. It was a defensive building where a guard would stand watch. Many of these buildings withstood the Hundred Years War and The French Revolution so guards were definitely in order. From this stone perch, you could see the Dordogne River and a huge section of the river valley. The other really cool feature of this house was that the roof was entirely dry stacked- no mortar at all. Amazing!
They definitely know how to whip the plants into shape around here. We found this cool tunnel on the way back to the chateau.
One other cool thing that we found on our way back was a children's forest. Pictures couldn't capture it. Take my word for it. You might not even see it if you weren't paying attention. I was walking with Finn (Sayer was ahead of us) and we see a little wooden gate and it said something like "Labyrinthe pour les Enfants". When you stooped down to enter it, you see that they have planted these small hedges that form tunnels and trails through the brush (not dense like a maze though). There were trails all throughout a small section of forest made just for children. In the center there was a small wooden house. It was AMAZING! The kids loved it. I had to stoop down to make it through most of the trails. I also had to wipe spider webs off my face numerous times but we had a great time chasing each other through the children's forest to, what they called, "their house". It really was magical. I would have loved it as a child. I mean I loved it as an adult! As a small child, you would have had to drag me kicking and screaming out of that place. After lots of magical forest play, it was time to eat. Can you imagine a prettier table? We had a great lunch with lots of ice cream afterwards. The ice cream even came with pretty little feather butterfly decorations on them.
That's all for Marqueyssac. Mark it on your travel to-do list. It's worth the stop for sure.
Sir Lancelot and Sir Gawain have completely settled into the comfort of rural France and life on vacation. The boys have been living in their jammies nearly full time. The only time they change into what they call their "Knight clothes" from what they call their "play clothes" is when they battle as knights, when we actually go somewhere or the PJ's get really dirty or wet. Even when we go out to dinner, they try and negotiate keeping the PJ shirt on and just changing into shorts. When we return home, they may need to go move in with "Hef" at the Playboy Mansion.
Don't you just love the placement of Finn's sword? You know what they say about guys being obsessed with their, uh, "swords" early in life?
When the boys woke up this morning and saw the rain, their faces dropped and Sayer just looked at me and said, "But, I won't be able to play with my sword!" You see the rule is that they can only play swords outside. We had a special treat up our sleeves though. Steven had "The Sword in the Stone" cued up on the laptop ready for them watch after breakfast. Gawain and Lancelot were all smiles again.
It must be all the ancient castles that we're visiting but the boys have gotten very interested in knights. Susan (Steven's Mom and their Memah) captivated them with the story of King Arthur pulling the sword from the stone and the knights of the round table. Steven and I
have had a rule that we wouldn't buy them toys that were weapons. It just seemed weird to us to have them playing with things like guns. They begged for the swords though. After refusing them for days and listening to all the tears, we finally relented. They were so happy. Sayer just kept looking at me and saying "I can't believe we have swords!". Without further ado, I would like to introduce you to Sir Lancelot du Lac and his sword, named Courage...by the way, according to Sayer, this is what he is supposed to do whenever the King walks by.
and Now, Sir Gawain and his sword, named Victory...
Sir Gawain, run through
Tweety Bird, killed in action July 2008.
After a particularly difficult battle...
and just for laughs...(by the way, Sayer told me that this video wasn't funny)
This place is magical. We are out in the countryside and the nearest town of any size is called Sarlat. It was once a walled city back in medieval times. Sarlat became a city in the 8th century! You know, I am all proud that my house in Houston was built in 1929. Being here kind of makes 1929 feel like last week. Anyway, Sarlat is one of France's best preserved and restored cities of its kind. I was told they filmed the movie 'Chocolat' here. Now I need to go back and watch it and see if spot specific places. If you have seen that movie and appreciated the scenery then you have appreciated Sarlat. It has tiny cobblestone lanes and stone buildings built right up against each other. There are few cars- most of the streets are car free and open for strolling.
We wandered into the center of the medieval city and found a cafe, sipped wine and ate. All the cafes here have outdoor seating and no one ever sits inside if they can help it. Why would you? Here are some of the views right by where we sat to eat.
This little girl was out dancing by herself in the square.
This night was one of those rare times when the boys just sat and ate. They didn't fight, whine, get up or need to be coerced to eat their dinner. It was just peaceful. We're still trying to figure out what happened so we can attempt to re-create it. Sayer entertained himself with a sticker book and by blowing bubbles in his apple juice.
As a reward for such lovely behavior, they got to enjoy some ice cream.
Walking around a place like this with them is so much fun because the streets are mostly closed to cars and you can let them roam a little. They loved the "tunnels". This would be when buildings were so close together that it made a tunnel like alley, like this. Sometimes it completely closes where they have built over a little road making a real tunnel.
When I think "medieval", I think of stones and dark buildings. There are plenty of stone buildings and dark passageways but then you turn a corner and see something amazing like this. There are very few AC's here so windows are open everywhere. I think this is why the window boxes here are so beautiful.
Don't have a place for a window box? No worries...What I love about the stones here is that in all the nooks and crannies you find tiny little plants. There is nothing really dark or medieval about these stones. They are full of life.
As the sun was setting (which is very late here, about 10:30 pm) we stumbled upon this street performer playing a pan flute. It was so beautiful and it echoed back and forth between the buildings filling the street with sound.
So, grab a pen and write Sarlat down on your "must-see-places-before-I-die-list". It is definitely a must-see!