Last day on the Dordogne from Beynac to Siorac-en-Dordogne
We started out the day with a buffet breakfast at the Hotel de Chateau – we changed our itinerary a little for the day due to the possibility of rain around 1 pm. We have been so lucky with only a little rain part of one day of paddling.
First stop this AM was the river for our first of several short paddles today. We were just out of our put-in spot when we had 3 choices of channels. Marlee and I were paddling together today (we have gotten into a good rhythm!) and chose the narrow one that Steve suggested that had heron rookeries along the banks high in the trees. It was wonderful to see the herons flying all about us – not many people go down this channel so we must have surprised them. In all of our paddles today on the Dordogne we are skirting around islands and checking out narrow passages – following Steve and Annie! We never got into any trouble, although Steve had to get out at one point when they were stuck on a log – Marlee and I sailed over it! Too much great food on this trip for you, Steve!
After about an hour, we take out and are transported by the van up to Chateau Des Milandes, former home of Josephine Baker. Josephine was a former African American burlesque dancer in the US and fell in love with France, moving there in the late 1930’s. The chateau was built in 1489 and had many owners. Josephine purchased the chateau in 1947 and called it her “Sleeping Beauty” castle. We had a wonderful tour of the chateau which contained replicas of many of the same furnishings of those in Josephine’s era. She had 12 adopted children of different nationalities and several husbands. She unfortunately died destitute in 1975, having been kicked out of her beautiful palace at one point. She truly was an extraordinary woman, having worked in civil rights with Martin Luther King and also volunteering in the service during WW II along with performing and taking care of her many children.
The chateau was magnificently decorated and even had a wonderful Bird Of Prey demonstration out in the garden – one of the best I have seen. I even got to hold a peregrine falcon! There was a ferret and several kinds of owls, including the largest owl in France, the eagle owl which magnificent eyes.
Time to paddle another 45 minutes – exploring islands and staying out of the way of nesting swans. Steve tells us that they can be very aggressive at this nesting time of the year and that we should give them a wide berth.
Our last picnic lunch today was at a community center that had a picnic table. Steve (George) has done an excellent job of providing us with a wonderful variety of foods for lunch – cheeses of France, meats, salad (even with avocados!), fresh French bread, gherkin pickles, potato chips and always some type of fruit and the bar of Belgium chocolate! Of course the obligatory white and red wine accompanied our picnic! The last few days we also had Lu’s, a chocolate covered shortbread cookie.
Our last paddle on the Dordogne and of the trip lasts approximately one hour – I am very sad to see this part of the trip end as I am so at peace on the river. Steve has taught me so much about paddling and I feel so much more comfortable about getting out of a tight situation than on that first day!
One last castle to visit – the Beynac Castle, built in 1238 by the English, which sits high above the town of Beynac where we are staying. The views from this castle are amazing – we can see up and down the Dordogne where we have been paddling. This feudal fortress of Beynac is part of the large system of castles along the Dordogne, which was the division line of the English and French possessions during the 13th century. Much restoration is going on in this castle. We walked down and down from this castle right back to our hotel.
In an hour we are off to dinner in another larger village, Sarlat. We stopped for an aperitif at a local bar and then we were on to dinner at a restaurant recommended by the canoe rental company’s owner. It was one of the best dinners we had! It was a late night and we had to prepare for our departure tomorrow.