Castelnaud and Marqueysacc

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July 7th 2011
Published: June 9th 2013
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We got organised and packed a picnic today rather than picking up food on the way - potato salad, jambon, all sorts of tapenades and dips, magnificent terrine (Oh, and the potato chips which were the highlight for certain children!). The orange label in the fridge was also flashing invitingly, so we took along an esky and the bottle of Veuve Cliquot we had bought in Alassio. Our destination was the "Hanging Gardens of Marqueysacc", set high on a clifftop at Vesac. It was another pretty and easy drive South, through Sarlat (Framboisiere time) and over some gentle hills. When we got there, we discovered that as it was Thursday, if we waited a couple of hours, we could enter the gardens after normal closing time for a special "Candlelight walk". That sounded too exciting to miss, so we bought our tickets and went back to the cars to work out what to do in the meantime.

After consulting Trip Advisor, we drove toward the river to have a look at Castelnaud Castle, and spent some time exploring the surrounding village. Our first stop was to watch a wood turner demonstrating how to make a spinning top from a block of wood. He created the lovely toy, then decorated it by burning different patterns in the wood. Hugo was fascinated, and parted with some of his pocket money to buy a top as a keepsake. It was a little tricky finding our way around, and we were all soon separated as we explored the little nooks and crannies. I headed off along a path that went through a hidden arch, and soon became overgrown and shady. As soon as it became evident I was heading down the cliffs toward the river it was time to head back up again. This time I bumped into Steve and we wound our way up toward the castle, where we found the children in heaven at what we ended up terming "The Medieval Weapons Bar"! A big toy castle complete with knights was set up at one end, and at the other you could take your pick of weapons and try to knock the soldiers down with one. Isabel did quite well with the catapult, while Hugo and I opted for the crossbow. Of course, after trying it once, Hugo begged to buy one at 30 Euro, but I decided it was better to try rather than to buy! (Sisters are very precious, you know). The safety rules for childrens' toys in Castelnaud seem particularly relaxed. Meanwhile, Beckett was in 4-year-old heaven trying on knight helmets in the costume shop. The rest of us then spent ages browsing in a little shop which sold magnificent pen and ink postcards of knights through the ages and ladies in medievel dress, as well as spectacular children's toys.

The views across the valley were really lovely, and at every turn we discovered pretty little houses, stone towers and lovely gardens. We were ready to sit and have a rest on the drive back to Marqueysacc after trudging up the hill to the car. It was a really lovely afternoon, and promised to be a balmy evening.

Carrying a full esky and other paraphernalia along the winding paths at the gardens was not exactly easy, and for a while it looked as though we wouldn't find anywhere to put it down! However, the paths widened suddenly and we found ourselves in a lovely patch of lawn, surrounded by hedges which was perfect for a picnic. We did get some strange looks from the people marching by, but assumed it was because of our fantastic spread! Not so. We were almost half way through our meal when a gorgeous young woman approached and explained in perfect English that picnics were "not allowed", but she didn't want to spoil our meal. Instead, she very graciously requested that we didn't linger too long. Apparently she had spent time in Australia and understood our obsession with outdoor meals! It could have been worse, but we hurriedly finished off and packed up our gear, leaving the esky and rugs to go off and explore the garden.

At one point we came upon a little play area, and some strolling entertainers soon had the children transfixed as they sang a duelling song while playing guitar and recorder.The view of the little towns along the river below was amazing, and the twinkling tea lights soon transformed the place into fairyland. Every one had been lit by hand by one of the garden staff, and there seemed to be thousands of them.

We eventually followed the winding path and twinkling lights around the rest of the gardens to the exit, past countless mounds of hedge which gave the chateau a surreal fairytale quality.

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