Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Preface to France


I have been trying to figure out the best way to share my trip to France. To many people this will take the form of an innocent invitation to come over for crepes and (my) birthday celebrations that will slowly and maliciously turn into me making you watch a slide show of all my pictures.  (p.s. did you notice that I just slipped in the fact that I am actually celebrating my birthday this year? The apocalypse is looming, my friends) But I don’t want to leave out my distant friends, or miss a chance to talk about France.  France. France. Lovely, lovely France.

If I was a real travel writer I could find all the right words to fit it all in one post. But I am not a real writer, and brevity has never been my forte. I don’t want to do a day to day telling of my trip, and I still have plenty of other things I want to enlighten the world with. So over the next little while I will be sprinkling in French stories and pictures among regular blog posts.  That way, hopefully, neither one of us will get tired of talk of baguettes and berets. Ummm. . . .baguettes.

First, the wannabe historian in me wants to speak out:   Location! Location! Location!

When I tell people that I spent the holidays in France, they assume that I went to Paris. It is true that I flew in and out of Paris, and spent one night in the city of lights, but most of my trip was spent in south western France in the little village of Beynac-et-Cazenac, located in the Dordogne department (kind of a province). 
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Before the French Revolution the area was known as Périgord, and you will still see it referenced as such today.  The name comes from the time of Gauls, when there were 4 tribes living in the region, thus Petrocore, meaning 4 tribes. However, the history of the region goes back further, like 35,000 years. It is in this area of France where famous pre-historic caves with prehistoric cave drawings and modern day excitable tour guides are found.

(Then enter a long history parade featuring the Visigoths, The Gauls, The Franks, and Charlemagne. We’ll pick up the story around the Middle Ages, yay parade!)

Périgord formed part of the dowry that Eleanor of Aquitaine brought with her on her marriage in 1137 to Louis VII, the future King of France. However, fifteen years later the marriage was dissolved.  Eleanor got back her dowry and within two months she married Henry Plantagenet, Duke of the Normans, who would later become King Henry II of England. The castle outside our front door, Chateau Beynac, built in the 12 century, was once held by the son the Eleanor and Henry, a little known guy named Richard the Lionheart.  During the Hundred Year War the Dordogne River was the border between the English and French forces, often changing hands. The area was again divided between the Catholics and Protestants during the religious wars. I am pleased to say that the region now is at peace, although I did feel the need to storm a castle or two. I am of Norman blood after all.

The little village we stayed in, Beynac-et-Cazenac has been the backdrop for several films including Chocolat and Ever After. However, I don’t know if they were really quite ready for the invasion of 4 American tourists. . . .



(I still cannot believe that I traveled to such a place. It all seems like a dream)

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