Destination Southwestern France:
Domme and Beynac-et-Cazenac
Story and photos by Tom Weber
a 30-min. drive south of Sarlat-la-Canéda
I find myself following in the bold footsteps of armor-clad knights
of old who defended the ramparts of two picture-postcard perfect medieval
towns connected by one river: Domme and Beynac-et-Cazenac along the
Dordogne River valley.
Designated as Les plus beaux villages de France
(The most beautiful villages of France), these are two of the most photogenic
rock-and-mortar locales within the country's old Périgord Noir
region that is now the Dordogne department of the vast region of the
Domme, with its historical connection to the mysterious
Knights Templar, is known as the "Acropolis of the Périgord"
due to its bird's-eye view of the scenic Dordogne River valley below.
Upon arrival, I immediately encounter a Knights Templar
standing vigil just inside the main gate of this walled fortress village.
We make eye contact, stare each other down neither of us blinking
an eye and I finally concede and give this battle-tested crusader
a wide berth. I can't say for sure, but I could've sworn he mumbled,
"You chose wisely" as I moved further into the village.
Small enough to fit on a postage stamp, a walk around
this historic bastide takes less than an hour. Inside the walls,
dotted with summertime floral colors, are the Place de la Halle
(main square), the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption, the tranquil
public gardens, the town museum, the underground grotto, two terraced
observation posts both large enough to accommodate the occupants
of a tourist bus to take in the breathtaking views of the Dordogne
River valley spread out down below, and colorful artisan shops along
Another half-hour drive over scenic hills and dales,
I arrive at the base of an uphill climb to Château de Beynac,
a large, restored medieval castle at the top of beige-colored Beynac-et-Cazenac.
It's the second half of today's photo shoot.
The village below has served as the setting for quite
a few movies, including Ever After (1998), Joan of Arc
(1999) and Chocolat (2000), while the castle above served as
the epicenter for many a battle, between medieval France and England
during the epic Hundred Years' War.
Today, the castle is designated as an historic monument
by the French Ministry of Culture, but is privately owned and open to
public for a small entrance fee.
From its perch, Château de Beynac offers more
spectacular panoramic views of the Dordogne River valley spread out
below. The hike up and back down the very steep, rocky path is well
worth the effort.
Day two of my eye-opening encounter with southwestern
France can be summed up by simply saying, C'est magnifique!
If You Go
For complete information on the medieval fortress village
of Domme what to see, where to dine and where to stay
logon to Domme's official Office
of Tourism website, in English.
For detailed information on Château de Beynac
above and the village of Beynac-et-Cazenac below, along with the outlying
Dordogne River valley, visit the Discover
website, in English.
Southwestern France: Domme and Beynac-et-Cazenac; Destination
Southwestern France: Sarlat-la-Canéda; The
Medieval Towns of Bruges, Leiden and Dijon; Thoughts
About Les Hommes Français; Provence;
Magnificent Cities of Champagne and Lorraine; Montpellier,