Dwight Peck's personal website

Kristin's visit: Southwest of France 2009

Maddening months at work, trying to migrate a very large Web site to a different technology, and no end in sight. It's time to take a break and, as luck would have it, Kristin's coming for a visit. We'll go to France for a while.


You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

We're not even checked in yet, and the tourist attractions are already tumbling down upon us (figuratively speaking). Bourdeilles, in the Dordogne département of the Aquitaine region, is in the Green Périgord (Périgord Vert). Last autumn, we were visiting in the Black Périgord (Périgord Noir), but this time Kristin was looking for a hotel on a 12th century bridge, and Bourdeilles seemed perfect from that point of view.

Here's a very suitable "12th century bridge", seen as we're parking Dieter the Volkswagen next to the Hostellerie Les Griffons, where if all goes well we'll be luxuriating for the next four days or so.

And here's the Hostellerie Les Griffons, and in fact, there's Dieter the Volkswagen down the carpark. It's the 7th of June 2009 and life is looking good so far.

Very satisfactory. Dating from the 16th century, it would appear (the building, not Kristin), the hotel is now run by Frédérique and Jacques, recently arrived from the north of France to liven up the thriving city of about 800 earnest souls on the banks of the river La Dronne.

Kristin and Dieter on a fine afternoon on the River Dronne. Les Griffons boasts a superb restaurant and a very high-class menu. At least in the off-season, the room was well within our budget, the restaurant a bit steep for my frugal tastes. Personally, I'm more inclined to the specialties of the terroir (especially if they involve potatos and cheese), and lengthy explanations of exactly which fine herbs went into the exquisite tiny portions leave me fidgety. For the more refined diner, however, like Kristin for example, Les Griffons is right out of the top drawer.

The bridge of Bourdeilles at high tide. I should probably confess that the whole 12th century bridge business, based upon what we were told by interested parties at the scene, is really what Ibsen might have called a "vital lie". It was completed in 1735.

-- When's dinner?
We'll go visit the château first and work up an appetite. As if we didn't always have an appetite.

The Château de Bourdeilles, two châteaux in one, in fact.

First we'll visit the Renaissance palace.

The River La Dronne from within the mighty walls. A canoer's and kayaker's paradise from Brântome to here, where if you're smart you'll get out and walk.

A glance upriver from the castle, direction Brântome, with the riverbank cliffs throughout this region severely undercut by erosion, but nobody seems to mind.

A well-appointed Renaissance hallway on the upper floors

Now, we're told, we're going to visit the original medieval part. Come on!

The court before the great hall, with its 2.5-meter walls and obligatory well.

It's time to visit the great hall, and . . . the keep! To the top of it!

To the top of it? The very top of it?!?

Through the great hall, and up the tower

Up a few stories, and . . . up the tower!

To the top. I counted more than 7,200 steps, and I had plenty of time to count them, because it took me just short of 18 hours, but here we are, the next day, on the roof, surveying the gorgeous countryside.

The guidebook will tell you that the tower is 35 metres high, but that's a lie.

Surveying the Renaissance-era palace below us, and the river down to the left.

Past the Ren palace to the village church and the countryside southward towards the capital city, Périgueux.

A vertiginous view of the bridge of Bourdeilles, with the castle great hall below on the left, the 17th century mill below on the right, and the roof of the Griffons just behind the end of the great hall.

The Renaissance-style gardens directly below, as one despairs of leveraging one's knees back down to the ground again.

But it's got to be done, as there's not enough room for a helicopter to land up here and get us off it.

The Hostellerie Les Griffons from the great hall of the castle.

A view from the river side

The top of the medieval keep, a quarter of a mile above us

The Old Mill just across the far side of the bridge

The castle of Bourdeilles and the Griffons hostellerie, at dusk. Dieter the VW can be seen here, and Kristin, too.

Same scene, but without the Volkswagen

And now it's time for an excellent, perhaps too excellent, dinner in the Griffons.

After a few nights at the exquisite restaurant at the Griffons, I for one was pleased to sneak off up the street to the Dungeon restaurant, "Le Donjon", on the left, where they included a convivial low-end menu from the terroir and had, not only intermittent wifi, but an English ex-pat beer drinker on the terrace who knew how to reboot the wifi whenever it faded out. If in the end it turns out that there is no Heaven, I will apply to come back here.

1. Salers
2. Conques
3. Château d'Anjony
4. Bourdeilles
5. Brantôme & Castles
6. Oradour-sur-Glane
7. Périgueux
8. St Céré, Montal
9. Rocamadour
10. Château de Castelnau
11. Beaulieu
12. Puy-de-Dôme

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 28 July 2008, 17 August 2013.

South France, December 2014

SW France, June 2009

SW France, November 2008