Then we were off to the south, to the town of Saint Emilion, not far from Bordeaux. Saint Emilion was one of the highlights of our trip. It is a very quaint medieval town, only about a square mile or so in size, with lots of narrow, winding streets, climbing up and down the steep hills on which it is built. It is also the heart of a famous red wine-growing region, called by the same name. So the while countryside around the town is planted in vinyards. Here are some of our photos of Saint Emilion:
From a brochure: the whole of the town!
This was the view from our hotel room window!
The next day, we headed east to Perigueux, where we spent two nights. Perigueux was also a delightful city, with a nicely preserved medieval old town and very few tourists.
A postcard view of the old town:
The medieval cathedral
Ruins of the medieval castle
Ruins of a Roman temple
The next day Matt had to spend again in the archives, so Brian and Joe took a side trip to Brantome. Once home to the famous French writer of the same name (Brantome was his pen name), Brantome is encircled by a canal with water diverted from a local river, and so is nicknamed "the Venice of France." Here are some glimpses of Brantome:
A postcard view of the town:
The medieval monastery and church
Homes and restaurants along the canal
Homes built into the sides of cliffs
All along our route, in fact, we saw these famous "troglodyte houses," carved into the cliffs of southwest France!
The next day, we left Perigueux and headed south again. Our first stops were at several villages along the Dordogne River valley. These were very picturesque and set against a beautiful backdrop of cliffs and rocky hills.
The town of Sarlat-la-Caneda on market day
Our view down the Dordogne River valley from the castle Beynac
A postcard view of Beynac castle and town
The village of La Roque-Gageac, cut into the cliffs along the river
From there, we followed narrow country roads to Pech-Merle, one of the several sites in southwestern France where prehistoric cave paintings have been found. We weren't allowed to take any photos in the caverns, but there is an excellent website of Pech-Merle that shows off the art as well as the natural beauty of the caves: click here for the link.
A postcard of one of the examples of prehistoric art at Pech-Merle
It wasn't far from there to Cahors, where we stopped briefly to view the medieval bridge over the Lot River.
We spent that night and the next at Moissac. Moissac was the site of a famous medieval monastery, and several of the earliest manuscripts for Matt's project on Saint Gerald were copied there. But as we soon found out, Moissac has gone downhill quite a bit since the 11th century!
Here is the Napoleon Bridge (built during his reign) over the Aveyron River. Our hotel was at the far end of the bridge. It sounds quaint, but the bridge is the main transportation artery through the city, and there was continual traffic!
While Matt spent time at a local library, Joe and Brian went to the top of a nearby hill and took this photo of the city. Also at the top of this hill was the welcome center for pilgrims traveling by foot across France and Spain to Santiago de Compostela -- how mean to put the welcome center on top of a hill!
Probably the most interesting sight was just outside of the city. Here is the long canal that connects the Atlantic coast of France with the Mediterranean coast, called the Canal du Midi, and meant to save ships from having to go all of the way around Spain and Portugal. The canal crosses over the river at this point, making an odd sight!
Some features from the medieval monastery still survive, including this beautiful 12th century doorway.
Inside the monastery church, some medieval artifacts are also preserved,
such as this 15th century statue of Mary Magdalen . . .
. . . and this 4th century sarcophagus.
A postcard of the medieval cloister; in the 19th century,
train tracks were laid right through the medieval monastery!
Our final stop together was the city of Toulouse. It was a very pretty city, even though it was very big. The main tourist sights are its many museums, most converted from medieval or early modern monasteries and churches.
The museum of art, at the former monastery of the Augustinian monks.
The medieval museum, in the former monastery of the Jacobin monks
(the relics of Saint Thomas Aquinas are still in the monastery church).
Two sculptures from the Roman museum.
This map shows the final leg of our trip together:
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