dordogne
Dordogne Valley

The Dordogne Valley has a number of medieval forts and town, as well as caves to explore.


Rocamadour
Chateau de Beynac - This chateau was taken by the Richard the Lion Heart in the 12th century, razed in the 13th century, and rebuilt by the baron of Beynac. Later, during the Hundred Years War, the chateau went back and forth between the French and English.
Kids will appreciate the fortified setting - the chateau is well guarded by a double wall on one side, a long drop to the Dordorne River on the other. Take on a boat excursion on the river - it's a dramatic approach to the chateau, high on the cliff above.
Chateau de Castelnaud - Across the river from Chateau de Beynac is the rival castle, Chateau de Castelnaud. Like Beynac, the castle went back and forth between the English (a lot of wear and tear), but after the English finally departed, the castle was put back together.
Today it is fine example of a medieval French fortress in a stunning location. Be sure to stop into the Middle Ages Siege Warfare Museum. Outside you'll see reconstructions of medieval armaments, such as trebuchets (siege weapons), arbaletes (crossbow-like things), and cannons. Inside, there is an excellent collection of medieval armor and swords.
Year round, there are trebuchet demonstrations, kids can try on armor and costumes, learn to fence.
Sarlat-la-Caneda - Take a stroll through the Old Quarter of this medieval city, beautifully preserved with many of the original 15th century townhouses. Wander through a maze of narrow streets, and look at old parts of the wall that surrounded the medieval city. Don't miss the bullet-shaped building, the "lantern of the dead," where, according to legend, lamps in the tower light the way for the dead. Sarlat has a lively Saturday market.
Musee Aquarium - If you want to learn about the Dordogne River, this is place. The aquarium has different kinds of river fish, and the museum features exhibits about fishing from the Paleolithic to the present, navigating the river on flat bottomed boats (gabarre), and damming the river.
Musee de l'Automate (Souillac) - This charming museum is filled with mechanized toys (automata) and robots, from the 19th century to present day. You can see these toys and robots in action, accompanied by sounds and music - a jazz orchestra from 1920, a snake charmer, an antique doll, feeding a sparrow in her arms, a clown dancing on the moon. Robotics classes for kids, if you speak French.
Gouffre de Padirac - Imagine climbing down into a giant open-air cavern, then getting into a flat-bottomed boat to navigate an underground river through the caves. From the Rainwater Lake, you continue on foot to the Grand Dome room, over 300 feet high and the Upper Lake. The Gouffre de Padirac is a "must see." At the caves, there is also a zoo, picnic area, restaurant and children's play area.

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