The medieval commune of Carennac is in the north west corner of Lot. It is on the banks of the river Dordogne and so popularly included in the region name of Dordogne. There is an Abbey and tower with connections with Louis 14th and Fenelon and a wooded island between the main river and the mill leet. The image shows the courtyard near the abbey.
The bridge in Carennac goes over a small stream in a valley which, in medieval times, probably supplied drinking water to the old abbey. The house on the left (you can just see the roof) is built in the valley and it was here that a master joiner lived. I went to talk with him about some work I needed doing in my barn but he wasn't there. However, his mother was cooking a meal in a large black marmite hanging from a chain in an open fireplace. I failed completely to communicate anything to her - and she to me. I realized, after a while, that she was speaking patois and couldn't understand french at all and she'd lived here all her life.
This is the famous tower Genevre that is all that remains of the old abbey. Fenelon taught the young Louis 14th - the sun king - here. The abbey probably stood to the right of this tower and was used as a quarry and timber supply when the village suffered a huge fire some time in the 1200s. The tower in the left background (you can just see the roof) is a pigeonnaire in a farm building that a friend asked us to look at in the early 1980s as she was interested in buying it. The tower had been built on a large oak beam but over the centuries this beam had sagged until the tower was leaning over and in danger of falling down - a small thing when dealing with buildings of this age. It has obviously been sorted out because it was still there in 1995 when this photograph was taken.
La Grange en face de la PTT is where I lived in the late 1970s to the early 1980s (preMayle era) when no other english etrangers lived in this commune. Most lived in the Dordogne region. The barn has had a new roof and had some cosmetic work done to it since I lived there and looks quite respectable now. During the war, a german man was lived there. He hated anything military and no-one turned him in - even during the height of the atrocities. He came back while I was living there for a look but said nothing. Carennac was a living village then with a good butchers shop, a bakery, a quarry on the outskirts which kept a lot of the men in paid work. The fish-van came round every Wednesday morning and stopped in front of the barn. If it was raining the women would come into the barn to shelter. The door was never locked. A pattiserrie van called once a week on Friday. Marc was made next to the midden heap near the mairie's house and there wasn't a boutique or gift-shop for kilometres.
This is a beautiful old building along the road from the PTT* (if it is still there, it was at the top of the rue des anglais). It is a family house where the three (or four) generations would have lived together. The ground floor would have been the cave where all the farming implements, tools, stores, tobacco where stored. Tobacco was a major crop and many growers kept some back for their own use, curing it by hanging it in manocs - an old patois word meaning 'hands' of 5 - in their caves. Sometimes animals, would have been kept in the cave in really bad weather. The first floor of the house was reached by steps. In this house you can see them plainly. The object in the recess under the steps (which was originally the entrance to the cave) is a heat pump which was there in the early 1980s. The village was so quiet that it could be heard running quietly throughout the night.
*This shows how old my french is.
Beynac is a picturesque, medieval commune on the banks of the river Dordogne. It is one of those small communes full of little gems for people who make the time to look.
Clay-tiled roofs and local stone combine to add to the natural perfection of these cottages in Beynac. We might call this combination 'ecologically-sound' today. The builders then probably just called it 'common-sense'.
This fine oriel balcony graces a house at the side of the path leading up to the chateau high on the cliff that dominates Beynac and the river. It is a simple statement of beauty in hard stone and steel - and beautiful but impermanent flowers. Not all buildings of importance are 'impressive' chateaux. Maybe we tend to forget the horror of the times when these huge fortresses were centers of violence, power and destruction.
St Emilion, near Bordeaux, is a picturesque town famous for its cobbled lanes, winding streets, wines and caves.
Wine tasting, is on offer at the many caves which line the streets in the centre of town.
This place in St Emilion, near a ruinous church facade, is where the weary traveler can sit a while, enjoy the ambience and contemplate life far from the madding crowd (but not in august).
Philip Oyler, who wrote The Generous Earth, lived in Puybrun and knew people and spent a lot of time in Carennac. I met people who knew him there but this was some time ago and I guess they have all gone know. I understand that he died in St Cere. If you know anyone who knew him or anything about him I would be pleased if you would contact me.
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