I woke up early and headed down to the boulangerie to get some fresh bread and french morning fare, including a chololate brioche (recipe here for a loaf style or this one that looks like what I had in Venice, or what we had was a brioche that was a bun scored on top and chocolate chips sprinkled and folded into the middle ). As you can tell by now, I love food. I love to cook, and maybe I will have to put all of these recipes into a cookbook when I get back…
After filling up, we hopped in the car and went to a local castle just down the street called Chateau de Beynac. it was pretty cool as this is where Joan of Arc (movie) and Ever After: A Cinderella Story (movie) were filmed. We parked at the bottom in the public parking lot, and Deb was trying to barter with a frenchman about his parking ticket that still had two hours left on it. I stood clear so that the kids could help her, but eventually, it was “Rich, come here please and figure out what he is saying”. I paid him 1.50euros and we were on our way up the steep hill to the top.
The castle was super interesting and played a big role during the 100 years war between France and England. I cannot imagine trying to be on the army that had the up hill to contend with, carrying armour, swords, horses, etc. Brutal. I can hardly carry my camera!
Once inside, we went into the kitchen, where there were long tables, and you had to park your sword at the end of the table. Mind your manners! There were big hooks from the ceilings to hang meat and food from so that the rats couldn’t get at it (just like we do for bears, aka big European rats, when we camp).
Ok, so tapestries, drawings, and paintings depicting adventures and battles of the time were quite funny in that there are hidden or subtle funny elements to these items. LIke a dog having a poop, a blacksmith working with his pants falling down, a soldier climbing a ladder with no pants on, and a soldier getting catapulted through the air (they must have run out of stones).
Onwards with the tour. Just like in airplane or trains, a toilet was built high up in the castle, and literally was a hole that plumeted down 50 to 100 feet onto the rocks below. Bombs away!!! Literally! Don’t sit down on the rocks below for a mindful moment…haha.
“Bombs away,” King Richard said as he sat on his stately throne on the side of the castle.
The interior was very well kept and super interesting. Even found the room at the top of the castle where Richard the Lionhearted (Richard the First…I am Richard the 796th) had his private quarters.
There was a little sanctum that had very old frescos (painting on wet cement) of the last supper and Jesus rolling away the stone, that date back to the 10th century. It was pretty amazing the detail that was in the frescos and how well preserved they were given the fact that they were over 1000 years old.
As you can see from the top of the castle in the image below, the Dordogne river divides the two areas and on the one side (flat farm area) is where England was. They had a bit of a disadvantage when it came to the 100 Years War. The English were on the far side of the river and the French on our side of the river. The English had to cross the river, and battle up the hill against the well positioned French. Oddly enough, probably because the French ran out of amunition, the castle was defeated by the English. Then the French took it back over. It changed hands 8 times by the end of it all. Crazy!
After we went down the slippery slope to our car, we visited the famous Castlenaud (link to some history here). I am pretty sure that the Amazing Race had to come here and put together a trebuchet (ancient slingshot catapult weapon) as a challenge. Wilson was really looking forward to this and some of the other weapons at the castle.
There was only one english tour that day, aaaand we missed it. Oh well, we were told that we could just go stand by the trebuchet and we would see it demonstrated. So, we went up to the platform where the real trebuchets were, which were pointed at the castle, and thought, “Wow, are they going to fire something at the castle? That’d be cool!”. So, there was a tour group up there, and we thought it was the French tour and they would fire it at the end, but then they were leaving. In my best french, I asked where the demonstration was and it was on another part of the property. The firing of the trebuchet was going to be in a couple of minutes, so we hoofed it over to see the demonstration. It was cool. Check out the video! Here is a link to an article about Medieval Artillery (the Ancient History Encyclopedia is a great online resource…)
We toured around the castle which had a ton of medieval hardware, weapons, and full metal armour on display. “Heavy Metal dude!,” comes into mind as one of my favorite lines from Bill and Teds Excellent Adventure. Sorry, I had to put it in here. Classic movie.
There was everything from ancient clubs with spikes, to swords, to crossbows (big and small), to a new kind of machine gun looking thing. I would NOT want to be on the receiving end of one of these.
Here is a video of a depiction of one of the battles that happened back in 1442:
It was really great as we had the place pretty much to ourselves. I tell you…September is a great time to travel. School is just back in, so no field trips have been arranged yet, so not much in the way of school kids running around! It made the experience more real I think for the kids.
We spent about 2 hours there, before we headed back home for a night of fine dining with Chez Daddy while everyone relaxed from a busy day of sight seeing.
Here is what I made and it was super good!
Recipe for Rich’s Medieval Creamy Mushroom Chicken a la Herbes de Provence
- 4 chicken breasts
- patted dry and then generously salted and peppered on each side
- put them in the pan after you cook the mushrooms and set them aside. Put fresh butter in, and heat up the garlic as explained below, and then cook each side for 5-7 minutes. It might not be done yet, but that is ok. You will be cooking it again
- after you pan fry it the first time, let it rest for 5 minutes, then cut the breasts up into slices
- 4T butter
- 2T for sauteeing the first two cloves of garlic, onions and mushrooms
- 2T for sauteeing the last clove of garlic and pan frying the chicken breasts
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced/chopped
- when sauteeing them, make sure that you put the garlic in the butter and simmer at low heat so that the garlic doesn’t change colour…if it browns up, you cooked it at too hot of a heat and garlic will be bitter
- you can remove the garlic but keep the butter in the pan to keep the garlic flavour in there, and then add the garlic back in just at the end so it isn’t bitter
- One package (8oz ish) of mushrooms quartered
- One shallot or onion diced/sliced finely
- Cook the mushrooms and onions together until they become soft, and then take them out and put them in a bowl to add in at the end.
- 1/2c of cream (maybe more if you want more sauce)
- after you remove the chicken, lower the temperature of the heat a bit and then add in the cream to the pan and deglaze the pan of all the chicken cooking goodies
- bring it to a simmer and add the mushrooms, onions, and garlic that you removed
- add in 1-2T of Herbes de Provence mix (to your liking…taste as you add it)
- add in the sliced chicken, and cook it all together making sure that the chicken is mostly submerged so it can finish cooking. Don’t overcook the chicken as it will be rubbery. Better to cook low and slow than fast and furious.
- when the sauce is thick enough to your liking then serve it over rice or mashed potatoes to soak up the sauce…or over nothing but have a loaf of fresh bread to mop up the goodness….
Here are some other photos from the day…