Wednesday, June 30 – Sarlat: Every now and then one’s luck runs out. We got the chambre d’hote list from the tourist office in Sarlat and selected one of the more expensive offerings because of the amenities (swimming pool, wifi). A disaster! The place was a McMansion with five guest rooms added on in the most downmarket Motel-6 style. The hosts were gruff and nonexistent, respectively. The wifi worked only in the main room which was locked while we were at dinner and thereafter unavailable. The pool was pretty but contained rather slimy water which was an effort to ignore. There was a separate substantial (8e) charge for breakfast — rather ballsy for a “bed and breakfast!” But enough of that! Starting at the beginning of the day:
As expected, we had a terrific breakfast (as expected) and our host even soft-boiled the two eggs I proffered so I could make by comfort-food breakfast with their outstanding walnut/rye bread (toasted).
Two fabulous experiences today: we visited a small duck farm and a great chateau. The duck farm was the least of the three cited by Steves as available to visit and we selected it because there was no schedule to follow and it was clearly a place with few visitors. It could not have been a better experience! The wife (who spoke English and therefore qualified the farm for inclusion in Steves was not on hand) and we spent an hour and a half with the husband who spoke only (but very clear and comprehensible) French. After about 20 minutes we were joined by four French tourists who drove up. The big deal was my desire to actually feed the ducks. I’d butchered a foie gras duck and extracted the liver in Bordeaux in 2002 (not too difficult but don’t knick the foie!). And we’d seen the feeding process up close learning in detail about why there is nothing abusive about the process. (It’s rather analogous to dairy farming in which the (poor?) cow is induced to lactate long after the calf has been removed. In this case, the duck is prepared for an arduous migration (energy naturally stored in the liver) which never occurs. End of rant.)
But the next step would be to actually do it oneself. Because we wanted to capture the experience on video, I don’t have any stills. But here’s a still frame from the movie:
We were then shown the spic-and-span processing rooms where the ducks and geese are slaughtered and defeathered and cooked into the canned prepared products which are sold on the market. (We bought a small can of foie gras and a larger one of duck with green peppercorns.)
The chateau was one of two famous ones which face each across the Dordogne river: Chateaunaud and Beynac. Chateaunaud is privately owned and has been restored over the last 40 years to a fine polish (from a pile of rubble) with an emphasis on explaining medieval warfare.
For the first time, I understood the way a catapult (trebouchet in French) works! The stone is not flung from the end of the wooden arm but from a pouch attached to two long ropes attached to the end of the arm (and the release occurs when one of the ropes is set free at just the right moment during the arc). Here’s a picture of the model:
Nothing more to say about the rest of the day which is better forgotten (we swam, we ate a light supper in town, we were shocked that we had no internet access, we went to bed).
Oh, I forgot this fine picture of a foie gras goose wandering around the farm we visited. The two lobes of the liver are quite visible: