Thursday, April 19, 2012

Josephine Baker and Chateau des Milandes; Gardens of Marqueyssac

04/17, Tuesday, Taxes Due Day
Yes, we submitted our taxes a few weeks ago, and we're all paid up. Thanks to TurboTax.

As part of our Home Day, we went grocery shopping at Le Clerc, a very nice super market and department store. Mom actually likes to food shop in France...there are many items that we are not familiar with which makes it fun. Plus, J&M always have some good advice on trying new things. Cheeses and wine, which we don't buy too much of in Chicago, are inexpensive and good.

Madeleine provided our lunch of curry chicken with rice and white beans. Then, we took off in their car for two more sights in Dordogne, both very interesting and both overlooking the Dordogne River.

A bit over an hour we were at the Chateau Des Milandes, which is known as the romantic castle. It is smaller than the many feudal type fortresses and is more an elegant residence. It was built is 1489 and had many owners, all made alterations to the castle until the American entertainer, Josephine Baker, bought it in 1947. She died in 1975 and the present owners have set up a wonderful exhibit of her life, which was certainly a full one.

After a very difficult childhood, partly due to having a black mother and white father in Missouri, she became a very successful dancer. She was offered work in Paris and performed in many revues. She could sing as well as dance; became wealthy and very well known in France. She adopted twelve children and wanted to prove that children from different nationalities could live in peace. They were known as her "Rainbow Tribe".

She became involved with the Red Cross and was recruited for the Counter-Intelligence Service in 1940. She carried secret information on sheet music and received the French Legion of Honor award. The rooms contained great pictures, clothes and documents of her rewarding life.

Outside the chateau they put on a marvelous performance of various birds of prey, including owls, bald eagle, falcons and osprey. They were swooping inches from your head and showed such dexterity. That was up close and personal!

No more than six miles away, we visited the Marqueyssac Gardens. In addition to the expansive "garden", it provides a wonderful view of the Dordogne River and Valley, which is a French National Historical Monument. The "garden" consists of many acres on a hilltop (130 meters above the river), a chateau (undergoing extensive renovation right now), 800 meters of walking paths, a labyrinth, all set among thousands of trimmed boxwood bushes.

The original grounds date from the 16th century; in the mid-1800s the gardens were started; in 1997, the park was totally reworked and opened to the public. There are a number of outbuildings including several small round stone structures used for meditation and relaxation. The boxwoods are predominant lining the paths and forming interesting shapes.

We arrived at the garden around 5:30, and it closes at 7:00. There was a light rain as we walked the High Walk (la Promenade des Hauteurs) for the entire time. There are two other paths, but lack of time and poor weather ended our enjoying the quiet, serenity, and views

Next Sunday France votes for a new President. There are ten candidates including Sarkozy, the incumbent and a centrist; Le Pen, far-right; Hollande, socialist; Poutou, anti-capitalism; Eva Joly, green; and five others. If no one gets more than 50% of the vote, there will be a second election, a run-off between the top two vote-getters from the first vote. With the economic crisis in Europe, including France, this will be an important choice for the nation.

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