After lunch we headed off to the Marquessac Gardens which were a convenient 30 minute walk from camp. It was great to be able to just leave the van and not have to pack up to visit a sight. We walked through some back roads and across a big field before hitting the signs for the gardens.
After a climb up, we could see why they had advertised their panoramic views. We had a wonderful view over to Beynac and the surrounding countryside. The gardens were first constructed in the 19th
century and were well used until the second half of the 20th
century. After that, they fell into decline and the boxwood hedges grew wild without their usual pruning. In 1996, work began to restore the gardens to their former splendour. 60 companies and 10 gardeners worked for almost a year to reopen paths, clear the viewpoints and cut back the boxwoods to a better height in order to restructure the hedges. We headed in and started off on the suggested route. Right away we could see that they had done a great job with the hedges. The ones in the garden nearest the entrance were really nicely filled in. Some were already in their final shape, but others we thought were still being grown in order to be pruned later on into spheres and other shapes. We had a great view down on the garden from the level above and could see where their brochure got their picture. It was neat to be able to see it all from above because you could actually see all the shapes and patterns that were being created. We admired it for a while and then set off to see the rest of the gardens. The boxwood was not as manicured throughout the rest of the gardens, but it was nicely pruned into square hedges lining the path.
There were tons of viewpoints along the way as the gardens are built right on the top of a cliff. There were three paths leading to the main viewpoint (about 1.5 kms away) and we switched between the Cliffside walk and the "high" walk until we got there. Along the way we saw the “Pope's chair” which was a seat carved out of the rock. Apparently in 1903, Pope Pius X visited the château and sat in this spot to meditate. We arrived at the main viewpoint with stunning views over the river below and the town of La Roque Gageac, another “most beautiful village” and on our list to see in the next few days. On the other side of the river were rows of walnut trees stretching off into the distance and sitting high above them all, the town of Domme which we were also planning on visiting. We sat in the sun and admired the view for quite a while. Eventually we set off to finish our tour of the gardens and passed by a neat stone hut with a bell-shaped, slate roof. We headed back to the main entrance with one more look at the manicured hedge gardens. Then it was a nice downhill walk back to camp in time for a cup of tea.
We spent the morning doing some bigger laundry items such as pyjamas since it was supposed to be sunny and warm all day. It seems to warm up enough to be comfortable outside by 11 or so once all the frost melts. Anoop took the bikes off the back to give them a test spin before we go for a longer ride. We also did a bit of spring cleaning and cleared out the van storage area to give it a sweep and put some other things under.