I fell in love with the Chateau Commarque the moment I saw it, thirteen years ago.
Back then, I visited the place with a friend in late winter. The castle and grounds at the time were off limits to tourism - we drove out early, parked the car, and walked a half mile or so through a wooded area to the cliffs and clearing where it lie. Not a soul was in sight.
I was wordless and astounded at my good fortune to be able to see this place with my own eyes. The two of us separated (yes, we split the party) and I’m sure as many had done before, ignored the signs that warned us to stay away for our own safety. I couldn’t believe I was actually alone and exploring the ruins of a former castle, rumored to have been once used by the Knights Templar. I distinctly remember wondering at one point if I should attempt a running jump into the keep (traversing the “moat” - really just a deep ditch). I decided against it as a little foolhardy, especially being alone, but I still slightly regret it. The warning signs helped to dissuade me, as I felt a small pang of guilt that I might be disturbing the site somehow, even though I was treading as delicately as I could. At the time, I was really into photography, and so I’d brought along my manual-only 35mm SLR. I was stingy with film, and only had black and white loaded at the time.
Across the valley, a small chateau is visible through the ruins of the chapel.
It was just a couple of years after these were taken that my apartment in San Francisco was burglarized and I lost quite a lot of photographic equipment as well as undeveloped film. I never fully recovered my interest in the hobby due to the expense of the gear lost, and moved on to other things.
The next time I visited was with my wife about five years later. By then, a small parking lot for workers had been created. We walked down to the ruins and immediately saw people at its base. These turned out to be archaeologists who were surveying the site in preparation for a large scale restoration (presumably along the lines of Castelnaud or Beynac in the area), and we were not allowed anywhere past the small fence in the foreground.
I’m really looking forward to integrating the location into our Dordogne campaign.
Coincidentally, I watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail for the umpteenth time last month, just catching it by chance on TV. This time though, I caught a bit of dialogue that I’d missed before…
From scene 34:
KNIGHT: There! Look! LAUNCELOT: What does it say? GALAHAD: What language is that? ARTHUR: Brother Maynard, you're our scholar! MAYNARD: It's Aramaic! GALAHAD: Of course! Joseph of Aramathea! LAUNCELOT: Course! KNIGHT: What does it say? MAYNARD: It reads, 'Here may be found the last words of Joseph of Aramathea. He who is valiant and pure of spirit may find the Holy Grail in the Castle of uuggggggh'. ARTHUR: What? MAYNARD: '... the Castle of uuggggggh'. BEDEMIR: What is that? MAYNARD: He must have died while carving it. LAUNCELOT: Oh, come on! MAYNARD: Well, that's what it says. ARTHUR: Look, if he was dying, he wouldn't bother to carve 'aaggggh'. He'd just say it! MAYNARD: Well, that's what's carved in the rock! GALAHAD: Perhaps he was dictating. ARTHUR: Oh, shut up. Well, does it say anything else? MAYNARD: No. Just, 'uuggggggh'. LAUNCELOT: Aauuggghhh. KNIGHT: Aaauggh. BEDEMIR: You don't suppose he meant the Camauuuugh? KNIGHT: Where's that? BEDEMIR: France, I think.