Visit Chateau des Milandes
Francois de Caumont, owner of castle Castelnaud, had the chateau des Milandes built in the 15th century for his young wife, who found Castelnaud rather cold and unwelcoming. It is a fine example of Renaissance architecture, with attractive stonework and period features.
Chateau des Milandes fell into ruin after the French Revolution but was famously restored by the legendary music hall star Josephine Baker - unusually among Dordogne chateau, the most famous era in its history is the 20th century.
Exploring Chateau des Milandes
The chateau is one of the prettier of the chateaux in this area, and is surrounded by attractive gardens. The exterior of the chateau has everything - turrets, pointy roofs, mullioned windows, stained glass windows, gargoyles - but it is all put together in a beautifully harmonious way.
The interior is now restored and maintained in the 1930's style in which Josephine Baker decorated it.
In addition, there are exhibitions and displays commemorating the life of Josephine, which started in the back street clubs of New York, and progressed to France where she was very well received and where she played a significant role in the resistance during World War 2.
Among the displays is her notorious dress made from bananas which she wore at the 'Folies Bergère' in 1928 and stage outfits that she wore at 'Olympia' and the 'Casino de Paris'. You can also hear some recordings of her singing as you tour the chateau.
Art deco was the prominant style at the time of Josephine Baker's restoration of the chateau and one of the highlights is the art deco bathrooms, another the ornately decorated art-deco bedrooms.
Sadly, debts forced Josephine Baker to sell the chateau later on, but it is pleasing now that the chateau should be a tribute to Josephine and her action-packed life.
Falconry was an integral part of life in the Middle-Ages and during April to October there is a falconry display at the Chateau des Milandes. There is also a restaurant selling snacks and simple meals.
Most of the chateaux in the Dordogne would be cold, draughty and decidedly uncomfortable to live in - this one would be an absolute joy. It really is lovely.
Josephine started life in a poor family in Missouri, USA. She found work as a dresser in a theatre company and one evening stood in for one of the dancers. At the age of 14 her acting career began. She was spotted by Caroline Dudley who was looking for black artists to star in a new Paris revue. The Revue Negre played at the Theatre des Champs Elysées and Josephine became a star whilst dancing nearly naked.
In 1930 Josephine added singing to her career. She became very wealthy and very generous and donated widely to charities. During the war Josephine used her ability to travel freely as an entertainer to smuggle out secret documents and she also helped refugees to leave France. She was decorated with the French Legion medal for her bravery.
In 1947 Josephine bought Chateau des Milandes and renovated it. She began her famous 'rainbow tribe' adopting children from different nationalities and religions.
However Josephine's generosity and naivety led to bankruptcy and she had to sell the castle.
Falconry and Birds of Prey Show
Les Milandes puts on a show with birds of prey each day. This includes falcons, hawks, owls and a white-headed fish eagle and allows you to see these magnificent birds in action. As well as watching the show you can see the birds in the bird houses built for them in the grounds.
The bird show lasts about half an hour and takes place between once and four times during the day depending on the season.
The Chateau de Milandes Opening Hours
April to May: 10.00-18.30, every day
June to July 10, and September: 10.00-19.00, every day
July 11 to Augus 31: 09.30-19.30, every day
October 1 to November 3: 10.00-18.15, every day
Prices are 9€ for adults and 5.80€ for children
There is a very nice looking bistro-style restaurant on the property too.
Places to Visit near to Chateau des Milandes
The wonderful Chateau de Castelnaud is very close by. This is a big contrast to Chateau Milandes as it has been built for defensive purposes and now has some excellent displays of medieval weaponry.
If you are still in the mood for castles the impressive Chateau de Beynac is also nearby. The villages of Castelnaud and Beynac are both classed amongst the most beautiful villages of France giving you even more reason to visit them.
You can find more local travel ideas in the guide.