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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

Amour de porte française

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Where, you ask, calls to me when summer arrives, and my thoughts long for traveling? 


Off we go to my dream destination. 

And to the extraordinary doors, 
yes, doors, in France. 

buildings inside the walls of Beynac Château
Pack a bag, just a lightweight carry-on, and come along for the journey to irresistible places across France. 


Massive wooden doors to love in Paris, France

What is irresistible about France? 
...  the food, the gardens, the shopping, the history, the architecture ...  

All are reasons to return over and over again to France, but our journey today is about  

Amour de porte française
(French door love) 

The doors, oh the doors... 
From massive carved wooden doors in Paris 

Carved stone statues surrounding a door in Paris France

... to carved stone statues surrounding a door also in Paris. 

Wandering the streets of Paris for usual tourist activities is always interrupted just to gaze at the beautiful doors. Repeatedly, I catch myself straining my neck, slowing my pace, and exclaiming, "Look at that one," to my traveling companions. Inevitably, we stop to take in all the details. 

Beyond Paris, there are more doors to love. The Dordogne area is filled with castles, ancient cities, cave drawings, and lush countryside. 

visitors enter through a city doorway to make their way to Château Beynace

Massive defensive walls surround the 13th century town of Beynac,  and visitors enter through an old city doorway to make their way to Château de Beynac. 

Stone carvings above a door in Beynac are stunning and mystical

Just inside the old city walls of Beynac is this doorway along a narrow cobblestone street.  While the door itself is a simple rectangular wooden design, the stone carvings above the door are stunning ... and mystical. 

medieval times called for architecture to defend cities and castles

Medieval times called for architecture to defend cities and châteaux (castles). Inside massive perimeter city walls, doors were also fortified. 

These massive wooden doors built in the creamy colored stones have an iron gate that can be dropped in front of the main Château de Beynac entrance. 

Iron studs in the doors and arched shaped doors are hallmarks of medieval doors. 

Inside the inner Château walls rising above the Dordogne River are many more buildings in addition to the main castle

Inside the inner Château walls rising far above the Dordogne River are many more buildings in addition to the main castle.  

We have to get closer to the small addition on the right side of the above building to take in all its beauty.  

Medieval doors within Beynac Château walls have carved stonework

Two doors to study and to love. One above the other. Could there once have been a balcony that the roof door opened onto? 

How long did it take for the stone mason to carve the intricate stones? 

Is this not quintessential French architectural style? Cream-colored stones, red tile roof, carved arched wooden doors, and stone carvings around the roof door... 

Oh, be still my heart! 

To see this structure, to touch the stones and the wood, and to feel the air on the terrace is to experience France. 

Simply irresistible. 

The Dordogne region of France has many more medieval sites to visit. 

Medieval walled city of Domme has circular towers flanking the city's entrance

This city gate has two distinctive towers surrounding the gate that leads into the Medieval town of Domme. Any French person can identify the old city from this view of the well-known doorway that is on our list of doors to love.  

Château Montford in the Dordogne region of France is privately owned and not open to the public

Château Montford was razed and rebuilt multiple times since the Middle Ages. Privately owned, it is not open to the public. 

Built close to a public highway and on the Dordogne River, it can be admired from outside its ramparts. 

Does this entrance not look like a Hollywood set? Yet, it is the real thing. See the stone crest at the top? 

a wisteria covered courtyard in Sarlat, France shades a small courtyard

Private residences throughout the region have beautiful entrances and doors. Located in the walled old city of Sarlat, the wisteria-covered courtyard behind the wrought iron gate is one of my favorite entrances in France. What a glorious sight the courtyard must be when the wisteria is in full bloom. Perhaps one day I will be in Sarlat when wisteria is in bloom. 

No. 9 is the residence address. A single-digit address fascinates me since all of the addresses in my part of the world are four digits. 

French stone carved doorway in Sarlat, France

The little courtyard underneath the wisteria at No. 9 Sarlat has a door to love. The graduated carved stone surround is elegant in its simplicity. 

Sarlat, France beautiful door

Also in medieval Sarlat, the door at #20 seems modest compared to the massive doors of châteaux. Yet, the door and surround are far from modest.

stone-craved crest above a large stone doorway in Sarlat, France

Near the center of Sarlat this arched doorway opens to a passageway with multiple doors opening onto it. I wonder about the stone-carved crest above the doorway. Was this a royal household?  

elaborate stone carved arch decorates a door in old city of Sarlat, France

Sarlat was saved from being razed and rebuilt as a modern city in the 1900s when many old cities across France were modernized after damages during World War II. Sarlat did not have extensive war damage, just widespread damage from time and lack of upkeep. Once a thriving city in medieval times, followed by repeated periods of rejuvenation and decline, it had fallen on hard financial times again before World War II. 

No one was interested in the small crumbling old city. Then, French laws protecting national historical sites were passed, and Sarlat benefited from government funds to help restore the city and to revitalize its economy. Today it is thriving with the help of tourism. 

How glad I am that beautiful doors like this one have been restored. 

New metal doors protect entrances to gardens and houses all across France

Throughout France, gardens and courtyards are graced with modern metal doors like this. Another style to love. 

old wooden gate stands with a gnarled tree in an open field in Carsac, France

An old wooden gate stands with a gnarled tree that has sprouted new growth. What once was a doorway into an enclosed field in Carsac, a small town near Sarlat, is still a thing of beauty in its forlorn setting. 


French doors are just one of many things that capture my attention in France. For a list of more posts about France, and reasons to love traveling to France, click on the image below. 

A Moment in France