We encountered a spot of bother en route to France this summer.

My family and sister's boyfriend were driving over to the Dordogne from home; Michele and I were to meet them there having driven in his car from Milan. So far, so good.

Until we got in the car on that Saturday morning and found that it wouldn't start. No worries! I thought. This will be a doddle to sort out! After all, we're in the centre of Milan, a bright and vibrant cosmopolis - what could possibly go wrong?

As it turns out, August. August could very much go wrong indeed.

In Italy, the big cities close up for this month and promptly bugger off to the beaches or mountains for the summer break. That means a mechanic was off the cards until Monday at the earliest and even then we didn't know if we'd definitely be on our way.

So car rental! Again, a problem re: the city buggering off and closing up. They'd taken most of the hire cars with them.

We finally located one at Linate airport, jumped in a taxi, went through all the t&cs at the car hire desk, handed over his driving license... only to find it was expired. 

Ha, what a lark.

In the end, the car went in my name (and cost us double the amount for me being under 25. Still not over this.)

We finally limped in to the Dordogne at about midnight. I wasn't at my happiest.

But oh was it worth it?

On our first day we trundled on down to Chateau des Milandes, the fairytale home of one Josephine Baker. She fell in love with the chateau the moment she saw it and bought it in a heartbeat, turning it into a grand home for her large family of adopted children.

We arrived just in time for a bird show (all in French, I have absolutely no idea what any of it meant).

We were treated to a few spatterings of rain but luckily the sun finally made an appearance. Quite quickly it turned into a rather hot day and we were pulling our sensible layers off as fast as we could.

Of all the birds, this little guy was my favourite:

Just look at that little face! If I were going to have an owl, Harry Potter style, I'd definitely want a funny little thing like him.

After seeing all the different owls, I wasn't expecting this at all:

We saw some eagles in the wild on holiday in Canada this year but they were always so high up we could only just make out their white heads. It was amazing (and slightly terrifying) seeing one so close!

For the final part of the show, we watched the trainer wind a falcon up by swinging some bait around on a rope, leading to some incredibly swoops and dives.

Unfortunately, photos aren't allowed inside the house so I will have to leave that up to your imagination (and Google image) which is a real shame because there were some absolutely incredible costumes on display - it's really worth seeing when travelling through the Dordogne. They even had the famous banana skirt (which struck me as highly inappropriate in the 21st century and not necessarily something to celebrate but there you go).

For now though, here are some pictures of the chapel and the courtyard.

It really is the perfect place for a fairytale; the young girl who rises to international fame and stardom, buying her very own castle and filling it with a large family.

However the story has a sad ending. She lost the castle to debts in the end and after a turbulent and traumatic time she had to give her castle up, even being evicted and locked outside months before the original eviction date she had been given. Princess Grace of Monaco helped her and provided her with somewhere to live but even so, the thought of those events unfolding in such an idyllic setting added to the poignance of her tale.

As we were leaving, we caught up with the eagle again. Don't you just hate it when you don't have enough time to sort your camera settings out properly?

The rest of our sunny first day was spent back at the house, snacking on olives and bruschetta and reading on the patio.

It was a long drive but in the end, it was worth it.