In the 1920s, Josephine Baker took France to her bosom and its countrymen reciprocated. In particular, she fell in love with the Dordogne and made it her home.
Today that home, Les Milandes, situated on the outskirts Castelnaud-la-Chapelle, stands as a memory to her.
Baker made her name in Paris, raising more than just eyebrows in a costume made entirely of bananas. Her lively versions of the Charleston and the Black Bottom became popular attractions.
Indeed, she became the highest-paid performer in Europe.
It was all very different from her beginnings in a cardboard box in St Louis. Aged 19, she left the US to escape the racism she encountered there.
After settling in Les Milandes, she set about adopting children of all races – ending up with 13 in all. She also helped the Resistance and, later, hosted anti-racism conferences at the château.
Her plans for an amusement park in its grounds proved too ambitious, and she and her husband, bandleader Jo Bouillon, fell deeply into debt. They had to sell Les Milandes in the 1960s and, accepting the benevolence of Princess Grace, the couple moved to Monaco.
“Her plans for an amusement park in its grounds proved too ambitious, and she fell deeply into debt”
Les Milandes and its Jardins de Josephine Baker are now open to the public. However, I think the latter are unlikely to be at their best in the depths of winter.
Of course, that gives us an excuse to return to the area in the summer… as if we needed another.