Monday, July 16, 2012

France Day 8 - Lautrec - the village & the painter

Our last day and we got up to a damp grey morning, which, if nothing else acclimatised us for the return to England. After giving the gite a spruce up and getting our deposit back we sailed forth in search of that elusive Canal du Midi shot. Since the tarte au pomme quest had been satisfied, Sarah’s new mission was to get a picture of this stretch of water before we left, so it was with this zealous enthusiasm that we zoomed around various lanes and highways always within site of the canal, but never really reaching anything that might be called a view. In the end I got fed up of the whole exercise and we wished the Canal du Midi a resigned bonne journée before heading north.

We stopped in Fanjeaux which was a lovely old town, you know the score, medieval streets, half timbered buildings and suchlike, unfortunately the weather was turning decidedly unpleasant so we had a bit of a walk around and soon decided to move on. It was almost coffee o’clock so we pulled into Revel which is a bastide, or fortified town and, unlike most bastide towns, has kept its original layout intact. The centre of town is home to a central square which is still partially covered with a 14th century roof, topped with a distinctive bell tower from those medieval times.

It is also home to a few cafes, which were our main draw, but all of them were shut apart from one, luckily they had a table inside, it was far too cold and wet to sit outside, so we joined the throng of locals tucking into their midday meal. They sure do love their lunch over here, and we felt slightly out of place with only a coffee in front of us, while all those around were sat behind huge platters of food washing them down with ample amounts of wine. But as much as we would have liked to join them, we had limited time and a very limited budget to last us for the rest of the day, so after gulping down the below average coffee we left behind the warm, delicious smells and amiable chatter and stepped into the grimy half light to continue our journey. I believe somewhere, in the hazy back streets, a violin was playing, just for us.

View of Lautrec and surrounding countryside

Friday, July 13, 2012

France Day 7 - The drama of Castles and Campers

After an early start, our first stop was a petrol station to quench the raging thirst of our four wheeled brute. So after visiting most of the pumps the forecourt had to offer and sticking my credit card into various parts of the apparatus it was never meant to go, I finally figured out how they worked, and not more than one hour after beginning the endeavor, we were off.

Straight to Quillan, which was a nice enough town set next to a river, where we stopped for an insipid coffee and a rather decent pain au chocolat. But we were soon on our way again as today we would be exploring some of the finest castles this area has to offer, and they do a very nice line in castles around here.

After a drive of an hour or so, we entered the part of the Cathar region that is home to the most magnificent chateux, or ruins thereof, than any other region. Although to call them Cathar castles is somewhat of a misnomer as the Cathar Church never built anything, these castles were already standing by the time the Cathars came to prominence, they either took them over or had the use of them from owners sympathetic to their cause.