Category Archives: France

Cathar Castles

In the south of France, – the Corbières district – (reputedly the biggest vineyard in the world), on the French side of the Pyrinees you find the Cathar Castles.

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The Cathars were a religious group in the late Middle Ages. According to some they were mystics and according to the church, – heretics.

Their name is from the Greek katharoi, – the pure ones. Interestingly enough, not a name they chose for themselves but given to them by their enemies.

By the middle of 12th century they were spreading over western Europe. They had quite a lot of support from the nobility and were a thorn in the flesh of the church, who at the time was ruling. It is decided to get rid of them and crusades follow.

The region today en route to the mountains.

The medieval town of Carcassonne was one of their main strongholds and is restored to look almost new. Alas not a single photo, the camera’s battery if I remember..

When this town fell, the Cathars retreat to the mountain castles which were a lot more difficult for their enemies to access. Puylaurens (Laurens Mountain) and Queribus are two of the most well known. Fighting continues another twenty year. Where they are caught the whole group is gathered in a group and burnt alive.

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Chateau Puylaurens

As you can imagine the road is quite steep. When I arrived back down there was an old guy waiting on a bench. He wanted to know if I had seen a women of a certain age on my way; – I had not. Ah, perhaps she’s dead he says 🙂

Down in the valley is an old Roman viaduct.

Lapradelle viaduc
Lapradelle viaduc

and Queribus castle on the horizon.

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Chateau Queribus

Some say these castles are much older than the Cathars and they used them but did not build them.

Versailles

Marie-Antoinette’s playground, and a fitting place to have an entrance for decapitated people, don’t you think.

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The sheer scale of it is so impressive.

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It is rumoured that the French have a problem with flexibility, it seems not a problem with order, makes sense if you think about it.

The orangerie is where they keep the orange trees, still today.  If you look through the window you can still see them inside, laden with fruit. I have to assume that is why they have cipher or centilation holes. When it was built in I wouldn’t know. Just a few parterre’s to keep the place tidy. What do you do if one of the trees die? Is there a nursery where they keep duplicates in the same size and cut?

That’s the gardens on one side of the palace. At the back it goes on to that strange little town where M-A lived here bucolic dream. (Watch the movie) And there are forests and walkways to an unbelievable extent.

After the revolution they decided on a picket fence so as to look like normal people. You hardly notice the palace behind it, it works so well. And off course none of the rock is marble and the mirrors are fake.

The chapel..

And the hall of mirrors etc.

Once I’ve put the Tsar’s place on the Baltic on, we’ll have a poll to see which one is the most popular 😉

Regards from Split

Toulouse

Just a short morning tour in the rose city, so called because of the red brick buildings, and also known for their rugby club.

Contradictory? Perhaps. Just a few days ago I heard a Scottish comedian saying that you can tell a lot about a nation by looking at their breakfast. The French eat croissants, so they are flaky and a little gay!

I had a flight from Toulouse (home of Airbus) to Prague after a stay in Leucate and only spent one night. So just a morning tour.

The French were striking (as they often are), so we arrived on a train on a go slow. Something upset them and the dustbins come out on the streets, street fires are lit and everyone shouts ‘vive la France, vive la revolution‘. What exactly the link is between the revolution and wages in the 21st century is beyond me, but I guess they keep the spirit burning.

At least in France you always have entertainment. Two Frenchmen joined me on the train. The fact that I said there was no room for them with all the luggage, kept reading my book and said I don’t speak French was of no effect. What does it matter that I don’t speak French. They can speak it very well, so that’s ok.

Perhaps its because of the revolution that the French have this sense of community going or perhaps the other way around. If you are having a crisis, the French are right there with you. Whatever the crisis.

In this case the grêve. There is still a train, if you don’t mind waiting till this afternoon. And then it stops more than it goes. I suppose the timetable gets complicated with all the changes. But then they have the changes to often, I guess they have a special stike timetable.

Well we made it to Toulouse after leaving one guy, a chef, in a tiny village he had never been before, but accepted a job in, -good luck to him. The other guy let me off in Toulouse, he was on his way home if memory serves. His dad is verger at the cathedral in Chartre. Do we have something on Chartre yet?

He was nice enough to carry my bag off the train, he had to ask if I had a piano in there, but was galant enough to carry it any way. That’s how you know you are in France. The conductor helps you with your luggage if someone else hasn’t already.

Enough idle chatter (it costs lives you know 😉 ), on to the photos.

The Garonne flows past. If I have it right they extended the river in the 18th century to make the canal du midi linking the Mediterranean to the Atlantic Ocean.

It doen’t seem to be used commercially any more. Tourists still go on barques on the system. Next to the canals are old tow paths. People, or horses towing the boats used them to walk alongside the water. They say it is not too hard to tow a boat, they glide quite well. I haven’t tried.

Today people ride bicycles on these old tow paths and think they work less hard now 😉

Just look at the river. Majestic, no less.

If you read French or want to go to a lot of trouble, here’s a sign for you to read.

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Oh and here’s another.

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PS – Did you see the one about Catalonia?

Regards from the Netherlands!