We only had a day and a half in Carcassonne and really did not want to leave - not just because of the town itself, old/new and medieval but because the B&B in which we stayed just outside the medieval town was pure delight - the hosts, the room, the position, the enormous breakfasts and the good chats all helped to make us feel more informed and thus more at home.
The first evening we were there we decided to walk into the new/old town, passed the medieval town and see what Carcassonne had to offer. En route the landscape get almost Van Gogh - Cezanne. The sun only set about 9.30 pm so this late evening light is gorgeous for photography. As I mentioned in my last past, I have been so swept up in the atmosphere that I keep forgetting to take photos - which is really as it should be.
As Australia is such a young country I. Am always fascinated by age and the slow decay of buildings. This boulangerie sign has seen better days though the fascade still evokes lines of deliciously tempting pastries and breads.
The medieval cite of Carcassonne is really quite something viewed from a distance - from any angle driving back towards this city it is spectacular. We had been here before and were enchanted by it though this time, did not enjoy sharing it with so many tourists so enjoyed the vista more from a distance (though could not resist buying both almond and pistachio nougat as we wandered through in the direction of home!).
I loved the contrast of this sculpture in the park against the walls of the Beaux Artes Museum.
I overheard our host Eric speaking with other guests at breakfast, suggesting places they might like to visit and as you can imagine as soon as I heard the work 'booktown' I was engaged. It turns out that jsut up the road from Carcassonne is one of France's 'booktowns' called Montolieu. As it happened we took a walk along Canal du Midi before heading up there and arrived almost exactly at midday. We all know that from midday to 2pm (or even later) everything shuts and that was almost true here in Montolieu. Such an incredible beautiful village up in the hills, with ravines either side and sadly, not many book shops open at the time we were there and a sign on he museum saying it would not be open until 3pm. We did not want to wait that long but had a lovely wander around and I ended up having a lovely chat with one of the open bookshop owners who spoke beautiful English as he has been an importer of sheepskin 40 years earlier and had spent much time in Brisbane. He explained that they were the second booktown opening in France, about 50 years ago I think he said, preceded only just, but a booktown in Bordeaux. Not sure about my spelling here ...
One of the other quaint things in this village, and I have never seen it elsewhere was that around one of the corners we came across a fresh vegetable vendor - filled with produce by local farmers.
On the way to another mountainous area just outside Carcassonne, whose name I forget for the moment, we came across this derelict house. Without even asking him to, Steve pulled over and we ignored all the signs not to enter and went exploring. This is one of my great pleasures - poking through forbidden places (mostly because they are not safe) and imagining the life once lived there. Imagining the splendor before the rot. I took a number of photographs here and hope to write a short piece about this aging though once stately villa, make some images for an artist's book perhaps ...
Glorious colours inside one of the hallways - not that I would use them in my artwork, or would I?
Certainly I am thinking about it!
These were the 5th century ruins we went to visit - fortifications built precariously in guard positions to protect the gold mines in the area. Quite a climb up, but glorious views of the valley, or valleys below.
This is L'Orangerie where we stayed and were looking after so well. We happened to be there on both Saturday and Sunday nights and on Sunday's Jeanette cooks for the guests. We had such a pleasant evening all sitting around a large table, chatting for some hours and enjoying good food and company.
And of course I had to photograph some of the ivy patterned wall and the wood shed.
As I said, we were loathe to leave this area and feel very sure when we return to France, we will spend a great deal more time in this region. Both of us are keen to learn more about Cathar HIstory before we return.
Next stop - closer to the Dordogne region. An area of many small pilgrim towns .... In the next post.