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Published: August 21st 2010
I've just been running around all week, friends and family have been arriving at various hotels around the area to celebrate my birthday, so I decided to make this a small blog about my week in the Aude. Dates are not used to protect the innocent.
Caroline and I arrived in Toulouse on August 4 and immediately get in line for our rental car. It turns out to be a VW Polo (Diesel). I have been forward thinking, and purchased a second hand TomTom in the UK, so I plug that puppy in, and lo and behold it doesn’t work. It's back to the map, which is not good for my relationship with Caroline.. After much bickering and a little bit of cursing on my behalf, we finally reach Mailhac. Our hosts have made a wonderful dinner and the next morning they are off camping. After being reset the TomTom does work for the remainder of the traveling around.
The region is South West France, and it is the 13th century. The area close to the city of Carcassone has a very violent history and is the scene of many brutal massacres by the evil, evil, Simon de Montfort.
The Cathars, a breakaway sect from Catholicism, bear the brunt of the Pope's ire, which result in purges of anything that isn't Catholic. The Cathars practice duelism where good and evil are equal and of course, this is cause for a very pissed off Pope. Yes, it's time for a crusade to wipe out those rebellious Cathars. Most, Cathar fortresses are razed to the ground and the inhabitants either slaughtered, converted to Catholicism, or in one case have their eyes gouged out and limbs hacked off before leaving a one eyed Cathar to lead the remainder out of the castle.
The main Cathar stronghold in the Aude was the fortified city of Carcassone. This city stands today, .and while not being completely original it is an amazing site; it is straight out of storybook land.. The walled city dates back to the 8th century and was re-built in the eighteen fifties. All the towers have slate hats and and arrow slit windows. It seems that these may have not been a part of the original fortress, but added for effect during the re-build. Unesco supposedly had trouble giving it world heritage status because of this fact.
English tourists to South Western France started in the 13th century. The “Black Prince” son of Edward did lots of raping and pilaging, no wonder the French were wary of the Brits. Today, there are Brits everywhere, all looking for there little bit of paradise in the sun.
Our time in South West France is spent visiting old Cathar strongholds, Minerve and Lastours as well as touring through the wonderful Albi Cathedral and Toulouse Lautrec Museum.
From August 8, through August 12, family and friends drift into the area to celebrate my 60th Birthday, Friday, August 13, which is being held at a restaurant , “Le Bergerie” in Aragon, just outside of Carcassonne. In the meantime, August 8, is my sister Ann's birthday and it is approximately 40 years since we have all been together to celebrate both our birthdays. Anyway, Ann has booked the family into a restaurant, Hotel D'Alibert, in Caunes-Minervois where we have a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon with the quirky owner Fredric.
My sister, Marian is also in town with her husband, Tadgh and their children, Joe and Ciara. We all head to Narbonne for the day when we hear that there is a
celebration in Narbonne to commemerate the liberation of Narbonne by US forces in the Second World War. They have GI's, a tank, jeeps and a tribute band to the Andrews Sisters. It's all very authentic and even Renee of the Resistance is there. A fun day.....
It's now August 13 and old friends from my days at BOAC have arrived in Carcassonne. In addition, the big event is attended by friends from NZ, Australia and France. I can honestly say that it is a night that I will remember, the food is excellent, as is the service. Caroline will review the restaurant in her blog. And the company can only be described as most excellent. I'd like to thank all of you for coming and Denis and Sue for sending the cardboard effigies.
The following evening Saturday, August 14, the Brits and a couple of us Kiwi's have dinner, this time it is a restaurant recommended by Rob and Erica. I for one had a wonderful meal, although those of the party that ordered steak as a main course were a little dissapointed.
Unfortunately, I have been a little under the weather over my birthday and must
Hanging with my family.
apologize to anyone that has come down with the flu.....Thank you Erica for being there with the antibiotics. I take to my bed on Sunday and get ready for our Canal Boat trip starting in Valence Sur Baise. Monday, August 16
It's up bright and early, clean house and we're off to Agen, stopping at Valence Sur Baise to see whether we take the boat from Valence, or from Agen. Now, this should have been sorted out over the past two weeks, rather than leaving it to the day of departure. And now I am feeling a little negative even before the trip has started. The starting point was indeed Valence Sur Baise, but we are in Toulouse before learning of this fac. Myself and Stephen each have cars, so we drop the ladies off in Valence with the luggage and head to Agen and the Europecar office to return our vehicles. It's a public holiday and they don't open until 2.00pm, we of course have been kept in the dark on this fact. Also,because of the holiday there are no buses, so we beg, walk and hitch our way to the Locaboat base in Valence. ..........
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