France - 140 - Foix/Mirepoix/an arcaded bastide town/grade II listed/croissants, bread, coconut cakes and a bag of goodies


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Europe » France » Midi-Pyrénées » Mirepoix
October 9th 2018
Published: October 17th 2018
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What makes the perfect town? A good well designed empty motorhome spot?. Mirepoix ticked that box. An easy walk into town?. Ticked box again. A lively busy environment ? It certainly delivered on that one. It needs an interesting square full of jaw dropping camera opportunites. Mirepoix was still delivering in bucketloads. Shops including a large Super U ? Of course they were there. A gatehouse ? We found that down a backstreet. And how about a brocante a Sunday tat market? Yes that was there in Mirepoix too. There was nothing missing . We even were treated to an organ grinder and a box of amazing cakes.

After a very wet and sleepless night accompanied to the sound of thunder and heavy rain and the light show we had made the initial decision to drive from our grey and damp campsite high up in the mountains over the valley to Foix. We knew that the drive would be as interesting as the one over the col to Ax. OUr plan was to follow the E09 north to Foix. Foix would have delivered on beautiful houses all kept to Graded listings if they were in Great Britain. A castle high up on the hill , the chateau de Comtes de Foix. set just up from a typically french town square .

The town square was where Silly Sat Nag was pointed as it should have provided us with motorhome sized camping spaces. We already knew there was parking available and it was handy for the town and the chateau. However, as with all of this holiday things did not quite go to plan. We found ourselves looking at the castle which looked impressive and inviting and we also found the main square . The parking was there and any other day we could have parked up easily but today being a Sunday the local brocante market had turned up and taken it over. There was not a space to park the smallest of cars. We tried driving up the street looking for alternatives. Glimpsing tantalising views of the castle and the half timbered houses down side streets. . Silly took us round the block and out of town suggesting that we might find the car park and then brought us back round to the same spot on the same square. With a car we might have found a back street to park but with a motorhome we had little else to do but give up on Foix. Foix lost out not us we thought.

Our next plan was to leave Foix by the same way we came in and head further north to the more rural N119 which woudl take us to the smaller town of Mirepoix. Not many miles up the road it boasted excellent motorhome parking and we found it easily. Yes it was good , plenty of room and mostly empty. We could have stopped for the night for free which is always a bonus. There was no water available nor could we empty our toilet cassette but all in all the parking was excellent. Having no water point wasnt a problem.

The parking was only a few minutes walk too from town. Did I say that a quiet car park for a motorhome makes for the perfect town? I didnt but believe me this was next to the cemetery so we were not going to be disturbed that much by the inhabitants. Also another thing that makes the perfect town is a church. It does not necessarily have to be a big one but it does set the scene especially when they ring the bells to welcome us in. Mirepoix had the church and we could see it which meant that if we walked towards it then we would surely end up in the town.

The town appeared - yes that is the right word. There it was in front of us . It blew us away. A perfectly formed arcaded bastide. It looked lovely. Adjectives cannot describe its simplicity nor its beauty. It was what we had been missing the last few weeks. It was what France does best. The square was surrounded to all sides by the wooden arcades with their joists sticking out. Some were plain with little ornamentation . Others were heavily carved with heads, bearded figures and apparently a turtle . Sadly we did not find the turtle. We have been to many bastides but Mirepoix has to be the best we have come across .

The brocante market was in full swing . Under each arch was a table. On the table and spilling onto the floor were items for sale. Glass bottles with nothing in them, clothes, scales , items that had some kind of dubious past , items that were broken. Items that I would have thrown in a skip were being sold . The market had the lot and visitors were eagerly looking over the goods and buying them. A babble of noise came from the animated conversations between the shopkeepers, the tat sellers and the visitors. I just felt what was missing were the antique dealers from "Put your money where you mouth is" - a programme on our British TV where antique dealers sometimes visit Belgian and French markets where they buy items to resell in the UK . The profits go to the charities of their choice. We meandered from arch to arch, from shop to shop and just stood at times with our minds being blown by the simple beauty of the town.

The shops underneath were good old fashioned bakeries, pastry makers and cake shops. Their windows showcasing their goods. Tempting us inside to buy. Charcuteries and souvenir shops. All bustling . The cafes were old fashioned and inside were full of men and women, old and young enjoying a Sunday coffee and a chat. Some reading the Sunday newspapers or a magazine. On the walls old fashioned parisian advertisements, stuffed animals and in the corners old fashioned record players. We found one cafe , found a seat and sat people watching whilst drinking our coffees. Before we left we looked at the cakes . You cannot walk past a french cake shop unless you have a cast iron will and an empty pocket. My purse had about 15 euros left in it. I was worried I would not be able to buy the cakes of my choice . Greedy well yes that was true but they all looked so good. It was hard to just pick a few. We could have eaten the lot. I started with a choux pastry cake filled with cream and something like a profiterole on the top. . My second choice was a chocolate slice richly decorated followed by a tart full of fresh raspberries and pistachio nuts especially for Sion . Next came a coconut slice followed by a custard tart . I stopped to check how much I had spent . Still enough left for a fresh baguette and for two croissants and still a bit of change left . Clutching my treasures I headed out into the square and stood admiring the shutters all painted different pastel shades . Cornflower blue, mint green, cream, raspberry pink and peach . They were all different but they all blended in perfectly . Wherever we looked there was something to see. The stone of the buildings mellow.

Then we heard the music . An old organ was being played in the middle of the square by an old man. He and his wife sang some old french folk song to the music from music sheets whilst he turned the wheel and the music flooded out from the organ. You could hardly hear her singing . She was completely drowned out by the organ grinder who sang lustily in a style that sounded like a cross between Maurice Chevelier and Charles Aznavore. Both of whom had been smoking a rather copious supply of french cigarettes. The throaty notes filled the square . Strangely it was rather perfect and set the scene.

Our last stop in the town was the church . Built originally as a church it had over time been upgraded to a cathedral. OUtside it was rather ordinary with little ornamentation but from inside came the sound of an organ . The rich tones blasting away a hymn for the congregation to sing to. We opened the door and the music wafted out into the street. There was a sign on the door asking us not to enter whilst the service was underway. So sadly we had little choice but to peek for a short time, take one photograph and move on after standing and listening to the music and to the cleric when he started to talk to the congregation.

What a lively place Mirepoix turned out to be. What a place to spend a while on a Sunday morning. Just when we thought Mirepoix could give no more we found the super U . Chance to top up on groceries , top the fridge up and buy the new Clipper lighter to replace the old one. All in all a good mornings work. Things felt as if they were getting back to what we consider a good holiday. At last we felt as if things were coming together . If you wait long enough a beauty comes along. Mirepoix was that beauty.

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