Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Miirepoix Meandering

We've had two lovely drives from Mirepoix exploring the surrounding countryside of Arrieges and Cathar country. The Cathars were a religious sect who were eventually stamped out in the 14th C, and many of their last strongholds were in this area.

On Monday, after our market foray, we set out to drive to Foix, where the castle overlooks the town.

As we drove, we had some lovely view of the Pyrenees in the misty afternoon light.

We visited Rennes le Chateau

You can see both Sarah and Wayne enjoying the view

We ended up our trip with the astonishing view of Montsegur in the mist in its commanding position right on the top of a mountain.

Since we had all seen castles, we declined to climb to the top (at least that was our excuse). You can't help thinking of the poor peasants who hauled all that stone to the top of the mountain to build that castle.

On Tuesday the day was again overcast with bursts of sunshine. We  all loved the town of Alet-les-Bains, an unplanned detour after we saw a sign for an abbey in the town. And it was gorgeous, with beautiful old ruins of the abbey (note the tautology here with Sarah taking a picture of Lib taking a picture):

But there was more than just the abbey. We stopped in the little tourism office and got a map of the town and fell upon an absolutely beautiful untouched little square with half-timbered and old stone houses:

Narrow streets led off the square,

some with houses leaning in and familiar people at the end of the street.

As we often find, a detour from the plan yielded the highlight of the day!

Wayne had a lot of help driving on this trip: he had Mathilda (our nickname for the car's Australian-accented nav system), the highly American woman on the iPhone, and Sarah, and me, neither of whom are very assertive. :-) And oh yes, we had a fairly detailed map of the area with different categories of roads indicated, down to the very thin white ones. Sarah and I kept Wayne driving mostly on the white ones. At one point I looked at the nav system and it announced unnamed road.

As we headed down one road, it faded from pavement, to rough gravel, to really rough sharp stones, narrowing all the time. This totally flummoxed the nav system which had us positioned in the middle of nowhere:

We neglected to take a photo of the roughest part of the road, but by the time we reached this pretty section, it felt like a motorway to us!

Hm, it looks so civilized in that picture, but with the ups and downs, the hairpin turns and its extreme narrowness road, it was actually quite an adventure.

We spread out our lunch at the intersection of two roads on a convenient rock, with a beautiful view of a castle behind us.


 The few cars that passed mostly waved at us - I guess we looked pretty comfortable there.

Evvery turn in the road (and we passed many, many, many turns) seemed to deliver another pretty view of the Pyrenees, pleasant villages tucked in valleys, and castles, abbeys and other ruins.

We had left at 9:30 in the morning and returned at 6 p.m. after a wonderful day.  Grreat countryside.

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