Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Bonjour! I have just returned from a short holiday to France, I did not think it was safe to advertise the fact before going as you never know who reads blogs!
My eldest daughter Deirdre,partner and daughter Niamh have lived in the S.W of France in the Carcassonne area for the last 3 years and this is the first time I have visited.
Flying out from Dublin over the bay,I am not sure exactly what the beach is called but it looks beautiful basking in the autumn sunshine.
Outside my daughter's house grapevines in the field next door, the grapes have been harvested and the autumn colour is visible everywhere.Its a big wine making region, Limoux is the nearest big town and Blanquette is the regional wine,it is a sparkling wine and they say the forerunner of Champagne!
The small village where they live, there is not even a shop there just quaint houses and winding narrow streets.Not much in the way of flowers at this time of year, but I saw kiwis growing over an archway into a house, orange trees and walnut trees. I must admit I had never really thought where walnuts come from and was amazed to see them.Needless to say there were olive trees everywhere and in summer there are fields of sunflowers as making sunflower oil is also another local industry.
This scary fellow holding up a church holy water font is the god Asmodeaus, keeper of secrets, guardian of hidden treasure and reputed to be the builder of Soloman's temple.
Rennes-le-Chateau is just a short drive away, the hilltop village which spawned the Da Vinci Code and hundreds of books etc on the Knights Templar,Cathars and other mysterious stories.The story of a small village Abbe (priest)coming into untold wealth began coming out of France in the sixties and unleashed an avalanche of interest in the tiny village.
The abbe Sauniere only died in 1917 so it is not in the dim distant past by any means.When he came into wealth he began refurbishing the tiny church in a most garish style.Asmodeaus was one of the them and the inscription over the church door in latin translates to 'this is a terrible place'?!
Rennes-le-Bain is also involved in the mystery but was also a famed Roman baths, again beautiful during the summer months with cascading flowers etc.
There are lots of videos on Youtube if you wish to see and hear more of these two places, just type in the name of one of them.
No visit to Carcassonne is complete without a visit to the walled medieval fortress which rises over the modern city.There has been a fortress on this site for centuries and renovations began back in the 19th century.The narrow streets are cobbled and it is all pedestrianised, it is a fascinating place to see.We were lucky in Nov as it is mobbed by tourists in summer.
Even the smallest village has its war memorial to the villagers who lost their lives in the conflicts which were fought each time on french soil.
Remembrance day 11th Nov, all of the villagers walked up to the mayors office and gathered behind the mayor,a small band and the french flag and we all walked the few hundred yards to the war memorial
At the memorial the Mayor read a speech which this year came from President Nickolas Sarkozy as it was a unique date being 11th minute of the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th year of the new century.
The two elderly men in front are World War 2 survivors, as I looked at them I wondered what was going through their minds as they gazed at the memorial to their fallen comrades.A rousing version of the French national anthem was played after the speech then we all walked to the local hall where wine,minerals and snacks were served courtesy of the Mayor's office.
Home now to grey bleak Nov skies and rain!