Tuesday, 14 September 2010

The Pyrenees

We took a trip to the far Southwest of Languedoc- the Pyrenees mountains along the border of Spain. It was hot, dry and totally remote.

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Along the Cathar trail, there are a series of strategic mountain tops graced with the ruins of forts and castles.

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It was beautiful, rugged countryside dotted with small medieval villages and farmland.

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Chateau de Queribus

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Chateau de Peyrepertuse

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Chateau de Puilaurens

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These were the only horses that we found that weren't on the menu.

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All that hiking and castle-storming wears on you. We had the most amazing lunch at Auberge de Cucugnan.

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An assortment of pate, boudin noir, local cured ham, and Saucisson Sec.

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Wild boar. Note the customary manner of putting a jug of rose on the table with lunch.

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A pear and Roquefort tart, which was this meltingly pungent combination. It reeked of awesomeness.

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gateux, which was so rich and dense. Really, not something that I usually eat in the heat of the day, but it was that compelling.

They consider a cultural faux pas if you skip lunch. It was all enough to make me weep with joy.

We also stopped in at Carcassonne, on the Canal du Midi.

It's a hopelessly tacky tourist trap that looks interesting only from afar. Some genius in marketing had decided that re-creating the medieval village (which was a cathar stronghold in the 13th century) was just the economic boost the region needed. Filling it with ye olde medieval times junk shops, restaurants (which were all playing the world cup on their big-screen televisions- soooo not with the Medieval Times) and hiring re-enactors for nightly jousts had turned what might have been a fascinating historic site into a crowded Disneyland.

We ran in and out of this place in about an hour. Any longer and I would have felt like we were loitering. The enormous city walls were impressive, but the winding narrow streets were just filled with so much tacky cheap made-in-China tchotchkes. I felt that it really went against the spirit of the rest of what we had seen in the area: local craftsmen and farmers who were intensely proud of their livelihoods and products.

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There is a beautiful church in the center that is mostly original- the Basilica of Saint-Nazaire. Lots of stained glass and gargoyles.

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I felt like this one echoed my reaction well.

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