Le Château d’ Aguilar

 

 

 

 

 

 

Le Château d’ Aguilar rises in the Cathar country, ensconced in a landscape of aromatic garrigue vegetation. A stark contrast to the  order of the Haut Fitou vineyards. Set on the rock like a crown, the castle looks over the village of Tuchan. The first mention of Puy Aguilar appeared in the testament of the Count of Besalù in 1020.

 Possession of The Château fell under the auspices of vassals of the Trencavel family. The crusade to eradicate the Cathars began in 1209 lasting until 1255. At the conclusion of this inquisition, the castle was property of the King of France. Ownership was bestowed to Olivier de Termes as a reward for services rendered in the Holy Land.

In 1258, the castle was brought into service in defending the French-Aragon border. In 1260 the castle was integrated  info the royal domain by The King of France, Louis IX and became a royal fortress.

The castle is composted of two hexagonal walls. One composed of two rooms (upper and lower) and constructed in the 12th century. The lower floor was designated for the guards and light came through the vaulted narrow windows. The upper floor served as home to the castle keeper. 

The outer hexagonal wall added in the 14th century and is flanked by six semi-circular towers to impede invading armies. Outside its curtained walls to the east stands the Romanesque chapel of St. Anne.

A traditional Romanesque chapel dedicated to St Anne    stands on the outside of the curtain-wall, on the eastern side. The castle and the surrounding area obtained status as a Historical Monument in 1949.

Information is available in several languages at the bureau located at the foot of the trail. You can purchase books and postcards or grab a bottle of water. The castle is currently undergoing repairs and excavation to the subterranean levels which have long been inaccessible.

Bisous,

Léa

Feu de la Saint-Jean/Fête de la Musique

Le feu

The Midsummer day is merely in reference to the period  of time centered upon the summer solstice, but more often refers to specific European celebrations that accompany the actual solstice, or that take place on a day between June 21 and June 24, and the preceding evening. There can be a variation of dates between different cultures. In Estonia, Lativa and Scandinavian cultures, is it the most important holiday of the year with the exception of Christmas.

Before the flames

The French will celebrate the Fête de la Saint-Jean or le feu de la Saint-Jean, with bonfires reminiscent of pagan solstice rituals. The association with Saint-Jean was used when the Catholics adopted the tradition. In my village, the festival takes place near June 21st. The festivities are launched by a drumming group. Even though there is a DJ for the dancing to follow, the drummers stay to enjoy the festival and to lead the procession at 11:30 around the village for the lighting of the bonfire. A number of people carried colorful paper lanterns suspended on a pole as we walked about the village.

In some parts of France, the event is called Chavande and also known as Fête de la Musique. In some parts of the world it is known as World Music Day and associated with an event that was launched here in France on 21 June, 1982 and celebrates the gift of music. While music is usually a major component to any celebration here in France, it does not take center stage at this local venue.

Dinner space converts to dance space
Two members of the Drumming Circle
Two members of the Drumming Circle

The idea of the World Music Day was   conceptualized first in France in 1976 by American musician Joel Cohen who proposed an all-night music celebration to mark the beginning of the summer solstice.
The idea was taken up by French Music and Dance director Maurice Fleuret for Minister of Culture Jack Lang in 1981 and first took place in 1982 in Paris.
Since then, it has become a worldwide phenomenon with over 32 countries worldwide having their own celebrations in their own way, regardless of the season.

           Bisous,

Léa

 

Bon appetit!

Carcassonne: La Cité- Part2

Carcassonne: La Cité- Part2

La Cité

The Historic Monuments Commission agreed to undertake the restoration of La Cite in 1844. 

Two concentric rings of curtain wall surround the city, the ramparts cover a total of 3km. Parts of the inner wall show the remains of Roman times. The second wall is separated from the first and was constructed in the 13th Century.

There is a total of 52 towers surrounding the city and the Chateau Comtal, the heart of the fortifications. Originally the palace of the viscounts, it was reinforced and protected by a semi-circular barbican and a moat.

The genesis of Carcassonne goes back to pre-Roman time. The Cité’s structure today derives from the 11th and 12th centuries. Throughout this time, Carcassonne was ruled by the Trencavel family. The Trencavel’s were central to the development of the Cathar religion.
The Cathars were generally known as “bons hommes” “bons chrétiens” and “parfaits”, they were regarded as heretics by the Catholic Church, and the ensuing conflict was characterized by unspeakable violence and persecution. In the summer of 1209 forces led by the papal legate Arnaud-Amaury, consisting of “crusaders” and armies of the King of France, laid siege to Carcassonne.

Despite this, in August 1209, Carcassonne fell. The young Vicomte, Raymond-Roger Trencavel, was thrown into his own prison and died there aged 24. Simon de Montfort was installed as the new Viscount.
Today the Trencavels’ Château Comtal is a powerful reminder of the medieval need to protect one’s home – a fortified sector within a heavily fortified town. Only one gate was wide enough for carts to pass into the Cité

La Cité is a must for most tourists to this region and children all find something to fascinate them. Money generated by the businesses there insure that the attraction will be there for future generations.

Bisous,

Léa

Carcassonne: La Cité – Part 1

The origins of Carcassonne are traced back to the 4th C BC.

In the 2nd Century BC it served as a strategic outpost fortified by the Romans, who gave it the name Carcassonne. The Visigoths succeeded the Romans and overran Gaul in the 5th C AD. When they converted to Christianity, it became a diocese. In the 8th Century the fortress fell to the Franks who later defended the city against attacks from the Saracens.

The Emperor Charlemagne besieged the town in 795, and was held by Dame Carcass, a Saracen princess. After a five year siege, the only food left was one little pig and a bag of corn. Dame Carcass gave the bag of corn to the pig and sent it out to the ramparts. Charlemagne raised the siege, since he thought there was enough food even to feed a small pig. Before the Emperor left, Dame Carcass rang out the bells making them sound the word Carcassonne.

In 1209, Crusades from the north came down the Rhone valley to stamp out the heretic Cathars.
The Viscount
Raymond Roger Trencavel publicly offered protection to all those being hounded by the northern invaders.

After sacking Beziers, the crusading army besieged Carcassonne. Despite the leadership of a youngl Trencavel, in his early 20’s, the town was forced to surrender after only two weeks through lack of water.

The Army council appointed Simon de Montfort, Viscount of Carcassonne in place of Trencavel.
River Aude
Within a year Trencavel was found dead in the tower where he was being held prisoner.

In 1240 Trencavel’s son tried in vain to recapture Carcassonne by siege. Although his mines and missile breached the walls, he was forced to retreat by the royal army.

St Louis IX had the small towns around the ramparts razed and the town’s inhabitants paid for their rebellion with seven years in exile. Upon their return they were permitted to build a town on the opposite side of the river Aude- the present Ville Basse. The walled city was repaired and reinforced. When finished, it was so well fortified it was regarded as impregnable.

Successive kings reinforced Carcassonne because of its strategic importance close to the border with Catalonia. However, in 1659, the Treaty of the Pyrenees restored the region of Roussillon to France. The new border was now 200kms away, The city of Perpignan now guarded the frontier. Carcassonne’s military importance dwindled and was eventually abandoned and left to decay.
La Cité
When I first visited France in the spring of 2006, I spent a week in La Cité staying at the hostel and exploring the area. Before arriving, I began reading the book Labyrinth by Kate Mosse. Her descriptions of the area were so vivid and I felt I had stepped into the pages of the book.
Bisous,
Léa

La Fête du Muguet

La Fête du Muguet, La Fête du Travail, May Day in France is a public holiday to campaign for and celebrate workers’ rights. It is also an occasion to present  Muguet, lily-of-the-valley, or dog rose flowers to loved ones. Often it is just a single sprig of Muguet with a few leaves. However, some will incorporate a rose or even add several sprigs of Muguet to a much larger arrangement or plant.

How is the day celebrated: People across France give bouquets (or a single sprig) to their loved ones. In some areas, families will get up early to go into the woods to pick the flowers. Labor organizations will sell the flowers on the streets on May 1. Special regulations enable individuals and some groups to sell the flowers on May 1 without complying with retail regulations or paying a tax.

Parades and demonstrations to campaign for the rights of workers are organized by Trade unions and other organizations.  Campaigns for human rights and other pressing and current social issues will be out in number.

May 1 is a public holiday. Businesses will be closed as well as banks, post offices, and shops. Other than a high traffic tourist area restaurants and even cafes may close. In the major cities, the airport, railway station along the highways (tolls)  may be open.  There could be disruption to traffic in the heart of large cities especially Paris due to Parades and demonstrations. There could also be limited access to Public transportation so check before setting out.

On May 1, 1561, King Charles IX of France was presented with Muguet and was so enamored of the gift that he instituted the tradition of presenting them to the ladies of his court. In 1900 men began presenting them to women as an expression of affection or interest. Today, they are given as a token of affection/appreciation between family members and close friends.

When the eight-hour working day was made official on 23 April 1919 the first of May became a public holiday. During World War II, the holiday ceased but was resumed in 1947. One year later, it became known as La Fête du Travail or Labor Day. It is a day used to campaign for and celebrate the rights of workers across the Country.

Don’t forget to click on those photos!

 

  Bisous,

Léa

Camp Joffre

 “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” – Albert Einstein

La belle France. Yet even the most beautiful of gardens have both thorns and weeds. The group Eurocultures invited me to visit Camp Rivesaltes otherwise known as Camp Joffre where we would visit a memorial to some of its darker past. A very short distance from the beautiful waters of the Mediterranean and just the other side of the tracks lies the remnants of a concentration camp.

For nearly eight years I have tried to share with you some of the beauty in my chosen home. However, this scar must not be glossed over nor forgotten.

 

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Dedication of museum by Manuel Valls 2015
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Inside the new museum

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La Fuente Family

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A starving child 1941
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Belongings confiscated along with hopes and dreams…

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Testimony to man’s inhumanity to man.

Though the walls are crumbling and little remains of the buildings, many artifacts are carefully preserved in the new climate protected museum.

Rivesaltes Internment Camp – Camp Joffre opened in 1938 and was not to close its doors until 1970. This beautiful Country has had much pain, cruelty, and suffering inflicted on it and its people. Many of those coming through this camp did not originate in France but may have spent their final days here. With the rise of fascism rampant in numerous parts of the world, I felt it imperative to reblog this post.

 

Bisous,

Lea

 

French Kiss Gratuit!

Free French Kiss!

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 These brave young men were walking across the plaza in the nearby city of Narbonne with their sign, smiles and three other friends (one female). However, they were the only two willing to be photographed. I suspect they were just grateful that this not so young woman was not going to demand that kiss. This is just a small example of just how friendly the French can be.

 

Despite the brevity of this post, I do believe the photo says it all.

 

Bisous, 

Léa

 

 

A black cat in Montmartre

If one is to be Le Chat Noir, this is the part of France to be. Alas, my Chat Noir is down on the Mediterranean with me and two sister felines (not black).

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In the old days, Montmartre was the end of some Metro lines. “Direction Montmartre”. Not any more. It’s actually hard to find the appropriate station to go to “Matha’s hill”. I recommend Lamarck-Caulaincourt. No stairs, just walk up from the back. (The first half of this post has just been wiped out by WP. Grrr. Start from scratch. Patience, patience.)

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Le chat noir, the black cat, has become a symbol of Montmatre. Who doesn’t have this sketch on a mug? A cabaret, it was founded by Rodolphe Salis in 1881. It soon drew a crowd of artists and “bohemians”, establishing the reputation of the “hill” as a haven for artists, then and now.

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Sleeping angel. Montmartre, 2018.

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Urban strawberries. Strawberries? Seriously? Yes. Check the leaves. (Do not expect any kind of logic here. This is a Montmartre Pot-pourri)

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Le théâtre du chat noir. To lure…

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Another Walk About my Village…

“My wish is to stay like that, to live quietly in a corner of nature.” – Claude Monet

“Just living is not enough… You have to have the sun, freedom, and a little flower.”   – Hans Christian Anderson

“Nature is the source of all true knowledge. It has its own logic, its own laws. It has no effect without cause, and no invention without necessity.”     – Leonardo da Vinci

20190424_075201 Grass disappears without electric or gas power. The mother and her two children are led to available grazing spots as needed. Their permanent home is located north-east of the village center in a pasture behind the chateau.

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20190522_091817How a neighbor’s garden grows and grows.  Father and mother on one side of the tiny intersection, son and his family where you see this garden. Together, they maintain this and a small orchard/vineyard across the road. As things ripen, the excess is sold to those who are in search of excellent produce after 5pm in the evenings.

20190522_091914-1The fledgling orchard they have created may appear small but more than adequate for their needs.  The olive trees in the center and a border of vines. In addition to what you see in these to photos, they have several vineyards on the north-east end of the village. If you walk down the road between the orchard and Michel’s house, you will find our village waterfall approximately 200 meters up the path.

20190522_092326  These lovely, proud roses greet those who would enter the post office from that direction. The perfume they emit is intoxicating. There is no way I can just walk by. I  must stop, inhale and say thank you. Behind the post office is a small area with a bench perfect for escaping that hot Mediterranean sun as the trees are filling out. In the evenings, you can frequently find petanque teams who are determined to bring their game back up to where it was the previous season. In late summer, every village will host tournaments and offer prizes for the winners. Despite the smallness of the area, it is adequate for a game and there is much more space for gaming a short walk down the path.

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This photo has been shared in a larger size than the others so that you can see the structure of this plant. The geometric centers and the petals are fingerlike in shape. The bees that hover and lite upon them to feed are huge, noisy and have a reddish, purple glistening back and wings. To the right of center, the photo is one such bee if you can spot it. Between the bees and the wind, I just could not get closer and keep them in focus. If anyone is familiar with the plant, I would appreciate knowing more about it. Directly behind the plant are the tennis courts followed by the swimming pools. Off to the right of the plant is the soccer stadium and beyond that, there is a campground which has some cabins for rent and also room for tents.

Thank you to all for indulging me in my little walkabout. Some may even see a few of the reasons I love it so. When you visit France, please remember that France is more than Paris and while there are similarities among villages, each has its own charms.

While you are out and about enjoying nature, please remember all she has given us, her survival and ours, is in our own hands.

Bisous,

Léa