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Day 5 (I): Cordes-sur-Ciel – Cats are not dolls

 

On day 5 of our stay in the Tarn et Garonne, we visited Cordes-sur-Ciel. Cordes is a fortified medieval village and was the most important must see of the area according to the travel guides we took along. The village lies high up on a hill and reminded me of St.Cirq-Lapopie but it was much much quieter down here.

Driving through the village is not allowed (and not possible anyway) so we left the car in a car park at the bottom of the hill and climbed up towards the skies.

Main street with all sorts of small artisan shops

Banners in the main street

Passageways underneath houses

Panoramic view from the terrace at the highest point of the village

A house. Zoom in on the balcony now.

Meal or murder? Fairly spooky inn sign.

Mannequins in a window, slightly creepy.

Picturesque street

A curious grotesque

If animals could read…

Shop in the main square, selling all kinds of lecterns and personalised medieval style books and manuscripts. Bit kitsch, ok, ok.

A bad case of pareidolia. I see a surprised face in this. Do you?

Decorative shutter clamp

Time to visit the church:

John the Baptist in a golden fleece. There were many gold painted statues in the churches we visited. They do like bling over here.

Modern painting of Jesus, signed M. Masquin. I have never seen so many Jesuses in one week, nb.

Stained glass window with Saint Sebastian

Then it was time to cuddle the cats:

This pretty cat was not very friendly. When a little girl tried to stroke it, the cat slapped her hand.

This cat was friendly and when I stroked it, it started purring.

But we were not alone. We were being watched by a hidden cat:

After my daily cat cuddles it was time to head on to our next destination, but that is for a new post.

 

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Day 4: Montricoux – Cows, Cats and some Mussels

We went on foot and saw some kamikaze birds in the street  (French people drive like crazy in general. A few seconds later two cars came speeding round the corner and the first one made an emergency stop so the second driver almost collided with him. An argument ensued. The birds escaped unharmed.)

On day 4 we paid an extensive visit to the village of our base camp.  In 2015 there were 1183 inhabitants in Montricoux according to Wiki so as you can guess from these numbers, the village is small but it is very picturesque and quiet. It was a cloudy day around noon so all the shops were closed (siesta hours) and there were hardly any people around. The tourist office consisted of two tables with leaflets and a phone and a set of keys. From this evidence I deducted that a live person is manning the office and that there weren’t many thieves or tourists in the area (despite the warning on the church door claiming the contrary).

According to the guide there is only one must see monument in the village: the castle in which the musée Marcel Lenoir is housed. I will write a separate post about this.

First of all we had a peek around in the church, Saint Pierre de Montricoux. Most French churches are very dark inside so the quality of the pictures is not great.

The square with the austere medieval church. Note the large crowds of tourists.

A statue of Joan of Arc, who is also present in some other churches we visited.

The inside of the church with – amazingly – an other visitor apart from us

One of those creepy glass coffin saint thingies

Skulls on old grave stones

After the visit to the museum around the corner we continued our stroll through the village.

La vache qui rit above a door. The cow is the trademark red cow of a brand of molten cheese, but I assume also a reference to Lenoir (see above) who painted a still life with a box of the famous triangular cheese packets.

Rue de Templiers or Templar Street, but the Templars disappeared a long time ago

There are four cats in this picture. Good luck finding them.

[Solution: cat in flower pot on the left; red cat in the middle and mother cat and kitten on the right]

Potted cat

When we saw a poster for a “Big food market with musical animation”, we made a note in our agenda:

Visions of a lively market with folk musicians and stalls with lots of fresh bread, olives, savoury quiches, cheeses, etc appeared before our eyes. Alas, when the time came, it was raining heavily. So we had to be patient.

Luckily after an hour it stopped raining and we marched towards the village, ravenous like templars and ready to attack the food. When we got there, it was suspiciously quiet in the centre of the village. No location was indicated on the poster but we assumed it would be on the terrace near the river so onwards we marched.

When we finally got there, we saw this:

What? Where was that big food market? All we saw were a couple table with local people eating moules frites. (reminding us of our traditional local “mossel soupers”). There was a small buvette, i.e. a stall where you could buy a drink, and a wagon where moules frites, paella or chicken wings could be ordered. This is France!

The musical animation was a recording. We walked around, not sure what we’d do, and got stared at as if we were curious aliens so we retreated hastily.

Ok, back to the house it was. Luckily we had a plan B and food in the house.

Au revoir!

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Day 3: Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val – Rats, Cats and a Serpent

We arrived on Saturday the 14th, the French national holiday, just in time to watch the match for 3rd and 4th place in of the World Cup 2018, not that I am much of a soccer fan. After the match we had a quick swim and ate dinner.  The crickets were very loud. In the evening there were some fireworks for the French national holiday but due to the trees there wasn’t much to be seen.

The next day our first mission was to find food so we went shopping in the supermarket near Négrepelisse. Most supermarkets are open on Sunday mornings. After a light brunch we drove to Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val. It was market day, so quite busy but manageable. Stalls offered the usual French fare: lots of pork charcuterie (not a fan), goat’s cheese (not a fan) and other cheeses (Cantal yum), vegetables and fruits, olives and garlic and artisanal products such as goat’s milk soap made locally (or in China if we have to believe a documentary we saw on French tv about common French summer tourist scams). Not sure who Saint Antonin is but the streets were lovely. I didn’t take pictures of the market, mostly for privacy reasons.

Note: any people you will see in the pictures in this and coming posts are not us but random passers-by. If it is you and you do not want to be here, let me know and I’ll remove you.

Houses at the banks of the Aveyron

On the bridge from the car park towards the centre

Some “couleur locale”

Not sure if this studio is still in business. The pictures were very faded.

Bilingual street signs

Au Lion D’Or, an inn from the 13th century

 

Adam, Eve and the Serpent on the Old Town Hall

This grumpy cat is not the Guardian of Eden but of a medieval garden. It hissed at us when we tried to pass.

Here Eleven is symbolised by a rat with bags of money, how appropriate, lol. (inside joke)

Another cat, not so menacing this time

In several village we encounterd these book swapping “libraries”, mostly full of French paperbacks, sometimes in other languages.

And this is the last picture of Saint-Antonin.

When we got back we watched the final match of the World Cup. The village we stayed in seemed almost deserted most of the times but that evening there was much rejoicing in the distance. No cars were torched in this neighbourhood as far as I know.

Au revoir.

 

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Day 1 & 2: Cat(har)s

So we went on a last minute holiday, entirely defined by the location of the rental holiday home we would be able to find just a few days before our departure. The requirements were simple: affordable house, no apartment or hotel and preferably not in a holiday park, and with a pool. Our initial plan was to go either to the Provence or to Italy but we ended up in a cabin in the woods, somewhere in the centre of an imaginary triangle drawn between Cahors, Toulouse and Albi. Three years ago we went on a boat trip with relatives on the Lot, which is about 50 km to the North, a few years ago to the Dordogne which is more to the West and I’d been in the region of Carcassonne a couple times before but this was unknown territory of the Languedoc, with lots of remnants of Templars and the Albigensian crusade. Our base camp was located at the outskirts of a small village near the borders of the Aveyron. Yes, we went to France, after they’d beaten us in the World Cup. Treason!

After the touristic mayhem of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie and Fontaine-de-Vaucluse the area seemed almost devoid of tourists. Once there were Cathars here, and boy, did we see a cats. Usually the French countryside is overrun with loose dogs, but here there were endless amounts of cats lying around. I seem to have photographed more cats than churches.

Yes, I am going to show some holiday pictures, ha ha ha ha.  Hopefully you find them interesting. Thematically arranged, not chronologically. I may have messed a few up, as I don’t always remember where I took the pictures (and will rely on Google sometimes).

Location: France. Region: the Midi-Pyrénées aka  Occitania. It is greener and more humid than the Provence We had plenty of rain and thunderstorms (in the evenings and during the night luckily). The days were hot, and the nights were cool. And, as with any damp region near a river, plenty of mosquitos. Every day we visited a couple villages, some of them part of the Bastides Albigeoises (info can be found on the www, not going to bore you with this). Very medieval, very clean, and almost devoid of tourists (hurray). Fairytale villages fit for Hobbits. The busiest places we went to were Saint-Antonin (but it was market day) and Cordes (but compared to Saint-Cirq it was nothing). Jesus was everywhere but there are also plenty of artists and artisans around, and a few art galleries and museums.

First we had to drive there, though, overcoming the following obstacles:

French traffic and the Seine (every time we go to or via Paris I try to photograph the Eiffel tower, nb)

Low tunnels

Purgatory aka French toilets (this was before I used it)

It was more modern than usual but also more disgusting than usual. It looks like some torture device.

The Ibis

Arrival time for the house was Saturday but we left on Friday, keeping the French national holiday and resulting traffic in mind. We often book at an Ibis because it is not too expensive and they’re all more or less the same so you know what to expect. The only affordable room along the way was in the Ibis Budget in Châteaudun, to the West of Orléans. There were some rooms available in the Formula1 near Orléans but after reading the reviews we changed our mind. The Ibis hotels are usually located in the local business park or similar. This one was next to the Intermarché (a large supermarket) and a couple restaurants which was convenient as we were hungry. The room was basic but ok. We’d booked breakfast as well as not to lose time in the morning,. Usually the Ibis breakfasts are acceptable, but this one stank.. The room was dirty, there was barely any bread, no yoghurt, barely any cutlery or plates, the coffee was tepid and the viennoiseries were stale. After reading some review afterwards, it seems like this is not unusual. (The receptionist had to take care of the breakfast room as well, and he couldn’t handle both jobs equally well, obviously). Plus there are always the shameless people who stack their plates with everything  in sight and then don’t eat it, like an annoying family just before us.

You have been warned.

That’s it for now.

 

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I was not here

 

No updates this week as I went away on a last minute trip. Beggars can’t be choosers. We didn’t end up in the destination we planned originally and travelled to an other place, a place without wifi and not too many people.

Now I am still sorting through the pictures and the laundry.  An update will follow in the coming days.

I was here.

Till soon.