Reunion in Castelnau-d’Aude…

Just a bit over 300kms – no big deal – and we’re due to meet at Florence’s studio in Escales at about 2pm… plenty of time. Out onto the A62 at Cadillac, turn left and head for Toulouse. Brief stop for coffee and memories in Agen – and then on through Toulouse, onto the A61 until Carcassonne where we turn onto little country roads.

I’ll leave the geography and history for tomorrow (or the next day) – there’s plenty of time. Right now there’s people to meet and wine to drink…

Inside Carcassonne…

Carcassonne – the capital city of the Aude département. Named after the Aude River, which has its source is in the Pyrenees mountains, then runs through Carcassonne to the Mediterranean Sea near Narbonne. The region is now promoted as ‘Aude Pays Cathare‘ (Aude, Land of the Cathars) and this may force some to do a little research. I’m not known to have much patience with religion (ANY religion) but this is both fascinating – and terrible. We’re going to be here for over a week, and this will be a recurring theme…

Caunes-Minervois…

Later in the afternoon we take the long road back home, and visit the small medieval village of Caunes-Minervois. Another old church and more very bloody 12th and 13th century history…

Nine Locks and a Winery near the Beach…

Those of you who follow this story will know of our previous adventures on the Canal du Midi, which runs ‘between the two seas’ from the Atlantic port of Bordeaux to the Mediterranean port of Sete. Béziers is the hometown of Pierre-Paul Riquet (who designed and built the canal during the last half of the 17th century) – and also the location of the famous 9 Locks of Fonserannes…

Later in the day we drove to Narbonne-Plage to visit a winery we were told was ‘showing promise’. It was the Troubador who told us – we should have known…

Beziers…

x_fonserannes2In Béziers, the set of 9 locks, built in 1697, is the most spectacular on the entire 240km Canal du Midi, whether by number of locks, or by crossed altitude: 21.5 metres high and 300 metres long. Its succession of waterfalls and panoramic views of the city of Béziers, make it very special.

The final lock at the bottom allowed access to the Orb River, but is no longer in service. There were two more locks downstream which is why it is sometimes called the 9 (or 10) Locks of Fonserannes. Today, only 7 are still in use. In July and August, Fonserannes locks see a traffic of between 55 and 60 boats per day.

Now – to the winery… Chateau d’Angles

Back towards Narbonne – missed our turning for the beach. This meant driving all the way around the Massif de La Clape mountain range. Through Narbonne-Plage (The French, like the English, don’t do beaches well) and back up the coast in search of Chateau d’Angles. We had been given the owner’s name, and we met Eric Fabre and some of the family… but the Troubadour forgot to tell us who he was. The following is a quote from the website of one of their English agents

The Estate is owned and the wines made, by the renowned winemaker Eric Fabre, who spent 8 years as Technical Director at Chateau Lafite Rothschild and a further 6 years at Chateau La Cardonne which he took from a lesser known Medoc label to the highest accolades in that time. Judging by the awards and medals now being showered on the wines, it is clear that Eric Fabre is now being justly rewarded at Château d’Anglès.

Stunning wines, and for once I wasn’t driving. I’ve never been a spitter… Then, back to Castelnau-d’Aude at sunset, picked up Florence from her studio – and to Homps, on the Canal du Midi, for dinner.

A Quiet Day in Homps…

A gentle 3-4km stroll from Florence’s little house in Castelnau-d’Aude, through the vineyards, over the River Aude bridge and on into the little village of Homps. An open-air restaurant, a bar and an antique bookshop – all on the banks of the Canal du Midi. Nothing else needed!

It’s Taken Me 31 Years to get to Rennes-Le-Chateau…

It was March 30, 1981 and the father of one of the earliest Test Tube Babies was being interviewed on national TV. He was asked why he thought the Catholic Church seemed to have issues with the subject of In Vitro Fertilisation. He answered with a rather glib reference to possible sensitivities surrounding ‘the immaculate conception…’

Long story shortened… By early evening that day the father learned that Monash University had received a phone call from a senior notable of the church with the ‘suggestion’ that ‘that big-mouthed young man’ be ‘quietened down’ – or…

And so, for a while, I quietened down… But my disdain for the dogma of religion (ALL religions) continued – as did my contempt for bullies. That was the pre-Google era –  but, in 1983, I discovered a book called Holy Blood and Holy Grail. Then came the internet – and Google… Dozens of stories, many conflicting and contradicting… I have no idea if this one’s true or not (and I couldn’t care less) – but if this story serves only to give the church some grief, it’s OK by me.

I’m going to give you just one link – well maybe two – and you can Google the rest on your own – if you’re interested… I’m not going to preach… I don’t have any time for preachers!

Happy Birthday David…

Can’t tell you how old he is – it’s embarrassing…

A Day in the Black Mountains…

Florence took a day off from her pre-exhibition rush… The most qualified Tour Guide in Cathar Country.  Through the vineyards,  over the bridge at Homps, left to La-Redorte and north-west to Villeneuve-Minervois (Center of truffels in the Languedoc). Through the mountains to Montolieu and the fascinating restoration site of old 18th and 19th century manufacturing. Paper, books and art. Down through the valley to the magnificent ruins of the 13th century Abbaye-de-Villelongue – and a brief encounter with Star Wars. Then to the circular village of Bram…

The Romans started construction of Bram in 60BCE. The modern town was born in the 12th century, built around its fortress church.

“Bram was a centre of Cathar belief, a heresy from Christianity. Their differences with Rome brought the intervention of Simon de Montfort who, following a Spanish monk who became St Dominic, besieged the town in 1210. He succeeded in three days and took revenge on resistors by cutting off the top lip of all his prisoners and gouging out the eyes of all but one. For the last he gouged out only one eye so that he could lead the others out of the town…”

One Last Walk…

David and Patricia have headed North, Keith and I are heading South. Time to stock up on rations and take one last walk through the vineyards and along the Canal.

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More on The Third Trip – 2012…

1. Brisbane to Bordeaux
2. A Chateau somewhere
3. Together again… Aude, Pays Cathare
4. John & Keith, Unsupervised

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