May 1 - May 3:  Bonjour from Cannes-Minervois

We stayed in a small town near Carcassonne for three nights. Carcassonne is a very well preserved 13th century fortress city. It looks just like you would picture it should, with a drawbridge, double wall, and lots of towers with pointed hats. It was fun, and especially pretty completely lit up at night. Its basilica had nice stained glass and gargoyles. Quite different from the art filled churches in Italy. Italy’s churches rarely had windows and the walls were covered in frescoes, sculpture, paintings, etc. from the Renaissance period. France’s churches are plainer, but have beautiful stained glass. Many have Roman remnants, but were redone in Gothic.

The next day we hooked up with a friend from Gig Harbor, Nelly Campbell, her son Nick, and her friend Louis in Ramonville near Toulouse. Nelly had another visitor from the states, Diane, staying with her. After brunch at her apartment on the Midi Canal (which goes from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean!), we all caravanned to three small villages and Toulouse. Rob wanted to track down an ancestor’s house in Isle-in-Doden, the Villepigue house. It was a fun adventure, and we met two villagers in the town. The house was quite large and impressive, but uninhabited. We took photos to show Rob’s distant cousins in St. Emilion in a couple of days.

Simorre had a beautiful church with stained glass, gargoyles, a pieta, and an interesting carved wooden choir area. Gimont had a large wooden market area that the road passed right through.

Toulouse had a huge Romanesque Basilica of St. Sernin with a sarcophagus and lots of saints’ relics. The Place du Capitole had a nice square in front, and very nice huge impressionist paintings by Martin. Church Les Jacobins had a unique arched ceiling and relics from St. Thomas Aquinas. The cloister was beautiful.

The next day we visited Lastours with its 4 ruined Cathar castles. The Cathars were Christians who believed in St. John, baptism, reincarnation, and were vegetarians. They hated material things. The pope didn’t like their brand of Christianity, and the King of France wanted more control of Southern France, so this poor group of people were targeted and completely wiped out during the Albigensian Crusades (1209-1240’s). The hike up to the 4 castles was very pretty. Each one was on the tippy top of 4 hills with deep ravines all around. They belonged to 4 siblings. We also visited another Cathar hideout in a town called Minerve. It was a beautiful town built into the side of a canyon.

Hope all is well, Pat