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Mushroom Pie

  • ½ lb short pastry
  • lb mushrooms
  • 3 oz butter
  • 2 tablespoons Marsala wine
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup bechamel
  • 1 ¾ oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • onion
  • garlic
  • pepper
Butter a metal oven-dish with wavy edges of about 8 inches in diameter; line with the sheet of dough to a thickness of about 0,2 inch, prick all over, cover with some thin white paper, fill with dried peas, and put into a moderate oven. Remove after 15-20 minutes (it should be barely colored), remove the peas and the sheet of paper, leaving the crust in the oven-dish. Brush with beaten egg and leave in the oven doorway for a couple of minutes to dry the pastry. After this procedure, the crust may be filled. Cut the mushrooms into thick slices, sauté them in the butter for some seconds, add the chopped mixture of onion and garlic, mix, and as soon as the mixture is lightly golden, douse with Marsala wine. Allow to evaporate and reduce the mixture. At this point, pour in the cream, season with salt and pepper, continue cooking over high heat for 5 minutes, taking care to mix often, and then mix in the light béchamel. Cook for some seconds, then fill the crust with this mixture, and sprinkle with grated Parmesan and melted butter. Put into a hot oven. Serve when the surface has become nicely golden.
 
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Posted by on September 19, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Step ten (and last) – A walking through Castres

Another beautiful road led us north of Carcassonne, to visit the city of Castres….

Castres is a commune, and arrondissement capital in the Tarn department and Midi-Pyrénées region, and it lies in the former French province of Languedoc. Castres is (after Toulouse, Tarbes and Albi) the fourth largest industrial centre of the predominantly rural Midi-Pyrénées region and the largest in that part of Languedoc lying between Toulouse and Montpellier. It is noted also for being the birthplace of the famous socialist leader Jean Jaurès and home to the important Goya Museum of Spanish painting.

(above and below, old houses along the river Agout)

The name of the town comes from Latin castrum, and means “fortified place”. Castres grew up round the Benedictine abbey of Saint Benoît, which is believed to have been founded in AD 647, possibly on the site of an old Roman fort (castrum). Castres became an important stop on the international pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela in Spain because its abbey-church, built in the 9th century, was keeping the relics of Saint Vincent, the renowned martyr of Spain. It was a place of some importance as early as the 12th century, and ranked as the second town of the Albigeois behind Albi. Despite the decline of its abbey, which in 1074 came under the authority of Saint Victor abbey in Marseille, Castres was granted a liberal charter in the 12th century by the famous Trencavel family, viscounts of Albi. Resulting from the charter, Castres was ruled by a college of consuls.

During the Albigensian Crusade it surrendered of its own accord to Simon de Montfort, and thus entered into the kingdom of France in 1229. In 1317, Pope John XXII established the bishopric of Castres. In 1356, the town of Castres was raised to a countship by King John II of France. However, the town greatly suffered from the Black Plague in 1347-1348, then from the Black Prince of England and the Free Companies (bands of lawless mercenaries) who laid waste the country during the Hundred Years’ War. Consequently, by the late 14th century Castres entered a period of sharp decline. In 1375, there were only 4,000 inhabitants left in town, only half the figure from a century before. Following the confiscation of the possessions of Jacques d’Armagnac, duke of Nemours, to which the countship of Castres had passed, it was bestowed in 1476 by King Louis XI on Boffille de Juge (Boffillo del Giudice), an Italian nobleman and adventurer serving as a diplomat for Louis XI, but the appointment led to so much disagreement (family feud between Boffille de Juge, his only daughter, and his brother-in-law) that the countship was united to the crown by King Francis I in 1519.

(above, the statue of Jean Jaurès in the same name square – below, with a very interested husband – at market time, and after it)

Around 1560, the majority of the population of Castres converted to Protestantism. In the wars of the latter part of the 16th century the inhabitants sided with the Protestant party, fortified the town, and established an independent republic. Castres was one of the largest Protestant strongholds in southern France, along with Montauban and La Rochelle. Henry of Navarre, leader of the Protestant party, who later became King Henry IV of France, stayed in Castres in 1585. The Protestants of Castres were brought to terms, however, by King Louis XIII in 1629, and Richelieu came himself to Castres to have its fortifications dismantled. Nonetheless, after these religious wars, the town, now in peace, enjoyed a period of rapid expansion. Business and traditional commercial activities revived, in particular fur and leather-dressing, tanning, and above all wool trade. Culture flourished anew, with the founding of the Academy of Castres in 1648. Castres was turned by the Catholic Church into an active center of Counter-Reformation, with the establishments of several convents in town, and the building of a renowned bishop’s palace by Mgr. Tubœuf, still the most famous monument in town today. A new cathedral was also built, after the destructions of the religious wars. Perhaps even more important, Castres was made the seat of the “Chambre de l’Édit” of the Parliament of Toulouse, a court of justice detached from the Parliament of Toulouse and in charge of dealing with the cases involving the Protestants of Languedoc, a measure of protection granted to them by the Edict of Nantes. This court attracted lots of business to Castres. In 1665, there were 7,000 inhabitants in Castres, 4,000 of whom Catholic, and 3,000 Protestant.

In 1670 however, the Chambre de l’Édit was transferred to Castelnaudary, much to the discontent of even the catholic citizens of Castres, who lost a major source of business and revenue with the departure of the lawyers and the plaintiffs. The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes soon followed, and Castres suffered a lot when a great number of Protestants chose to go into exile. Then came the plague of 1720-1721 and the fire of 1724. Last but not least, Castres lost its liberal charter in 1758. In the 1760s, a few years after the famous Calas Affair in Toulouse, Castres made the headlines nationwide: Pierre-Paul Sirven and his wife, both Protestants, were wrongly accused of having murdered their daughter in order to prevent her from converting to Catholicism. Tried and sentenced to death “in absentia” on March 29, 1764, they were defended by Voltaire, and eventually exonerated in 1771.

The outbreak of the French Revolution was generally welcomed in Castres, particularly among the local Protestant merchants and entrepreneurs, but the majority of the population remained moderate during the whole period. In 1793 for instance, Protestant pastor Alba La Source, Castres’ representative at the Convention in Paris, opposed the deportation of “non-juror” Catholic priests to French Guiana, where death in the horrid jungle was certain. “Non-juror” priests were by far the majority in the region of Castres. Accused of being a moderate, Alba La Source was guillotined in October 1793. Suspected of being lukewarm toward the revolution, Castres was duly chastised. The bishopric which had been established by Pope John XXII in 1317 was abolished, Castres later becoming part of the bishopric of Albi. Capital of the département of Tarn in 1790, the town was downgraded to capital of an arrondissement in 1797, Albi being made the capital of the département. Despite these setbacks, in the 19th century the economy of Castres developed greatly, and the town grew outside of its old medieval center. As early as 1815, the first mechanized wool mill was set up in town. Originally specialized in luxury cloth, the Castres textile industry then turned toward more ordinary types of cloth, whose markets were considerably larger. Around 1860, there were 50 wool mills in town, employing 3,000 people. In the end of the 19th century, mechanical engineering industries appeared beside the textile industry, which led to Castres becoming a major arsenal for the French army during the First World War. Castres was linked to the French railway network in 1865. At the end of the 19th century, Castres was the largest town in the département of Tarn, with 5,000 more inhabitants than Albi.

The Goya Museum (below) is settled in a part of the ancient bishop’s palace of Castres which plans had been designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart, one of Versailles architects. Although the museum exists since 1840, the Briguiboul legacy of 1894 determined its Hispanic vocation. Painter and collector, dazzled by the famous Spanish master, he acquired numerous quality works among which Goya famous : “Self portrait with glasses”, “Portrait of Francisco del Mazo”, a set of engravings : “The Caprices” and” The Philippines Assembly”. In 1949, prestigious deposits from the Louvre Museum confirmed such specialisation :”Portrait of Philip IV” by Velázquez, “Virgin with the Rosary and child” by Murillo. Since then, the Castres Museum never stopped enriching and, particularly, those past twenty years and this place, unique of the kind, became a reference to appreciate Spanish creation, from Antiquity until the 20th century. (sorry, but inside it was forbidden to take photos).

Castres Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Benoît de Castres – below), now the Roman Catholic church of Saint Benoît (Saint Benedict), was formerly the seat of the bishop of Castres, but the diocese was not restored after the French Revolution and was added by the Concordat of 1801 to the Archdiocese of Albi. The first cathedral was built in the 14th century after the creation of the diocese of Castres in 1317, along with a number of other dioceses created in the region after the suppression of the Albigensians. It was destroyed during the French Wars of Religion. The present building which replaced it was constructed in the 16th and 17th centuries.

On a plaque is written: “Bishop of Tuboeuf initially, first put into effect plans for the building in 1678”, on the site of the former St. Benedict Abbey, which had been destroyed by religious wars. The works were later halted by a lack of funding. The construction was then resumed under Monseigneur de Beaujeu. The cathedral was consecrated in 1718. The style is baroque and very sober. The initial plans were for a large imposing building. The interior is huge. The decoration of the vault dates from the last century. In the choir is a canopy of gilded wood supported by red marble columns from Caunes (Aude). The side chapels contain a rich collection of paintings from the Toulouse school of the eighteenth century (Chevalier Rivals). Most of the decorative elements are from the old monastery of Saïx, including : the seats of the canons, the doors of the sacristy and the paintings. The Cathedral of Saint-Benoit was classified as a Historical Monument on June 24, 1953.

It was a very interesting visit, the last one of our vacation in France. This country never stops to surprise us, and each time it leaves seeds for another visit….

 

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Step nine – A village with a mistery

Rennes-le-Château is a castle in a small hilltop village in Southern France that is at the center of many conspiracy theories. Some say that priest Bérenger Saunière discovered buried treasure in the 19th century, but there are many conflicting theories and stories about what exactly transpired in this area filled with beautiful scenery etched with deep river canyons.

The history of Rennes-le-Château reflects the history of many other European villages. It began with a prehistoric encampment, followed by a Roman villa. The area was a part of Septimania during the 6th and 7th centuries. Thirty thousand people lived in the city around 500-600 AD, with the number of castles rapidly increasing in the area around 1002 AD. In modern times, Rennes-le-Château became very famous when stories from the mid-1950s concerning Roman Catholic priest, Francois Bérenger Saunière, influenced modern writings including The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, published in 1982, and The Da Vinci Code, published in 2003 (obviously I’ve read both of them and others, that’s why I wanted to visit there, dragging along a reluctant husband….).

The stories told about Rennes-le-Château and Bérenger Saunière consist of many theories, revolving around all matters of conspiracies involving the Blanche of Castile, the Merovingians, the Knights Templar, the Cathars, and later, the Priory of Sion, the Holy Grail, Mary Magdalene, and the remains of Jesus Christ.

The starting ground for these conspiracy theories involve Bérenger Saunière. He was the priest of a small village from the late 19th to early 20th centuries. Somehow, Saunière came across large sums of money – amounts so large that it is unimaginable how a small village priest could come to have such wealth. This led to much speculation as to where and how he got the money. Some say that he discovered a buried treasure, but this theory has never been substantiated.

During his first few years in the village, Saunière lived in poverty. He kept meticulous accountings of his money, which showed that in 1892 he owed a debt of 105 francs and had savings of 80.65 francs. From the 1890s on, his papers showed that he spent an alarming total of 660,000 francs. As a priest, he earned a salary of 900 francs per year. Around 1880, the going rate for a single mass was 1 franc, so it is difficult to imagine that Saunière could have earned such an income on performing mass alone. In 1910–1911 Bérenger Saunière was summoned by the bishopric to appear before an ecclesiastical trial to face charges of “mass trafficking” – receiving money for masses that he never actually performed. He was found guilty and suspended of the priesthood. When asked to produce his account books he refused to attend his trial. Even if Saunière was guilty of this, he could not have collected enough through this practice to amount to the sums he spent over his lifetime. As his life came to an end, Saunière began having financial difficulties. It has been noted that this time in his life corresponded with the start of World War I, which may indicate that his funds were held abroad and he could no longer access them. Saunière’s income and spending have led to many conspiracy theories about Rennes-le-Château and where the money may have come from. Some say he came across a buried treasure. Others accused him of digging graves and stealing from the dead. When his spending was investigated by the church, Saunière claimed that the money had been gifted to him. Marie Dénarnaud, the faithful housekeeper who was accused of digging through graves with Saunière, claimed to know a secret that would make one extremely wealthy. When Noel Corbu purchased the Saunière estate from her, she told him she would tell him a secret that would make him powerful and rich. However, prior to her death, Dénarnaud had a fit that left her unable to write or speak. She ultimately took her secret to the grave.

During the 1950s, Corbu began circulating stories that Saunière was in possession of parchments, which he found while renovating his church in 1892, and that these were linked to the treasure of Blanche de Castile, supposedly amounting to 28,500,000 gold pieces. This was the treasure of the French crown assembled by Blanche de Castile, wife of Louis VIII, to pay the ransom of her son Louis IX (Saint Louis), who was captured during a crusade. The surplus was said to have been hidden at Rennes-le-Château.

It was during the 1960s that Corbu’s stories took on a life of their own, and ignited interest in the case of Saunière and Rennes-le-Château. Corbu’s account of Saunière reached the ears of Pierre Plantard, a French draughtsman who is famous for claiming to be a direct Merovingian descendant and for being the principal perpetrator of the Priory of Sion story. Plantard adapted Corbu’s story and entwined it within the mythological account of the Priory of Sion, which inspired the 1967 book L’Or de Rennes by author Gérard de Sède. The book had photographs purportedly showing the parchments discovered by Saunière, but a friend of Plantard later admitted to forging the parchments and both Plantard and his friend were also involved in planting fabricated documents in France’s Bibliothèque Nationale that dealt with the secret history of the Priory of Sion. A decade later and the story of Saunière became even more convoluted and mixed up with conspiracies relating to the ‘Jesus bloodline’, made popular in the bestselling book ‘Holy Blood, Holy Grail’. Wikipedia reports:“In 1969, a British supporting actor and screenwriter for the BBC by the name of Henry Lincoln read de Sède’s book while on holiday in the Cévennes in 1969 that led him to inspire three BBC Two Chronicle documentaries between 1972-1979, working some of its material into the 1982 non-fictional bestseller Holy Blood, Holy Grail, that he co-wrote with Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh. The book claimed Bérenger Saunière discovered proof (possibly the Marriage Certificate) that Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene were married and their descendants became the Merovingian dynasty. Among the book’s hypotheses are the possibilities that this was the secret of the Priory of Sion; that Pierre Plantard could have been the descendant of Jesus Christ; that the source of Saunière’s wealth could have involved the blackmailing of the Vatican.”

This theme was further picked up by Dan Brown for his famous historical novel, ‘The Da Vinci Code’, which led to a further surge of interest in Rennes-le-Château. The story of the castle and the priest with his hidden treasure has since become popularized in radio shows, TV programs, and films, and it is now virtually impossible to separate fact from fiction in this complicated conspiracy story. To this day, the secret of Saunière’s fortune remains a mystery. Many theories as to where he got the money have been developed, but none substantiated. Was he a dishonest priest, highly skilled in mass trafficking? Did he come across buried treasure? Was his money kept and hidden overseas? We may never know the real story of Saunière and his fortune, the truth of which he most likely took to his grave when he passed away on 22 January 1917.

The village church dedicated to Saint Mary Magdalene has been rebuilt several times. The earliest church of which there is any evidence on the site may date to the 8th century. However, this original church was almost certainly in ruins by the 10th or 11th century, when another church was built upon the site—remnants of which can be seen in Romanesque pillared arcades on the north side of the apse. This survived in poor repair until the 19th century, when it was renovated by the local priest, Bérenger Saunière. Surviving receipts and existing account books belonging to Saunière reveal that the renovation of the church, including works on the presbytery and cemetery, cost 11,605 Francs over a ten-year period between 1887 and 1897.

One of the new features was the Latin inscription Terribilis est locus iste above the front doors, taken from the Common Dedication of a Church, which translates as: “This is a place of awe”; the rest of the dedication reads “this is God’s house, the gate of heaven, and it shall be called the royal court of God.” The first part of the dedication is above the front doors—the rest inscribed on the arches over the two front doors of the church.

Inside the church, one of the added figures was of a devil holding up the holy water stoup, its original head was stolen by persons unknown in 1996 and has never been recovered. A devil like figure holding up the holy water stoup is a rare and unusual choice for the interior decoration of a Church but not exclusive to the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene, a similar subject matter can be seen in the Saint Vincent Collegiate church in Montréal, a short distance from Rennes-le-Château. The new figures and statues in the church were not specially made,[13] but were chosen by Saunière from a catalogue published by Giscard, sculptor and painter in Toulouse who—among other things—offered statues and sculptural features for church refurbishment. Following Sauniere’s renovations and redecoratations, the church was re-dedicated in 1897 by his bishop, Monsignor Billard.
As you can see from my photos below, it’s not exactly the roman catholic church you can expect……the first impression is you are on a movie stage really, not the feeling you’re in a blessed place….stunning nevertheless, due to the different lights (natural and artificial), the colors of the statues, the paintings of the walls….have a look….
Near the church there’s a little museum about the story of the village and the Saunière life and mystery, not really adding much to the visit, but from the back garden (a nice walk) there’s the access to the Tour of Magdala….
In September 2004, the mayor of Rennes-le-Château exhumed Saunière’s corpse from the cemetery and reburied it in a concrete sarcophagus in the garden to protect it from grave-robbers. Since then, the cemetery of Rennes-le-Château has been closed to the general public.
Saunière also funded the construction of another structure dedicated to Saint Mary Magdalene. Named after his church, he built the Tour Magdala originally named the Tour de L’horloge on the edge of the village which he used as his library, it features a circular turret with twelve crenellations, on a belvedere that connected it to an orangery, a tower-like structure. The tower has a promenade linking it to the Villa Bethania, which was not actually used by the priest. He stated at his trial that it was intended as a home for retired priests. Surviving receipts and existing account books belonging to Saunière reveal that the construction of his estate including the Tour Magdala and Villa Bethania (including the purchases of land) between 1898 and 1905 cost 26,417 Francs. Believers in the enigma have suggested that Saunière’s estate was set up on a large-scale checkerboard, while others have claimed that Saunière produced a Mirror image of selected architectural features of his property.

From there you can have an unobstructed view of the Aude valley towards the Pyrenees………..

After the still unsolved mistery (if really there’s one) we needed a break, so we drove to a nearby lake to have a late lunch and a relaxing afternoon…

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Step eight – Two museums in Toulose

The Cité de l’espace (City of Space) is a theme park focused on space and the conquest of space. It was opened in June 1997 and is located on the eastern outskirts of Toulouse. As of 2015, there had been more than 4,5 million visitors.

There you can visit full-scale models of the Ariane 5 rocket (55 metres or 180 feet), Mir space station, and Soyuz modules. The original planetarium has 140 seats and presents shows throughout the day. Cité de l’Espace also has numerous exhibits, often interactive; for example, a mock-up of a control room near the model of Ariane 5, allows visitors to prepare the launching of a rocket, help with its flight and then place a satellite in orbit. Terr@dome (a terrestrial half-sphere 25 metres or 82 feet in diameter) presents the history of space from the Big-bang to the solar system. A building about Australia, which opened in 2005, includes: a new 280-seat planetarium, called the Stellarium, equipped with a hemispherical screen 600 square metres (6,458 sq ft) in area; a 300-seat IMAX cinema, which shows the film Hubble 3D (previously Space Station 3D, a 3D film made on board the International Space Station); and conference rooms.

For more about this very interesting museum (hubby is a fan of everything is space and planes, but I found it so well presented and beautiful as well) read their website, below are my photos of the day spent there.

Lunch was a bit expensive, but we enjoyed it nevertheless………….

Aeroscopia is a aeronautic museum based in Blagnac (where the Toulose airport is) near the site AéroConstellation (an industrial zone dedicated to the aeronautic industry) and hosts several planes, including two copies of the Concorde, the opening took place January 14, 2015, and here is their website to learn more about it. Below, my phots……….

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Step seven – The other two cities

Our hotel in Carcassonne was located near the walls of the old medieval city of ” La Citè” in the old neighbourhood of Trivalle, just halfway from the old Bastide St. Louis….

In rue Trivalle (just opposite the hotel) stands a three-story house whose façade, long neglected, has recently been restored, House Montmorency. The ground floor is made of stone like the framing of the stories, but it have an inside structure of wood. This type of construction, common in the sixteenth century – probably the date of construction of the building – was obviously fragile due to frequent fires that were ravaging towns: this is one of the few building that have survived over the centuries in the region. The name of Montmorency is given by a family of the sixteenth century, the most famous of its member being Henri de Montmorency, Lord of Damville, who during the Wars of Religion between 1585 and 1591 was the captain of the Catholic “moderates” based in the Trivalle area, that was the scene of violent clashes, as the one that took place between the 14 and 16 April 1590, when the fortress pulled over the lower town and the suburbs more than 600 cannon shots.

One of the many houses that presents a cathar symbol (a flag in this case, disturbed by the wind…) a cross that has became the symbol of the region…

A church dedicated to Our Lady seems to have existed in the fourth century. It was then mentioned at the beginning of the tenth century under the name of Sainte-Marie-du-Saint-Sauveur. This church was served by regular canons living under the rule of St. Augustine. The Capuchins settled in the Church of Our Lady of the Abbey in 1592 and restored it completely. In the nineteenth century, the chapel again changed its name to St. Gracious and became the major seminary chapel. It houses now the Diocesan Museum.

On the outer wall of Notre-Dame of the Abbey, a magnificent fresco realized in 1991 by ” The City of the Creation “a company based in Lyon. Measuring 100 m of length and 5 m of height, the fresco represents strong moments of the past of the medieval City between XI ° and XIII ° century. In the form of miniatures from the 11 letters of “Carcassonne”, it offers a succession of historic pictures staging characters of the crusade among whom Trencavel, Saint-Louis, Simon de Montfort, the “heretics”, the Saracens and the crusaders…..

Between old houses and little shops…………….

 

……at the end Rue Trivalle surprises with the old Royal Manifacturing building, with the coat of arms of the king of France on the main entrance door. Material benefits accompanied the honorary privileges. Manufactures Royales each received three thousand pounds a year as a subsidy for rent and a bonus for the amount of linen exported to the Levant. In return, the Manufactures Royales had to maintain the number of jobs in business and ensure a minimum production. Former home of a noble family Carcassonnaise, the building was bought in 1694 by a relative of Colbert, who founded a cloth mill. The latter will take the title of Manufacture Royale in 1696. The only building from that time still visible, is the owners’ home. The Royal Factory grew until 1789, but by lack of investment, modernization of equipment and accounting rigor, the establishment went bankrupt.

On the side door of the old factory, has disappeared the word “Royal”, it was cleared out in 1789, during the French Revolution.

Near this building there’s the access to the oldest bridge of the town “Pont Vieux” (‘old bridge’) and it is indeed old, dating from the 14th century. Until the 1800s it was the only bridge between the Bastide (the ‘newer’ lower town) and La Cite (the ancient walled town) over the river Aude. It’s closed to traffic and it’s a really nice walk for pedestrians…

On the other side of the bridge the building of the Old Hospital still exists (very much restored), and it is nowadays a house for pensioners.

In front of it, the little chapel Of Notre-Dame de la Santè (Our Lady of the Health). It was formerly used as the chapel of the hospital and this function certainly gives the explanation for the name….

This chapel is a true jewel and a perfect example of the Flamboyant Gothic architecture, though it was built during the Renaissance period. In the choir of the chapel behind the altar stands a nice statue of the Virgin and Child. Another statue of the Virgin is to be found outside, hidden in a recess of the wall. Although the dimensions of this chapel are very small, it is still visited by many people who come there to pray, or just light a candle. Obviously many visitors had their whishes granted according to the wall full of ex-voto….

Just around the corner of a beautiful house recently renovated, there’s one of the most frequented place, Square Gambetta.

Built on the former Place Coal after various properties acquired or expropriated by the City, following a city council decision of 20 December 1850, it was then called Place St. Cecilia. It took the name “Gambetta Square” by decree of July 7, 1883 with the addition of a garden. This garden remained in its state until March 27, 1944 when “by order of the German occupation authorities” began the demolition of the square. 
After the liberation of the city on 22 August 1944, the Municipality worked to remove the stigma of the passage of the occupant.
On the platform facing the east stands the Monument of the Resistance, by the sculptor Iché, presented to the City of Carcassonne by the Resistance Veterans. The sealed urns at the feet of the monument contain soil from the Buckenwald camp. 

The Museum of Fine Arts, closing one side of the square.

Oh my…how much I love this kind of old houses, very french, don’t you think?

As well as this school….

….or this Court of Justice….

We walked so far as to reach the first lock of the city on the Canal du Midi (south canal)………

The work of Pierre-Paul Riquet and excavated in the XVIIth century to link the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, the Canal du Midi, formerly used for transporting goods and people, is today frequented by numerous boaters and tourists and flows through the centre of the city of Carcassonne. In 1996, the Canal du Midi was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The locks, bridges, aqueducts and canal bridges along the 240 km of the waterway are witness to the technical prowess of its constructors and also a work of art..The canal banks, once towpaths, are fringed with different varieties of trees and are a ideal walking and cycling trail for visitors

From there we walked toward the Bastide St. Louis.  The bastide is hemmed by boulevards built in the 18th and 19th century over the old, once fortified town ditches. The military enclosure and the gates protect the “ville basse” or lower town. Its surrounding wall was built betwen 1355 and 1359, under the orders of the comte d’Armagnac; it was 2,800 metres long; the bastions were built after 1359; at that time, people simply erected in the corners some round-shaped towers, greater than the other parts of the wall. Toward the end of the 16th century, during the wars of religion that devastated the South of France, the town was flanked with 4 bastions located at each corner: the bastion of Saint-Martial in the northwest, the bastion of la Figuières in the northeast, of Montmorency in the southeast, of la Tour Grosse or les Moulins in the southwest (now called du Calvaire).

On the eve of the French Revolution of 1789, the lower town had yet only 4 gates: – the western gate, porte de Toulouse or des Augustins (rue de Verdun), adorned with two handsome towers forming like a manor, which were restored in 1749. But because of a Council decree issued on 31 May 1778 ruling that the walls, towers, ditches, ramparts and walkways were to be handed in perpetuity to the Lower Town Community, the consuls let this monument fall into decay, and it was entirely destroyed in 1806.
– Rue des Carmes (located at the end of today’s rue Georges Clemenceau).
– The western Rue des Cordeliers, located at the eastern end of today’s Rue Aimé Ramond (formerly rue de la Mairie).
– The gate, porte des Jacobins, currently preserved and registered on the additional Historical Monuments inventory.

Situated right in the heart of the main avenue of the lower city, nested between two shops so that it would almost go unnoticed, the Church of Notre-Dame du Mont Carmel (XIV century) remains open permanently. Very dark, very Gothic also, you can admire especially an attractive altarpiece and some very old statues made with golden wood.

Near the church there’s a place very dear to the people of Carcassonne, Place Carnot….

Place Carnot, while one of many squares scattered throughout town, is the “heart” of the city, the central square since medieval times that has been the main meeting place and market for the lower town.  Place Carnot is where the open-air vegetable, fruit, and flower market is held every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.  This is the place to sit and enjoy a morning café creme or afternoon Pastis at one of the many cafés’ outdoor tables and watch people walk past. Place Carnot is where you can enjoy watching children chase pigeons past the Fountain of Neptune or skate on the seasonal skating rink that is assembled during the Christmas season.  This is where many free musical events and an occasional wine tasting are hosted during the year.

The history of the square is very rich.  At the junction of the main streets of rue de Verdun and rue Georges Clemenceau, royal surveyors marked out a large square. After 1355, the square was reduced to the size we see today. After the fire in 1622 which destroyed more than 150 houses and the arcades filled with shops round the square, a new corn market (now the covered market) was built on the site of the Officiality. This cleared the square. On 27th December 1792, during the French Revolution, Jeanne Establet, or Joan the Black, was guillotined here with two of her accomplices. Two years later, Father Henri Beille, Vicar of Alet, a non-juring priest became the only victim of the Reign of Terror when he was executed. During the Napoleonic Empire, the square was renamed Place Impériale. It became Place Royale during the Restoration of the Monarchy, then Place Dauphine, Place de la Liberté and Place de la Révolution, Place aux Herbes (1852) and, finally, Place Carnot (1894).

At the center of Place Carnot is the marble Fountain of Neptune.  The fountain is surrounded by a rose-colored marble basin from the village of Caunes-Minervois which has been producing marble since Roman times. Neptune was sculpted by Italian artist Barata and his son and finished around 1771.  Beneath Neptune are marble figures of dolphins and naiads.

Straight from Place Carnot, one the old gates of the Bastide, the Jacobins’ Gate…..

Raised in 1779 on the place of an old gothic gate, it is part of a more ambitious town planning. In the 18th century old gothic buildings were not fashionable anymore. Bishop Bazin de Bezons decided to raze those old gates and build modern and monumental entries to the Bastide in neo- classical style. There were four gates (north, south, east, west) which were old were destroyed.The Jacobins’ Gate which is the south gate of the Bastide is the only one that was erected. The royal coat of arms decorating the gate was destroyed during the French Revolution. The little house next to the gate was formerly the lodging house of the doorkeeper. There is a very nice fountain too, on the square facing the gate…

We walked around a little portion of the old Bastide walls. The three bastions we see today in the Lower Town are the only remains of the former fortifications. They date back from the 16th century.There were five of them originally. Bishop Armand Bazin de Bezons ordered in 1764 to demolish the two others together with the ramparts. The fortifications were replaced by the Boulevards.

And then, through some little streets and alleys, here we are again, on the Pont Vieux towards the Citè…..

Stunning view, isn’t it? We’ll keep this view in our eyes and in our hearts for a very long time…..

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Interlude – Restaurants & Co.

While there, in Carcassonne, we tried several restaurants, some very good, some average….

The first in the second category was the Brasserie Les Platanes, most of all because being seated outside, the flies were all over the plates….

The worst (for me at least, because my husband enjoyed his pizza) was La Courtine. The place was so nice and on their menu there was also “pizza sans-gluten” (gluten-free)…..

My pizza was not prepared at the moment, the dough was from one of the most famous gluten-free products company (I asked) and at three time the price I pay when I buy it at the store…

Luckily for us we also tried Au Four Saint Louis…..a very good choice, the location, the plates and the waiters…So good that we came back a second time…

Another good one, very near to our hotel, is the Restaurant Le 37, friendly and cozy place with a large choice of plates and wines…

I treid the typical dish of the region, the cassoulet….soooo soooo good….at Le Trouvere, in the central square of the walled city

and we came back for a very good as well wild boar stew…

A friendly brasserie is Le Trauquet, with very young and nice staff….and very good crepes…

The beautiful hotel (with spa) near ours were really too much expensive for us, but the last night we spent in Carcassonne, we decided to dine there (the restaurant is really more affordable being a thing on its own)…

But the very best we found in Carcassonne is the spanish Tapa Bar Restaurant Le Passage…we went there the first time for lunch and we came back twice for dinner!

 

It was a difeerent way of travelling, but for sure it was an experience….

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Two cheeses

Per 4 servings:

  • ¾ lb ricotta cheese
  • 4 oz Provolone cheese
  • 3 ½ oz ham
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon parsley, chopped
  • frying oil
  • salt and pepper

FOR PASTA

  • 1 lb all-purpose flour
  • 3 ½ oz lard
  • egg
  • 1 lemon
  • salt
Prepare the filling by mixing together the ricotta, egg yolks, prosciutto and cubed provolone in a bowl. Add chopped parsley, salt and a pinch of pepper. Mix well, until smooth. On a cutting board, form a well with the flour. Add the eggs, lard, lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Mix together with a fork, and then knead by hand for 15 minutes until you have a smooth, firm dough. Stretch our the dough, making a thin sheet. Place balls of filling across half of the dough. Make sure that they are not too close together. Cover with the other half of the sheet of dough and press down around each ball to seal. Cut out the “fritters” using a round pasta-cutter. Fry in boiling oil, then place on paper towels to drain. Serve hot. (My personal variation is adding some smoked ham….a touch of taste more spicy)…
 
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Posted by on August 29, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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