21 May 2017
|Day 3 - Sun 21 May 17
We awoke later than expected at 0830 hrs and immediately accepted it would be 1000 hrs before we would get away from the hotel. We both felt rested and our departure went well until we couldn't find where we had left the car. 10 mins later, re- tracing our steps from the car park exit, we found our little white VW Golf.
We have become accustomed to a stressful start in a foreign country and today nothing was different adjusting to the left hand drive , stowing our bags and setting up the GPS. However, it was not long after that we were heading for our first destination, the Chateau de Peyrepertuse.
We had not progressed far when our attention was taken by a crowd, milling around a bakery, on what was a Sunday morning. We had to stop and joined the growing line for a sandwich ( baguette, goat's cheese & tomato) , a tart but no coffee. Both were brilliant and reminded us of why we love coming to France. The whole scene of food and people gathering was quite uplifting.
Our drive to the Chateau was along good roads winding through dispersed villages characterised by high density housing hugging the narrow main road. Passage through these narrow roadways appeared a competition with on coming traffic to avoid a collision.
On our drive to Peyrepertuse we passed Chateau de Queribus, thankful that it was going to be the easiest of the two chateaus to climb. - a mistake to be revealed later. A navigation error had us at the village of Duilhac-sous- Peyrepertuse where we paused for a coffee break. Once again my French speaking skills were exposed when we were served two coffee, one white, one black, when in fact I had ordered only one white.
On arrival at Peyrepertuse, we purchased entry and audio guide (17€) before scrambling along what could best be described as a goat track. Kaye made the observation that those who had made the steps had never heard of the building regulation of 1500mm risers. The climb took about 20 mins before we reached the lower section where we wandered through the Chateau noting its construction and fabulous views. We then climbed to the area of the Keep, marked by stairs, where the views were even better. We thorough enjoyed the experience of visiting this Chateau which was built in the 11 Century as part of a defensive network of fortifications against Spanish incursion of the region. Besieged in 1240 during the Cathar Wars, the Chateau capitulated after 3 days.
The return walk to the entry and car was over the same slippery marble rocks but was undertaken only marginally quicker. On our return, we had a quick drink, recovered our car keys exchanged for the audio guides from the friendly english speaking receptionist and set off for Chateau de Queribus.
At this point we were questioning whether we would climb to the Chateau as I expected it to be even more challenging then Peyrepertuse. Thankfully this was not to be the case and proved more enjoyable. The construction is less extensive than Peyrepertuse but offers greater views of the valley and out to the Mediterranean Sea. As a defensive position it proved like most other Chateau's that it could not defeat a siege and was sacked after three weeks in 1255.
We concluded that both sites, which are within view of each other, were well worth the effort to visit for both their construction and panoramic view of the surrounding Pyrenee's mountains.
Our next objective was to visit Chateau de Puilaurens on our way to Foix with a possible visit to the nearby Chateau de Foix. As we approached, Maury, a wine growing area, we took the opportunity to stop for tasting at a Cave and restaurant; one of only a few that was open for a Sunday. We tasted a local Grenache Gris which we thoroughly enjoyed and brought a bottle for later consumption. While tasting, we observed a group of four couples having lunch and were impressed by the atmosphere of good company that they had for each other. We thought it interesting that all had only eaten about two thirds of their lunch serving and wondered if it was a French social thing to leave food on a plate as a statement of eating discipline. The Stop offered a rest break and opportunity to obverse; both of which we enjoyed.
Unfortunately, it was only approaching, Puilaurens that we realised that it was 1700 hrs and we still had over an hours drive just to make it to our hotel for the night. As a consequence, we photographed the Chateau from the base and drove direct to the hotel arriving just after 1800hrs, somewhat exhausted from our day of high activity.
Having checked in, we adjourned for a drink which in turn became dinner on the verandah of the hotel over looking the river L' Ariege. We both had entrees of Foie Gras / Goat cheese panacota and smoke salmon and mains of Confit of Duck - a local specialty. We shared a selection of cheeses for desert.
Weary from a very hectic day, we were in bed by 2100hrs.
Weather for the day was perfect for the traveller, no wind, full sunshine and comfortable temperature.