Last week I braved the strikes and spent just under four days in South West France. Rob Mulholland, a fellow cyclist and a proper artist and I flew from Prestwick to Carcassonne on Mr. O’Leary’s bargain basement flights. Rob hails from Glasgae and a fellow Wegie picked us up at the airport and took us the to the medieval village of Pradelles en val. The village is about thirty minutes from Carcassonne in a wine growing area set between the Montagne Noir and the Pyrenees. At this time of year the vines are an amazing mixture of green, yellow, brown and red. These colours contrast to the back drop of the villages with their ancient brown stone and the wild country beyond the arable fields which harbour truck loads of boar. We were there during the hunting season and ‘truckloads’ isn’t just a fancy phrase.
The idea of the trip was to get in a spot of cycling, maybe some drawing and shut down the maison chez Rob for the winter. The house is wonderful, having been made up from a wine making ‘Cave’ and some other buildings. It’s a bit like the Tardis, with two stairs and rooms all over the place. There is a tremendous garden which backs onto an eighteen century church, built around the time of the French Revolution. The houses and Chateau are ancient and quite a few of them are falling down.
We were invited into one of them and low and behold, there were another two Wegies living there.
Le Jardine - Chez Rob
The highlight of the trip for me was the cycle to LaGrasse. We were lucky to get some nice sun, but the wind was just like the one I had left behind in Scotland, only colder. It was worth the effort, LaGrasse is a really beautiful small town with amazing bridges, buildings and a wonderful Abbey. It also boasts a boulangerie with pattiseries to die for. The cycle back was along a river gorge, with some beautiful views and incredible river sculpted cliffs.
The Cite in Carcassonne is a UNESCO heritage site with fortified battlements all around. As in LaGrasse, there are lots of windy streets with artisans working at the back of galleries. The atmosphere is truly medieval and reminded me of Kate Mosse’s story ‘The Labyrinth,’ which tells the tales of the Cathars and religious wars of the fourteenth century