19 November 2014

une église rupestre

For some unknown reason, the editors of the Michelin Green Guide have chosen to overlook this troglodyte church, the high point of our trip (in our 2002 edition anyway). Perhaps villagers in tiny Vals, though, would prefer not to be overrun by rubberneckers like us — even if most tourists would be pleased to drop several euros into the tronc, a clearly-marked donation box, for such a memorable experience. Michael happened by accident upon a reference to this little gem on an Ariège Pyréenées tourism website under a catch-all category for quirky minor attractions. Here's a link to the most detailed account of a visit to L'Eglise de Vals we've found online: http://www.ariege.com/patrimoine/eglisedevals/info.html

 At first glance the medieval church merely seems an imposing building for an isolated village, Enter the wooden door at its base, though, and you're led into chambers carved into pebbly conglomerate. Michael and I are left unmoved by the splendor of many cathedrals, but this sort of hard-won simplicity, a testament to faith literally moving a hillside, if not mountains, commands respect.

From the sublime to the quotidian: how the French living in small villages like this still manage to enjoy fine meats and foie gras.

In and around Mirepoix (day one)

 First stop, unplanned, was Fanjeaux:

 Les Halles — 16th/17th century

Escapee from "The Little Shop of Horrors."

Mirepoix itself:


Like every museum we had wanted to see in the Ariège-Pyrénées, the château was fermé: the downside of  being tourists in November. This is a photo from a poster in the village.

Camon, one of "les plus beaux villages de France":

One of the beautiful inhabitants (for Kate).

La Maison aux Symboles: triangle represents the trinity, the star hope, and the sacred heart christian charity.

A crack in the château-abbaye wall, which reveals . . .

. . . a secret garden.

Note the chrysanthemums, placed on graves on November 1st,  la fête de la Toussaint.

18 November 2014

le gui

Mistletoe on the road from Mirepoix to Vals. This was a repeat experience as we continued to drive: must be one of the main sources for Christmas bunches in local pépinières.