We’ve found (thanks to Kevin and Carole) that it is quicker to go down to the plains and get across country then go back up into the mountains, and doing this we again watched the whole countryside changing – the colour of the rocks, the vegetation, the style and colour of the (which emerges from the colour of the ground). We as we neared the Haute Pyrenees we also saw more signs to Montsegur – the’ last Cathar castle’ ruins Heather had so much wanted to see, but although we peeked glimpses in the distance, we just didn’t have time to stop again and went on…
Because we had already stopped at Foix! A picturesque town, it is at the meeting place of two swift flowing rivers and its history goes back at least to Charlemagne who founded an oratory there. It was a place of considerable influence over the years with connections to the kingdom of Navarre and even to the French throne in the person of Henri IV… His bed is displayed as a special feature in the chateau today – very flash it is too.
Several counts supported the Occitan resistance to the crusade against the Cathars, and in fact the castle was never taken during that time. But it was taken by the French King about 60 years later.
It served time as a prison for a while, and today hosts cultural events like art shows and music recitals as well as being a challenge for those who like to climb steps… (Oh nooo…) It’s a climb to the castle, and more climbs up each of the narrow winding staircases of each tower.
Further into the mountains we went, which grew higher and loomed larger as we continued to climb. More conifers in the forests, steeper hills, more streams. Eventually a U-shaped valley opened out, we skirted around Lourdes and found little Pierrefittte-Nestalas and our gorgeous new nest for the week.
The owners, Christele and Frédéric Schlur met us, along with their 4 children, 2 cats, 7 chickens and a guinea pig! The cottage is adorable. We love it and would love to spend a Christmas here. Christele is an artist and her creative flair is evident in the design and detail of the house, but more of that later.
There are quite a few cattle in the area and agriculture, and being right at the start of summer here the first couple of days we thought we were in the garden of Eden – with one snag. If Ceret is the Cherry Capital of France, we thought Pierrefitte-Nestalas must be the Fly Capital of France. Mortein would romp it in here. It didn’t take long before Tina was springing from one side of the room to the other with the fly swatter like she was in the French Open. And it wasn’t just Pierrefitte, it was the whole area… Thankfully it subsided after a couple of days and a snowfall!
Tina and Heather