Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Silk Scarves and a Castle City

After a major thunderstorm last night just after midnight, we awoke this morning to clear blue skies and fresh, cool air.

We started the day with a silk scarf making class taught by Ann Mason, a local artist whose studio is conveniently located just up the street from our home away from home at La Cascade. We spent two hours learning how to paint on silk, first on a small practice swatch about 12 inches square, then on a full-sized scarf length. When we were done, we left the scarves with Anne to dry, steam, iron and hem them for us. Which seems awfully labour intensive for her but I'm sure we will be thrilled with the results.

By noon, we were headed off to Carcassonne, about an hour's drive south and east of Durfort. I'd seen my first view of this medieval town a few days ago, when we drove to the Mediterranean and we could see the castle walls across the fields from the highway.

It's the largest fortress in Europe and, according to the guide book, features "a double curtain wall with 14 towers, separated from the inner ramparts (24 towers) by the outer bailey". I have long wanted to see this castle up close and personal, since I saw pictures of it two years ago, but it was not to be this time around. When we arrived, we found a square with many cafes and had ourselves some lunch, which wasn't the best meal we've had since we came to France but did the job. Afterwards, my companions wanted to do some shopping so I set off alone to find the old part of the city. I started with a visit to the tourism office, where I discovered that where I was was a good 20 minute walk away from the castle itself and since we'd planned to meet up in just over an hour's time, I didn't have enough time to make it there and back on foot. I toyed with the idea of driving there but there seemed to be a huge traffic jam going on (which may have been their regular traffic but it seemed rather horrible to me), so I just walked about and enjoyed the architecture.

Carcassone appears to be a city of amazing ironwork. There are beautiful metal balconies on every other building. I also popped in to St. Michael's Cathedral, which has the most amazing gargoyles on the outside.

I also saw Hugh Laurie as I walked about. Not sure what his picture was doing painted on several walls about town but I found it rather amusing to see House's face staring, or should I say glaring, at me here in France.

Driving back from Carcassone, we stopped again in the book binding village of Montolieu, thinking we would have dinner in the lovely restaurant across from the church where we ate last Saturday evening. But alas, apparently it is not open on Wednesdays. One of the bookstore owners recommended a place called the Apostrophe Bar, which turned out to be situated in a building that is only partially renovated. We sat out on the wonderful verandah and ate tapas and drank champagne (only a taste for me and then back to the Coke Light, since I was driving) and laughed and talked and took photos of the clouds in the sky, a dog that looked (and howled) like a wolf and the beautiful architecture.
We ended the day by consuming a delicious lemon tart when we got home. Let me tell you, the French really know how to do le tarte citron right.

Sadly, it was Kate's last day with us, as tomorrow she leaves to go to Paris for a few days.

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