L’Escapade: Episode 20

We are in the heart of Cathare Country. There are a number of ancient castles on mountain peaks in various states of dis-repair which were strongholds of the Cathare Community. On previous holidays in the area, John and I visited Roquefixade and Montségur and saw Quéribus from below.

Panarama of Ariege valley S

Last week we took a drive up to the Château de Lordat, one of the oldest and largest of the feudal castles of the Counts of Foix. It stands at 965 meters above sea level and has a strategic location overlooking the Sabarthès; the upper valley of the Ariège. This old fortress may date back to the Ninth Century, however Celtic artefacts have been found suggesting a dwelling of sorts in Roman times.

Tower on edge of Chateau de Lordat S

Around 1244, after the capture of Montségur, it was occupied by the Cathars. At the end of the Thirteenth Century, the King of Aragon seized the Château and demanded it’s destruction.

The weather was beautiful. A few clouds could be seen dipping to caress the highest peaks from time to time. The view became more thrilling, the higher we climbed. We stopped to photograph once or twice en route. We reached Lordat village and ordered two coffees at Le Relais Cathare. Although we were the only patrons, service was unbelievably slow and the coffees were cold when they finally arrived.

Café and Chateau de Lordat S

We walked on up to the Château and paid our fee at the kiosk. Extensive renovation work was taking place and we were curious to find out how all the scaffolding, workmen’s sheds, tools and materials had been brought to the summit because the footpath was rugged and steep and some distance from the car-park. By helicopter was the answer. I should have liked to watch that!

To see the renovation work taking place, was, for us, an additional element to the experience, rather than a detraction. The views from the Château were, as we have come to expect, very worthwhile. (My photos can never do justice to the scale and distances.) Even though it was a beautiful day in July and French schools have already broken up for the holidays, we had the place to ourselves, apart from the builders and a flutter of colourful butterflies.

Buddlia in Chateau de Lordat S

As we left the Château, the church bell struck twelve and then rang a two-tone chime. Which made me think about the Muslim call to prayer at 5 am in Sharm el Sheik…this was perhaps the French version…an “Appelle à Déjournée”. (Call to Lunch!)

Luzenac from Lordat S

We drove next to Bonascre. We had last been there in the snow, when the ski-resort was in full swing. It was a very different place in the summer but not as deserted as other ski stations we have visited. 

We enjoyed a Salade de Bonascre followed by a shared ice-cream sundae, also called a Bonascre. Too delicious for description.

Bonascre Lunchtime view S

This blog is based on truth but for privacy and security many of the names have been changed and some of the story may be embellished at times for dramatic effect.

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