Travel in Languedoc France: France gite vacation rentals, Carcassonne France hotels, Cathar castles

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Travel Article on Languedoc-Roussillon, France

Three Cathar Castles - Languedoc, France

Excerpt from Ockham's Razor - Part 8
by Wade Rowland

The Carcassonne in the Sky - Cathar Country In this, Peyrepertuse and Quèrebus, like the others, had ultimately failed. Peyrepertuse surrendered to a crusading army in 1240, four years before Montsègur fell; Quèrebus held out until 1255, the last military bastion of Catharism on the planet. There is no record of the fate of the Cathars inside; it seems probable they were allowed to go free in the full knowledge that they were unlikely to escape the long arm of the Inquisition, wherever in Europe they might flee.

We trudged across the grassy esplanade separating the two forts at the summit, to a steep staircase named for Saint Louis (King Louis IX), who had ordered its construction. The sixty-odd steps are carved into the rock in an arc which extends right out over the precipice, and they have been polished to a slippery patina with centuries of weathering and footfalls. My knees wobbled just looking at them. Given the broiling heat and our advancing weariness, it did not seem wise to tempt fate. I knew Chris would be on my side, but to my amazement neither Hilary nor Simon gave us an argument. There were limits to their bravado after all.

Safely back in the car I planned the night's menu at the farmhouse: there were fresh farm eggs and delicious nut-flavoured cèpse mushrooms in the fridge, ripe tomatoes on the vine near our little terrace, three kinds of sausage to grill; we'd pick up some fresh pain de campagne on the way back. And of course we had cheeses and grapes for dessert, and fresh olive oil of the initial pressing and a bottle or two of the local plonk, quite drinkable at less than two dollars a litre.

Just before turning in, I dashed off a postcard to Berkowitz. It showed an aerial view of Montsègur, a wintertime dusting of snow making the ruin and the surrounding rock seem unbearably cold and lonely:

Cher Berkowitz,
The Cathar castles are, like the city of Carcassonne, better in every way than their photographs. No graven image can do them justice. But I am becoming uneasy about the Cathars themselves. I came here thinking of them as romantic paragons and heroes of humanism. They may be all of that but the more I see and read the more they appear to me rather like the Calvinists and Lutherans and other radical Protestant sects who threw out the baby with the bathwater during the Reformation. I wonder if all of this romance stuff didn't go on in spite of them rather than because of them. And I am disturbed by this willingness to commit mass hara-kiri: I don't know quite what it is - something about the value of the life - but it doesn't sit right with me. Still very hot behaving reasonably well, enjoying things a lot, I think.


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World Travel Guide .com - Travel article about travel in Languedoc-Roussillon France: long-term vacation rentals in France, gite rentals, Carcassonne France hotels, Cathar castles, and essential advice for travel in France and worldwide travel.

In this World Travel Guide .com exclusive excerpt from Ockham's Razor, the author Wade Rowland and his family explore the romantic ruins of Cathar castles in southern France's Languedoc region.

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