See the country, drink the wine
We woke to another lovely day and fortified by an excellent breakfast, we set out to find our car. At this time of the morning, we had the Cité to ourselves and we wondered if, rather than head out we ought to make the most of the peace and quiet.
We decided that we can do that tomorrow – for now, we’d continue with our plans.
We found our car of course, though took the longer way around this time – we’ll remember the shortcut tomorrow, for sure! We took the road east, though lovely Autumn landscapes towards Narbonne, choosing the quieter routes rather than the fast motorways.
The family historian was keen to explore Narbonne and getting our bearings at the tourist office by the canal, we realised that the inner city was quite compact and very walkable.
We headed for the cathedral; the building abandoned before completion as a result of the declining fortune of the city when the harbour silted up.
It’s tucked away on a small side street off the main square and we went into the cloistered yard through a gateway up a few steps.
Inside, it’s grand as any cathedral, with soaring columns and beautifully shaped arches.
The walls bear the traces of centuries of visitors
and though some corners are well maintained others show a great deal of damage including this small chapel, my favourite corner of all. It was the shimmering light and shadow that caught my eye initially, though closer observation offered further rewards.
I really liked the symmetry here and even though the carved panels were broken and damaged, I felt there was an honesty and timelessness about the whole wall. Yes, times have been hard but it’s still here and enjoyed.
I always like the fragments of wall paintings whose soft, muted colours offer clues to the parts which are no longer visible.
In the dark, glass alcove were further fragments of stonework, including this little hand holding a piece of fabric. I’ve no idea where it came from or any other details, i simply liked the fine carving and the fine observations made by the artist who created it.
Across the way from this small chapel, it appeared the damage which had been done to the stonework was deliberate, for the face and hands of every figure had been knocked off. A row of half a dozen “faces” are there to be imagined.
Turning the corner and stepping into the choir, one might have expected a view into a soaring nave, but of course, the cathedral wasn’t finished. So, this is it – a compact choir with an impressive organ loft and no more.
So, I walked to the back, looked in one or two of the small chapels to find more faceless figures
and in the darkest corner, the beautifully placed figure of the Madonna, lit by a shaft of sunlight.
As we left, we noted the distinctive cross on every column and I made a mental note to find out more.
There was more to find out on the street, because this face appears on a series of markers set into the pavement. Who? Why? (Maybe Lesley knows?)
We strolled along the canal then, towards the market hall and enjoying the warm sunshine.
We’d enjoyed our mooch around Narbonne, we left a few euros behind having found Sephora (!) and making our way back to the car, I spotted some bonus fragments of earlier times there on the wall.
The sea was calling us though.
We couldn’t come all this way and be so close to the Mediterranean without a short stop at “le plage”, could we?
It was a very short stop though! We drove back past the lagoon, looking at the birds and wondering if there really were flamingoes there as we’d been told there could be.
Hang on – what’s that bird out there?
Well, I know I won’t get wildlife photographer of the year but somehow, the sight of flying pink flamingoes just seemed too out of the ordinary to miss.
Especially since just ten minutes later we were back driving through vineyards, heading back towards Carcassonne through Corbieres.
We stopped several times to try to capture the Autumn scenes, the huge range of glorious colours in each of those fields of vines.
They were so much brighter, so much richer than here, set off to best effect by the deep shadows and the afternoon sunshine.
The low levels of traffic made the journey a delight.
What a great time of the year to be here.
As the afternoon sun faded, it became harder to spot the rocky outcrops and medieval castles perched on top of them.
This is lovely countryside though my hero was getting tired from driving on so many narrow, single track roads and the Weston prayer was uttered on several occasions, Mary!
A bottle of Corbieres was definitely a good idea tonight.