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Trip Report 10 days based in cordes- sur- ciel-days one through 5

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Evening of day 1. We flew into toulouse at about 7PM and picked up our car. then the fun began. we had some anecdotal directions about how to get to cordes from the airport, and quickly got lost. I fortunately had a michelin map of the south of france, so figured out we were going north to Montauban, which wasn't too bad. we got off just before getting to montauban and headed east toward Gaillac.. the drive was very pretty once we got off the main road. once we got to Gaillac, we headed northeast to cordes. we arrived at cordes when it was starting to get dark. we found the house where we wre to stay, up in the old part of cordes, and managed to navigate the very narrow and curvy (but also very pretty) cobblestone streets. we got to a restaurant in the lower town-"Billyssimo" -just across from the gas station and had a surprisingly good meal and then crashed..

Day 2. We got up and explored the old town part of Cordes. i took some photos of the old streets, doors and buildings. we had a late breakfast in the lower town at a tea shop by the name of le maison moulin. they had good quiche and croissants. the pastries also looked good but we didn't sample. In the afternoon we went into Albi. The main attraction there for us was the main church -Ste Cecile?-and the bishop's palace. ONe of the main historical threads of this trip had to do with the cathars, the "Albigensian crusade" of the 13th century, and the Inquisition. It really is quite a story--one that i had largely forgotten if i ever had known much about it. What is now southern France in the 12th century was apparently quite refined (for the times) and wealthy. the political leadership was also pretty independent. many in the area were adherents to a set of beliefs now called catharism. the group did not accept that priests or church leadership was needed or that sacrements were important. this did not sit well with the catholic leadership. they tried to get them in line and were largely ignored. when a papal legate was killed on a visit, that apparently was the last straw. the pope then proclaimed that the cathars were heretics. the brilliant idea that the pope had was to tell the nobles of northern france that if they would go to southern france and slaughter the cathars, they could keep the land. well the pope quickly had assembled a pretty big army, which prceeded to kill a large number of people.

Ste Cecile is the church built by the catholics just after the slaughter. it is a very odd church. it looks like a fort. no windows except for very high up the walls. and it is made of brick, because it was built next to the river, where they could make brick. the builders were afraid that if they went very far away to get stone, they might be killed by the locals.. so brick it was. .. .

we drove into Albi and found a parking spot in al ot fairly close to the church. i managed to find the parking meter where one pays, gets a piece of paper that says how long you have paid for, and then you put this on the dash.

the interior of the church is quite colorful.

dont miss the garden by le notre next to the palace and the river--not far from the church. it is very tailored and beautiful. you might even have a picnic on one of the benches by the river-on the walk between the river and the garden.

we then returned to cordes and had dinner in the old town. we went to le terrasse sur ciel, one of the places that has a terrific outside set of tables with a great view of the countryside. highly recommended for the view..

day 3 and 4-to le gorge du tarn. My SO was frothing to see le gorge du tarn. so we set off. we drove on the smaller roads. we took the road to Albi we had taken the prior day, and then took D999 east through St.-Sernin sur Rance and St. Afrique. again a very pretty drive--the whole area is very rural and pretty--with vineyards and various crops. A whole spectrum of colors. browns of just plowed fields, fields of vibrant yellow flowers (mustard?), trees, hay or wheat, wild flowers along the road.

today we learned once again about lunch and when to eat it. one eats lunch from 12 to 1:30. period. we started late and did not stop until 2. bad idea. everything closed,. so, pas de dejeuner. yours truly getting whiny. we stop at a big grocery store.and load up on ham, cheese, bread, cherries, strawberries. happy once more.

and then we are driving up .d992 toward millau and--GUESS WHAT-we turn a curve in the road and before us is the gigantic Millau bridge. pretty darn spectacular. we drive under it.

we push on past MIllau. we get to the beginning of the gorge at about 3:30. yours truly thinking we are getting there way too late to see much. so we get to la Malene at about 4:30. the drive has been pretty. we talk about whether we should turn around and go back, which we would need to do if we are to get to cordes before dark. we decide to splurge and stay at the Manoir de Montesquiou, a nice old hotel in town. suddenly all is well. we sit in the outdoor courtyard to look at the scenery. We have dinner at the Manoir, which is very pleasant. very nice bed and huge tub with lots of hot water. happy happy.

day 4-we get up and decide to do a boat ride on the gorge. this is fun. my french is not so hot and my SO speaks little french. so it's nice that the boat guy speaks some english. we go down the river for an hour learning a lot about the gorge and its wildlife.

then the van picks us up and we go back to la malene. it's a little after noon and we hit the road toward cordes. what we didn't totally realize last night is that the road is very narrow-carved out of rock in a number of places-and there are a lot of buses on the road. the buses take up 2/3 of the road, and the road is very curvy, and the buses drive fast. so we begin to wonder if we will run into a bus at the wrong place.. we make it out of the gorge and when we do my SO, who was driving, is crying. we stop at an auberge with a pleasent patio (just before 1:30). My SO has 2 glasses of wine and begins to calm down. .
we then make our way back to cordes, saluting the bridge once again at Mallau..I drive.

day 5. we decide the drive to Mallau and points beyond was too long. we do shorter drives the rest of the time. we drive around to explore the local towns. We go north and west --our first stop is St. Antonin Noble Val, a pretty little town on the river. we have lunch at a BAsque restaurant, called "L'auberge Basque." it has a lovely patio on the main road into town once you cross the river. we have pate for a starter which i'm not crazy about. but then the main course is interesting--a veal dish that has the texture of taco meat and is very tasty. also sauteed baby potatos. quite good. and the portions are huge-we take a lot of food home.

my SO spends some time on the patio writing post cards after lunch. she gets the award for most post cards written on a trip. we then walk to the post office to by stamps and mail the cards. when we leave the post office we see across the street that a number of men (and one woman) are playing boule. so we watch. we learn that different men have different strategies. one tries to smash the boules close to the point ball. other try to finesse the boule next to the point ball or to block somethiing. it seems they are having much fun and that it is a great bonding experience. . it's fun to watch. then it starts to rain and everyone says farewell.

we go back to cordes with our dinner.

staying in cordes is a unique exercise program. we park down the hill, adn then trudge up the VERY STEEP hill, generally with groceries, to our house. .

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