The etiquette of paths and mussels

Well it was up early with the croissants and off to explore some chateaux under a rather grey sky. I am loathe to admit, whilst on holiday in the South of France, that it had been raining during the night but yes the morning was distinctly miserable and several cups of tea did nothing to shift the misery.

First stop was the Chateau de Queribus and it was still early so not too many people about. The road winds up the hill near the village of Cucugan. It was a refuge for Cathar deacons as late as 1241 and was eventually made into a royal palace. The site itself is a spectacular hill fortress and the path winds up the side and one is blown away by the wind that wraps itself around the hill as I reached the gateway. It was a struggle to pull myself up the final steps and then you feel safe within the castle walls. If I was part of a marauding enemy, of course, I would feel anything but safe as the arrow slits are lined up for a ‘shoot to kill’ policy and the usual traps over the gateways where they could pour boiling hot tea down onto your head. Not my sort of welcome.

It is hard to believe that this castle could have been built on such a high point of a mountain but stands here it does and there are a whole load of stairways and passages to explore and magnificent views out across the Rousillon plain. The mountains of Canigou were pushing their tops into the cloud cover and I imagine it would look wonderful in the depths of winter.

Back at the kiosk we had one of the worst cups of coffee that France has ever produced before retiring to the car for the croissants and a chance to admire the beautiful lenticular clouds that were hanging around over the hills. They are formed from the air moving in a wave like flow over the mountain tops and produce the wonderfully smooth clouds that look like martian flying saucers in the sky. Such peaceful thoughts were interrupted by two coaches arriving and discouraging hundreds of people. I wondered how many of them would notice the lenticular clouds?

On to Aguilar Chateau and there was no one there so we could have a really good look round this lovely small fort outpost set amongst some vineyards over the plains of Tuchen.

Finally, and there are only so many chateaux you can take in a day, to the Royal Fortress of Peyrepertuse. This was the biggest so far and very popular. This is a real ‘Buy one, get one free’ as it consists of two castles but maybe that’s why they charge almost twice the admission price of a normal castle! According to the blurb, it’s, ‘ an essential element in the French Kingdom’s defense system against Aragon’. It occurs to me that then they had the crusades and now we have the ‘war on terror’. Nothing much has changed. They had the Spanish Inquisition and we have tube bombers.

There are many narrow paths around the Chateau of Peyrepertuse and this means that one is continually having to give way to people on narrow staircases, let people overtake or overtake others if I consider they are going too slow. I never like this mixing with so many people and inevitably I get very annoyed by just these other people and their lack of politeness. People who tread hard on your heels, then when you turn round and say, ‘après vous’, they say decline and say, ‘non, ‘après VOUS’, but then they still stay hard on your heels and you think what are they up to? Then there are others who are walking towards you on a narrow ledge so when I stand aside to let them pass, they look through you and don’t say a word. I wish I hadn’t bothered!


Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

This evening we cooked fresh moule marinere.


Lots of mussels

Onions or shallots,

White wine

Melt the chopped onions in some butter and add the wine. Clean up the mussels and remove any ‘beard’ like attachments. Throw away any mussels that are open.

Heat up the onion and wine mixture until boiling in a large pan , add the mussels and put the lid on to steam them. After about 5-10 minutes most of them will have opened. Eat them from the pan, using one mussel as a pair of tweezers. Eat with fresh bread and dip the bread into the ‘soup’. Throw away any mussels that are closed.

Delicious with a glass of Fitou red wine.


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