Home -> Europe -> France -> Travelogue France -> 16 June 2006
Friday 16 June, via Albi to the mediterranean coast near Narbonne
The weather feels fine when we wake up, but when we break down the tent it suddenly starts to rain and the temperature seems to go down quickly. Our Dutch neighbors help us to pack the last stuff so that we do not get all too wet in the car. And as soon as we are done it is suddenly dry again, although the air looks very threatening. We talk for a while with the neighbors and then go on the road, the temperature gauge in the car indicates that it is 21 degrees, 10 degrees less than the last few days!
We drive into the area Rouergue and Albigeois and the further we drive to the west the warmer the weather gets. By the time we arrive in Albi it is outside 35 degrees, the hottest day we have had so far.In Albi we come across the river Tarn again and from the Rue Porta we have a beautiful view on the river and the medieval city. The arch bridge dates from the Middle Ages too.
Fortunately, we can park our car in the shade, near the old center of Albi. The first thing that comes to mind when we hear that name are the Albigensians and the Albigensian crusades, aimed at the Cathars who resisted the Medieval clergy who enjoyed wealth and power more than preaching true love. Especially in the Languedoc the Cathars got many followers.Anyone who has read Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code (and who has not? Oh yes, not yet ...) will undoubtedly have read about the Cathars in it. If that is not the case, then a chapter is missing. We do not know the book yet (we read when the hype is over again, and we already know older, similar books), but we do know that the Cathars did not accept the authority of the Catholic Church, a very courageous, but especially challenging vision that the church obviously could not just ignore. Simon de Montfort is the most important and cruel name of the first crusade against his fellow Christians, the Albigensians; he kills entire communities, but only after 3 crusades are the Cathars really defeated and real black pages are added to Western history. Albi, after which the Albigensians are named (the term kathaar is only later used by foreigners) was one of the first cities that soon returned to the 'true church'.
The fight against the Cathars also yielded the Inquisition, a body with a lot of power. For example, the bishop of Albi Bernard de Castanet was a saint inquisitor and was allowed to sue and condemn someone. Many people with money were accused by him of heresy and then condemned by him. But he was zo zealous that even his superiors wanted him gone: he was promoted away. Has anything changed in this world in 800 years?
While we are getting so angry about the many injustices in history, we take a walk between the remnants of that same history. It is a compact town, but you are busy for a few hours walking around and seeing everything. In the shadow of the narrow alleys it is wonderful to walk, but in the full sun it is hot and sometimes we seek refreshment at a fountain.When we get back to the car we have to air it first, the temperature gauge shows 45 degrees, while the car is still in the shade. This is the right time to try out our air conditioning and we leave it on for the first time in a long time. But you do not hear us complaining about the heat, we prefer it over the cold.
From Albi we drive to the south and we pass through Saissac, a picturesque village with old streets and of course a castle. We are now in the Black Mountains, an area where many Cathars once lived and Saissac was one of their shelters. People who love Medieval literature undoubtedly know the name of the troubadour Peire Vidal, and it seems that he was often a guest at the castle here.The air becomes increasingly misty and the heat disappears, it gets colder as we go further south. We drive via Carcassonne, but we decide to go there next week so we have a whole day for this impressive city. So we drive through, now east again, to the Mediterranean Sea. We are going to take a week off, enjoy the beach, but it gets colder and colder. We have chosen a campsite on the coast behind Narbonne, but because there are so many road works in Narbonne, it takes some effort to find our way through the city. And we are completely surprised when we drive to the sea through a mountainous coastal landscape, we thought it would be completely flat here.
Even now we are just in time, just before seven o'clock, to register at the reception. We are tired of the long day and the air looks increasingly threatening. We quickly find a place, but in our haste we choose the wrong palce, gaian. When we start to set up the tent, the rain begins to fall as well and it turns out that the ground consists of pure rocks, the pegs do not go further than 1 to 2 centimeters into the ground. Then it starts to storm and we make the best of it, with a thick stone we ram the pegs as far as we can until we have sore hands and then quickly hide in the tent. As soon as the storm drops a little, we discover that we have no power at hand, no water and because the tent moves away in all directions, we decide to find a different spot tomorrow morning. Well, we don't like it, but this is what it is and tomorrow there will be another day.
And so it is a very different day than we had imagined: the hottest day of the holiday, but we left this morning with rain and 21 degrees and we end with rain and the same temperature. Now let's hope we get some nice beach weather, because that is the main reason we are here!