August 15, 2005

August 9 -- Domaine du Viala, Paraza France

This morning we took a short drive to Minerve, an ancient village about 15 minutes away. It sits at the junction of two river gourges and is reached by a tall stone arched bridge. In 1210 it was under siege and held out for 5 weeks until a catapult shot destroyed its well. The cathar residents had a choice to convert to catholicism or be burned--180 chose the latter. We chose to wander and take pictures.

You park outside the town in a village owned parking lot (the cost is just a couple of euros). Then it is a short walk across an ancient high bridge into the village proper. From the top of the bridge you can look down on a river and the farmed fields that line its banks.

After lunch at the gite, we walked along the Canal du Midi from Paraza to to the next village. Ventenac. This stretch of the canal is very historic because the canal actually crosses a stream by way of a canal bridge.

Ventenac is larger than either Roubia or Paraza, but still quite small. Brian spent about 15 minutes walking around the town. The highlight is the Chateau Ventenac, the local wine cooperative. There is a free tour through this combination working winery and museum.

In the late afternoon we drove to Carcassonne which is the largest preserved walled city in Europe. It too was very important during the crusades. The church dates from 1200 and the walls are even older. It is full of art shops and restaurants. Julie knew enough to get there late as the tour busses leave. We shopped and ate, then waited for them to turn on the lights that light all of the walls and castle.


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