Day 9 — July 9, 1996 (Tuesday)
09.07.1996 - 10.07.1996
At breakfast Madame Casanave suggested we visit Mirepoix near Foix. We took D routes through the countryside — promised a whole day of soleil — and were thrilled rounding a bend to see the Pyrénées.
Mirepoix is a lovely medieval city with an “iron market” and the church of St. Maurice with twelve side altars. It was still early; the stores were not all open and the market was not set up. However, the streets were still wet from being washed and we walked around the entire square. You really did get a marvelous feeling of history.
When the city was built, the citizens only had to pay taxes on the ground floor so the ground floor is considerably smaller than the floors above. Hence, the second floor overhangs the sidewalk and in Mirepoix it is a very large overhang and they have very shaded sidewalks. There have been tax dodges as long as there have been taxes! Mirepoix Tourist Office web site
Bought some “illuminated” poems for us and for Charles then zipped on down the road to Foix. Signs were numerous and we found Foix without trouble. The château was perched atop a pretty tall hill, and the parking was at the bottom by a river. I took one look at the height and was strongly tempted to add the Château at Foix to the list of things I haven’t climbed. We parked by the little river and hiked up to the town, then up to the base of the château, then on up a very rough cobblestone street to the actual entrance with the Château looming yet above us!
There was an unmarked toilette near the entrance which we decided to use. Lo and behold, yet another footprint facility — this time without a handle. ‘Twas exciting but it served its purpose. Practice makes perfect . . .
We then paid 28F each for the purpose of climbing higher! We stopped a few times for breath — on the pretense of taking photos. Views of the Pyrénées were spectacular. I added the round tower to my list of things I haven’t climbed, but knew I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t climb the square tower with the museum. We made it to the top! Actually, you could climb up on a stone bench for a spectacular view of the valley (according to the guidebook), but between the bench and the castle wall there was an opening. I looked down a gazillion feet and decided I was not going near it. Ed climbed up and said the view wasn’t all that spectacular. I took his word for it. Heights are not my favorite thing and we were very high! Château de Foix web site
We had lunch at an outdoor café in Foix and explored the town a bit before we headed south toward Tarascon. The Pyrénées were incredibly beautiful — still some snow in places. We got off the N20 at the Parc Pyrénéen de l’Art Préhistorique which is a combination theme park and educational venture about cave paintings. It was fun — you get to walk through waterfalls and fountains. If you time it right, you stay dry — we managed.
There is a laser radio guided tour through antiquity and they had a British version. We particularly enjoyed cave paintings from California and our friend Kokopelli from New Mexico. They had interesting seats for the shows — a large bar to sit on with a small bar for your feet. As you walk through the park, you pass a herd of cement buffalo (American bison), a torrent (waterfall) and go through a maze. There is ancient sounding flute music to accompany you through the bamboo maze. I’m happy to report we did find our way out! Park of Prehistory web site
We took the N10 most of the way back and were stopped south of Foix where they were dynamiting a tunnel — scary sound. Showered and are awaiting our cassoulet!