587-581-5081 Marikarhall@icloud.com

Our first group has left and we are all feeling very blessed by each of them and what they offered the experience of touring the Languedoc and all it’s superb food, wine and sites. You never really know what is gonna happen with a group of strangers in a foreign place away from the comforts and routine. Often time people are attracted to trips like this to mark something significant in their lives; graduation, career change, death, divorce,…. and certainly we had a few of these, but despite this or perhaps because of it, the group cohesion was fabulous. Each of them brought a special something to the mix and dived head on into cooking, eating, drinking, exploring and sharing this magical place. Many blessings to all of them on their continued journeys.

Our last few days with our food and wine group were marked by visits to some of the most amazing historical places of this region. The town of Minerve (which i missed out on due to a sore throat from working so much, but I get to see it this week) was the final stronghold of the Cathars, a dualist Christian group who believed in good and evil counterparts similar to mainstream christians, but they differed in that they believed men and women to be evil, had no hierarchy of leaders or church property, approved of contraception, euthanasia and suicide, and believed in reincarnation and didn’t eat animal products. The believers were based mainly in Italy and Southern France during the 12th and 13th century, until the Roman Catholic church declared their beliefs the ‘great heresy’ and began the Cathar crusades. The Languedoc at the time had been an area of high culture, liberalism and tolerance and slowly the crusade humiliated and removed the leaders, dispossessing their lands for France, and indiscriminately slaughtering an estimated half-million men, women and children. The last place that the remaining 180 Cathars hid out was in Minerve, a medieval castle and village protected by a double curtained wall and natural overhanging ledges, that withstood the crusaders for 10 weeks until in 1210 it fell and the remaining Cathars were burned at the Catholic Churches behest. A loss to religious freedom and human kind. More to come once I get to experience it first hand!

We also visited the medieval town of Carcassonne which has one of the most intact walled fortresses in the world. Settlement in this area has been shown to be around 3500 BC, located on the river Aude it was an important trading place and the Romans  first fortified the hilltop in 100BC and leaders continued to reinforce it and build upon it for another 1000 yrs. It was also a site of the Cathar crusades in 1209 and in 1247 the town fell to the control of France. It is now one of the most exquisitely kept medieval fortresses I have ever been in, well taken care of to help promote tourist trade, it boasts many beautiful shops, museums, an amazing basilica, and interesting eateries. Walking through the streets I felt a bit like a woman of the medieval ages and so wished I could have wondered through the secret passages or even the streets at night when they are empty except for the spirits of the past. The town below is a bustling and beautiful place with incredible shopping. I found one shop on the corner of two cute streets called “free soul corner” and you know I spent hours in there trying on everything that would fit me. The French are definitely small people and I always thought it was because of smaller portions, but as of yet I have not come across a small portion. I bought some beautiful new garments to rock out in France and back home.

It is now time for me to go to bed and rest up for the next day of the cycling group. More to come on my cycling adventures soon!

Much love                                                                                                                                                                                                  M

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