Two days this week we visited one of the smallest and one of the largest walled towns in this area: Haut-Poul and Carcassonne.
Haut-Poul is a tiny village of no more than 40 houses terraced onto a cliffside far above the city of Mazamet. This town has two gates: an upper one and a lower one. It is not possible to enter the town from the cliffs so the founders built a wall and gate at the top of the cliff and another at the bottom. In between the gates tiny lanes switchback on the cliff. There are no cars except for couple of tiny golf cart sized vehicles. The houses abut the lane and jut out over the cliff and lane below. Patios stick out on top and have tremendous views of the mountains and valley below. There is a small ruined chateau in the village that once served as a final home for a doomed group of Cathars. This village also saw service as a Catholic stronghold during a time when Mazaamet below was Protestant. The only services in the village are a restaurant and a couple of artisan studios.
Carcassonne was a large walled city with a chateau and church as well as many twisting lanes to a few plazas. The city is not as charming as Sarlat. Most of the buildings have been taken over by tourist shops below and tourist accommodations above. However, the city wall is a marvelous 3 mile walk that gives you a sense of what this place was like, as Rick Steves recommends. Most tourists don’t venture far on this walk. We enjoyed rambling on the battlements. We also explored the city and discovered that the church has live music every day. On this day they had a five voice ensemble singing chants. How extraordinary! The church’s stained glass is beautiful and matched the beauty of the chorus. I hope you enjoy these few pictures of these two unique towns.
Tomorrow we leave Cuxac Cabardes and go to Saint Martin de Crau Provence. We have certainly enjoyed our stay at Chez Providence. Today our hostess, Christina, took us out for a 5 hour drive in the immediate area to see some of the intimate scenes we have missed in the forests and towns nearby. What a wonderful wrap up to our time here.