Category Archives: Travel France 2010

Avignon and Home, Sat. Aug. 28-Sun. Aug. 29, 2010

Sunday, August 29, 2010 8:11 AM Gare d’Avignon TGV
“Sitting in a railway station, got a ticket for my destination….” The old Simon and Garfunkel song. And a reminder how radically things can change. My destination this AM is Paris CDG [Charles de Gaulle airport] and then a flight 10 days early back to NY. On Friday evening the word finally came: Mom had made her transition.
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Provence (Mary Magdalene), Wed. Aug. 25-Fri. Aug. 27, 2010

With my arrival on Tuesday night, Aug. 24, in the city of Bezier to spend the next day in the area, I reached not only the outer perimeter of Cathar country but also the gateway to a unexpected sequence of shrines and sights commemorating the enigmatic biblical character of Mary Magdalene. But the two are not unrelated. Read more

The Corbières, Tuesday August 24, 2010

After spending the night in the Mediterranean city of Perpignan, I returned inland, arcing northwest and then east to Bezier back on the coast. As this was my last foray through the heart of Cathar country, I left my previous day’s fatigue behind and headed expectantly into the Corbières, a mountainous region featured in both my novel’s 20th century Grail hunter and the 14th century character, Guilhem Bélibaste, the “last Cathar Perfect.” Read more

Ax-Les Thermes to Perpignan via Spain, Sat. 8/21 to Mon. 8/23/10

Even though the Cathar movement was stymied by the 1244 defeat at Montsegur, it was not yet eradicated. Expelled from their hometowns and without political protectors, the remaining faithful fled south, melting into the deep valleys and high peaks of the French Pyrenean foothills, to be pushed finally in the later decades of the 13th century across the mountains into present-day Spain, then ruled by the more tolerant monarchs of Aragon and Majorca. Read more

Foix Area, August 17-20, 2010

My week in the Foix area featuring visits to Tarascon, Ussat, Miglos, Montreal de Sos, Foix, St. Bertrand-des-Comminges, Lourdes, Prehistoric Art Park, and the Caves of the Lombrives.

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Pamiers, Seat of the Inquisition, Monday 8/16/10

My primary destination for the day was the city of Pamiers, 13 miles north of Foix, mere minutes on the excellent E9 expressway, which ran right outside the hotel. Not a notoriously ancient or historic location as European cities go, I went to Pamiers, now quite the industrial town, in search of a very particular individual, Bishop Jacques Fournier, in the very narrow period from 1317 to 1325. Read more

Montsegur, Sunday, August 15, 2010

In the Middle Ages the Montsegur region was ruled by the Counts of Toulouse and the Viscounts of Carcassonne, noble houses sympathetic to the Cathar cause. Arguably the best known of Cathar castles, the Château de Montségur served as safe house, monastery, and finally military stronghold for the Cathar faithful and their defenders in the brutal last years of the Albigensian Crusade.
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Arques, Rennes-le-Chateau and the Razes Region Saturday 10/14/10

There was the sense that “the scenery was setting the stage literally…a dramatic change going south, from rolling hills to steep stuff, almost like driving west from Boulder [in the foothills of the Colorado Rockies]. I can see how these land configurations served as natural boundaries, why this area was a defensive position worth fortifying against invasion from across the Pyrenees.” I became quickly aware that I was approaching a region of multiple mysteries.
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Carcassonne and the Chateaux, August 12-13, 2010

My next major destination, one where I booked a hotel for two nights, was the city of Carcassonne, second only to Toulouse as the center of military, political and ecclesiastical activity during the Cathar Crusade period. But it was on my way there from Albi, the afternoon of August 12, that I was introduced to … Read more

Toulouse to Albi: Orientation to Cathar Country 8/10-12

The Languedoc was forcibly annexed by the French during the bloody Cathar conflict in the thirteenth century, and Toulouse, its capital, was center stage as that tragedy played out…It became immediately evident that I had landed, as if I’d time-traveled, in the midst of the places and characters of the era I had come to study vis-á-vis The Perfect, and that three weeks would be precious little time to absorb even a fraction of the information and experience available. Read more