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Mirepoix-Foix 5 June 2016


1257 : 1031

We decided to go back to Foix, a town we blew through on our way to the Niaux, to check out what's possibly the only impregnable castle anywhere: the Chateaux du Comte de Foix. And interesting fellows the Counts were. But first, after parking, we had to get past a noisy (yelling, ranting, gunshots into the air, horns honking) labor union rally by the group that's causing all the disruption in France. It was impressive in exactly this: how few people were there, and how disinterested. Life goes on.

Across the street, another rally, against Israeli repression of Palestinians. Neither one was very compelling, although we're inclined to favor the Palestinians.


1258 : 1026

We found a nice lunch: very French hamburgers; Rochelle's was minced chicken with an amazing aioli, and mine was chopped duck breast with a chunk of fried foie gras on top. I had a glass of local “bio” rosé. Everything delicious, and the server lovely ...but the light was terrible, and so no pictures. Sorry.

After lunch, up the rock, half a dozen steeply slanted ramps, through a gate house, and right to the top of the round tower, the most recent (1300) and tallest, to look back down at the town far, far below. You get a sense of the scale when you note those people climbing the ramp.

1259 : 1018
<p>The chateaux was begun in the...

The chateaux was begun in the year 1002, but it was built on foundations that reached even further back into pre-history. The city of Foix sits at the confluence of two important rivers, the Ariège and the Agen, both of which punch deep valleys right into the heart of the Pyrénées. This has been a choke point on a crucial trade route going clear back to the time of the painters of Niaux. On the way back from the top of the tower, Rochelle counted 134 stairs.

1260 : 1014

The chateau serves now as a small, well organized little museum of its history, much of which was exceedingly militaristic. The chateau fell exactly once, when a turncoat inside the walls open the postern and let the invaders in.

Rereading this in 2017, I am struck by the contrast with the pile in Collioure. This one was well worth the trip.

<p>a shield and detail of a ring-mail shirt</p>

a shield and detail of a ring-mail shirt

1261 : 1008

1267 : 979

The stonework is equal to the workmanship of the armor. I am always stunned by the lasting qualities of well made stone buildings. Foix was a center of considerable power all through its history, and only became a part of France when it's count became King Louis IV.

1262 : 1007
<p>Here

Here's Louis's bed, given back to the chateau in acknowledgement of Foix's importance to France as the place where the founder of a dynasty came originally to power. By and large, the museums and attractions have figured out that English is a language that is worth explaining things in. The quality of the explanations is, however, spotty. Let me share with you the English language explanation of the textiles associated with the King's Bed:

"The quality in the treatment of the motives and the decorations(sets) leash to suppose a work of workroom of embroiderers in the big know-how." (It's easier to read in French.)

1263 : 999

Another notable Count of Foix, the eleventh, Gaston Febus (Phoebus) was a statesman, lover, and hunter. In his life, he claimed to be equally drawn to all three pursuits ...but he is remembered for his Book of the Hunt, a magnificently illuminated book created in 1387. The photo at left does it no justice – I include it because it comes from the chapter on hunting bears, and I love the imagery of the Teddy Bear's Picnic – but here, below, is a better image of Febus from the frontispiece:

 

 

I have tried, and failed, to find a better image of those bears, who are having entirely too much fun. Sorry.

1264 : 991

The highway to Foix comes up the Ariège valley, so after the chateau, we headed up the Agen, and onto a narrow windy road (that I loved buyt that made Rochelle nervous) over a range of hills (the Plantaurel) that separate the Agen valley from the last foothills and the plain. 

The road wound and wound, past farmsteads and barns, fields of wheat and fresh plowed fields, woodlots, an active lumbering operation, over hill and over dale. We met half a dozen cars, and never had a problem passing them, but there were also sections of the road where passing would have been very challenging.


1265 : 989
<p>Along the way we found a hidden...

Along the way we found a hidden lake (a reservoir) obviously known to locals who were there fishing, canoeing, enjoying the feeling of Sunday far away from civilization.

1266 : 986
<p>We finally wound our way past...

We finally wound our way past the place where the road stopped getting worse and started getting better – you always know you're on a through road when that happens – and dropped down into one of the greenest, most idyllic valleys I have ever seen.

And then we were back on a road with a white line down the center, and pretty soon we were home to Mirepoix.

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