We had a lazy start, slept in, and hit the morning market for picnic lunch components. Then we saddled up and hit the road for Queribus, one of the Cathar Castles stretching along the old boundary between France and Aragon. Approaching the castle was impressive; from the town of Maury where we turned off of the highway, it sits up in the sky. After wandering through the narrow city streets, we followed the roundabout signs and were soon headed toward the town of Cucugnan. The road was two pretty good lanes as we started twisting up the mountain. Soon we turned off of the main road and climbed the narrow track to Queribus. The car did a good job, though the lack of guardrails continued to amaze Jennifer as we threaded the winding road.
From the valley floor, Queribus looks the a finger on the mountain. (I wish we'd take a good picture from the valley floor.) From the top of the track, where you park, it's still impressive. And unsquishable, as Jennifer found out. We wandered from the small parking lot to the wooden buildings at the foot of the trail, where we bought tickets and an audioguide. (The castle docents and shop owners were from the village of Cucugnan.)
After we climbed just a few feet and passed the first bend, I took this picture. They were big fans of capitalizing on what nature provided: a lot of the bare stone is the mountain itself, often barely shaped.
At the first landing, where the stable used to be, we were confronted with a sturdy wall and daunting arrow and musket slits. From the landing where I was standing, it's the last clear spot before climbing the narrow stairs. It's also right at the end of a straight away, so you're forced to slow here-- right in the kill zone. You already have a good field of view downhill from here-- you can easily see the winding track we drove up to reach mighty Queribus.
Eventually you make it past the outlook points (they had a map labeling all of the things you could see from there: you could easily see significant cities and towns on both sides of the border), and finally turn into the castle proper. The first room (where the picture was taken from) was a three story wood barracks (tied into the rock and stone walls)-- now we can look straight from the bottom floor up at the keep looming over everything. When you take an immediate left on entering, you come into a common area with a huge lookout window overlooking the sheer southeastern face.
A few steps up the stairs and we got out on a half level-- it turns out that the room we entered had originally been two stories (you could see the sockets for the wood beams), with a great column sprouting from the middle of the room. At the top of the column four arches sprang, a beautiful effect. (Practical too, reminded our audioguide: 4 arches are stronger than one, so this was a powerful way to span the large space.)
From here, we made our way back down to the car, grabbed our lunch fixings, and settled on a nearby bench where we had bread, fruit, and tasty cheeses. We were pretty wiped out after clambering around all those stairs and slopes, but wanted to check out Peyrepertuse, another Cathar castle visible from Queribus. We drove to the foot of the castle and looked up at the imposing sight.
We decided that too many castles in a day would be overkill, returned to the car, and drove down through an Aude gorge. It was impressive, cutting deep into the rock below among mountains, so you could look up and down both at once from the road threading its way along a path in the middle. The view was breathtaking.
As we wandered around the lookout spot on the south end of the gorge, the weather decided to stop threatening and start raining. We hopped in our little Ka and drove back, thankful that we hadn't explored and gotten stuck on top of Peyrepertuse in the rain. The rain was heavy-- fat drops that the windshield wipers struggled to clear.
We wandered back to the room and I tried my hand at cooking up Catalan sausage. It's a tasty mild sausage that cooks up quite similarly to Keelbasa... and is good with potato too.
As Jennifer's work week spun up, I did some exploration on my own. (I'm skipping a few days of slower time; I hope to fill them in later. Thumbnail summary: Monday cooked lunch for Jennifer, Rachelle and her family, then created characters with the kids; Tuesday low key exploration and did laundry; Wednesday played D&D with the kids.)
Thursday morning I headed inside the cathedral of Saint-Jean-Baptiste.
Our third day began with a train ride to Collioure, a beach town about 30 minutes south of Perpignan. The walk from the station to the beach was quick-- just about 5 minutes. The highlight of the trip was touring the Majorcan king's summer palace, and hearing about its changes and growth over 5 centuries. This set of pictures is from our time wandering the town before the tour.
After a bit of delay, I have finally accessed the French internet! (It turns out that the code they gave us was good for only 1 computer, but they don't staff much on weekends. Yesterday was the first day we encountered someone we could explain our problem to, someone who could get me a login.)
The first few days have been busy-busy-busy! Jennifer's had even less free time than the kids, since there's been planning and website design meetings during the students' breaks. I've enjoyed the trip, but week one of this trip has been a whole lot busier with school activities than last year's week two. [Just a lot of getting things running-- plus welcome parties for faculty and their men.]
Enough with the boring: on to the pictures! [Click for larger versions.]
My search is getting to the point where, by day, I have to consider moving elsewhere. I've already applied for positions quite a drive away-- Bakersfield for the AQE job, West LA and Orange County as plan check engineers. By day, I am reluctant but rational: it is hard to live without income, and there's nothing around Fresno that's hiring in my field. Bummer.
At night, I resist with all the fiber of my being. I have something fun going on all the time, a network of great friends and fun activities, a life that is exactly what I've worked to build.
On Wednesday, I made a simple dinner that was enthusiastically devoured, every bite. Sourdough bread (Bittman 858), Roast Chicken Parts with Olive Oil (Bittman 640), Roasted Snap Peas with Spring Onions (T&D Willey Farms), and an apple crisp (Bittman 884) [half pink ladies, half granny smith] plus ice cream. Then we played Settlers of Catan with Dad, Ben, and Tress. Jennifer laughed til her nose bled, Tress was in tears. Wood for sheep indeed!
This weekend has fallen into place wonderfully. Tonight I have a fun AT-43 match with Bryan, tomorrow Aces and Eights with Ben, Dad, and Mike, and Mother's Day in Visalia with Carrie and her brand new daughter.
Does life get better than this?
An interesting discussion/debate. This round was begun by a Kevin Drum comment on a Matt Yglesias post, but delving into his comments section shows a lot of experience with different areas making walkability work.
I particularly liked the following comment about Irvine from a city planner. It's a good point about the limits of luring with amenities like walking trails and how much of walkability comes about because driving is difficult.
Yesterday I made Carrot Soup with Ginger, from Wednesday's soup recipe article by Joan Obra. It was delicious and simple; about 1 1/2 hours from start to finish, but each step was easy. You can start the onions and work on the carrots and ginger while they're cooking, then start your water for the chicken broth when you toss in the carrots and ginger.
The Indie Store Finder site is dedicated to promoting and connecting you to independent book stores. I like that-- and found a new store, Petunia's Place near me. I guess I've got a new store to check out...