Canet En Rousillon
December, 2000

Our next destination was Canet En Rousillon, a small beach community near the larger city of Perpignan, close to the border dividing France and Spain.

There are many small beach communities along the Mediterranean in Southern France near Spain. This restaurant was one of several in Canet En Rousillon along the beach   It's a small resort community but many of its restaurants and shops were closed for the season.   The street and a wide sidewalk is all that separates the shops from the beach.


This is the restaurant I mentioned before where the large dog freely walked around the tables.  It's just something you have to get used to.  Don't expect to see any "no smoking" sections either.
Mitch and Max had fun playing on the beach as we enjoyed lunch and a glass of wine.  The game in the picture on the right was to run along a thirty foot long, two foot high cliff of sand without getting wet by the surf that occasionally splashed over the top.

Speaking of wine, French prices were great!  If you are thirsty and don't have very much money, bottled water is usually the most expensive, followed by soda pop; (a Coke or Pepsi -- usually only a 10 oz. bottle -- is more than beer.)  A glass of house wine at a restaurant is very reasonably priced.  At a large French grocery store chain named Casino, I planned to buy a good bottle of French champagne, (just to see if it was really a lot better than the types we buy in the US.)  I saw bottles ranging from the US equivalent of $3.00 to $80.00.  Hmmm, which one to buy?  Then I spotted a bottle for 7 Francs, (that is 1 US dollar.)  I bought it and another for the equivalent of 15 US dollars.  I must admit, they were both very good and very close in quality.

We stayed at a condo in this little resort town for a week.  It was located in a beautiful, historic area so we made several day trips.

Carcassonne, France
When we pulled up to these walls the boys both groaned ... "oh no, another castle."  But when we walked through the gates they both shouted "COOL" and took off running.

This place is called Carcassonne and is considered to be Europe's greatest walled city. Built about 800 A.D., this city-within-a-fort still contains a thriving community.  Of course the main industry is tourism, but this town includes full-time residents and businesses including an active church. 


I'm glad we were there during the off season.  It appeared much like a town without the flood of summer tourists to pack the streets.  Cars, either locals going about their business or delivery trucks occasionally made their way through the narrow streets. 
The next photo was taken inside of the city walls -- it is the Castle of Carcassonne.  Carcassonne has a fascinating history.  As legend goes, the army of Charlemagne was determined to force the locals out.  They had laid siege to the city for years, determined to starve the people out from behind those walls.
  It wasn't easy though, it was taking years and the army were getting restless and bored.  Meanwhile, inside the city walls, the residents were getting desperately low on food and were thinking about surrendering.  A very smart lady named Madame Carcas fed the last bits of grain to the very last pig in town and then tossed the pig over the wall.  Splat!  Well, Charlemagne's army saw that and figured that if these people still had this much food left, they'd never get them out.  The army left and the city was saved.  The happy residents decided to name the city after Madame Carcas.
This is a model of Carcassonne.  The entrance is between the two turrets on the lower left across a moat.  The castle sits in the rear, near the upper right and the church is in the back near the upper left.  Across the moat is the first wall of defense which is taller than it looks in this picture.  The fortress could be defended from casual attacks from this outer perimeter and, if necessary, occupants could pull back into the inner walls which were over thirty feet high and quite thick. 
As a third level of defense, the inner castle had it's own moat and protective walls as seen in the photo above this one.

Just outside of the entrance to Carcassonne was this very beautiful cemetery.  The dates ranged from the 1600's to 2000. As you can probably tell it was very crowded with most of the large tombs being multi-generational family crypts.  It was really interesting because almost all of the dates after 1900 had a photograph of the deceased person, (when they were alive,)  mounted on the headstone.  One crypt was so old that the corner of the rock and mortar had crumbled away.  Mitch peeked in for a look ... it was kind of spooky.
This spectacular stained glass must have been twenty-five feet across or more. It was inside of an extemely old church inside of the walls of Carcassonne.  These places don't charge tourists anything to come in, but there is usually a local near the door asking for a donation to help save the crumbling church.

Driving through this part of Southern France, we passed many vineyards and thousands of acres of grape vines, (photo above, right.)  The only workers we'd see is a few men out maintaining the plants.  Smoke rose from small fires as they burned vines trimmed from the plants.  We assumed that the white powder around the vines was lime.
When I took this picture I told Max it would be one of those he could hide from his girl friend when he's sixteen.

From a distance it looked like jagged rocks on the face of the mountain top.  As we drove closer we could see right angles and we realized it included castle walls.  We could see several of these mountain top structures in the Pyrenees Mountains

Pretty cool

A view of the sheer walls from the parking area
The picture on the left is from the doorway seen in the picture on the right.  The second picture was taken from the top the chapel seen in the pictures below.
The Pyrenees Mountains have made a natural border between Spain and France for centuries. With the addition of several fortresses like Peyrepertuse spread in a line across the highest ridges, any invading force could be easily seen.  From the top of Peyrepertuse you could see far off in the distance atop another mountain another fortress just like the one we were standing in.  All of these fortresses were built within eye sight of each other, assuring that no one would be able to approach unnoticed.
The weapons of the times certainly had no range to defend from above or attack from below.  The fortress walls blend together with the mountain.  One side is straight down -- it goes for hundreds of feet.  The other side is passable but very steep.  The sheer ruggedness of the Pyrenees Mountains provided most of the defense against invaders.
Below is the town of Duilhac, France.  I remember standing up on the edge of the castle wall so that I could get a picture looking down on the town.  To my right is a sheer drop of at least 400 feet -- at that point you'd bounce off of the first rock and then tumble several hundred feet more. 

You can't see the town in this picture because Cheryl refused to climb up onto the wall.

(Note from Cheryl -- I thought the boys might like having their mom around for a few more years.)

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