This day was a real tour around the eastern part of the Ariege. You have to love the long days of summer with enough light to make you feel as if you have no need to hurry. Making a trip on these quiet roads with few tourists makes for a leisurely drive, and I wasn’t in any great hurry either. First stop Foix. The mediaeval castle dominates the old town and looks down onto the narrow streets below.
Beautiful half-timbered buildings in Foix.
The Halle aux grains was the perfect stop to have a drink and snack, with views to the castle. Maggie was impressed with the nibbles too!
Church of Saint-Volusien
I could so easily have missed my next stop. In fact I would have just driven along the road and not turned off had it not been for the campsite owner telling me I must make a small detour to the sleepy, almost forgotten village of Vals. The thing that strikes you most about this village is the ‘citadel’ that you see before you reach the centre.
On closer inspection you realise that it is a church – l’eglise rupestre de Vals, a troglodyte church. Built into the rock you ascend into the ‘cave’. It has frescoes from the 11th/12th century. but you’ve guessed…it was closed 😦 However, the stop was still well worth it and it just means I have to come back another time.
Church of Notre-Dame, Vals, built on three levels.
Sometimes you read about places and know you want to visit, but when you get there it is a real disappointment. Not the case I am pleased to say with Mirepoix. I parked right outside the last remaining ‘gate’ of the once fortified town and walked along a relatively uninspiring lane.
The Porte d’Aval
But once I reached the end, I passed into the main central square and caught my breath. WOW! Half-timbered houses supported on huge wooden pillars to create magnificent covered arcades. Stunning!
If you look closely, the ends of the joists on the wealthiest houses are carved with faces, heads and fantastical images.
It was really lovely to see people enjoying the relaxation of the distancing rules as they sat and enjoyed drinks and meals, ice-creams and cakes under the covered arcades. The small shope were proudly displaying their wares and hoping to start to get the tourist Euro into their coffers. I do hope they survive and ride the wave. Small places like this can only survive with visitors. Anyway I loved it here and happily parted with my money with a ‘slice’ of beautiful Nougat de Montélimar.
These massive ‘cakes of nougat’ command a high price! (but worth it).
I needed to move on and being so close I wanted to visit the ancient fortress village of Camon. The village is often called the village of a hundred rosebushes as there are roses absolutely everywhere, climbing up the walls of houses, their heady scent filling the air. And not one greenfly in sight!
Entrance to Camon, the Clock Gate.
Time was passing and it was time to start making my back to the campsite. Maggie was totally exhausted with all the walking about and was soon snoring away on the back seat of the car. Just one last stop to a small waterfall at Roquefort-les-Cascades. This small waterfall (30 metres) is a fragile and rare ‘tufa’ waterfall…. “The water from the spring that feeds these falls is very calcareous, and calcium deposits form on the rocks and moss over which it flows. When the vegetation underneath the deposits dies, it ferments, and the beige crust left behind has a porous texture resembling a sponge.” (just in case you were wondering)!
I hope you’ve enjoyed the little tour. Come back soon for some more travels in the Ariege.
Gosh, you did put yourself about, and found lovely places to visit. We started to look for a house in Mirepoix, but were so glad we didn’t in the end. It becomes very touristy in the summer and is absolutely stuffed with English people. Well done for finding those other destinations near where we were too. You did your homework!
Thanks. Yes I can imagine that in high season these lovely places are a nightmare if you actually live there. I much prefer the quieter life and enjoy visiting the major places when it is less crowded.
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Lovely photos, as always. We’ve been visiting Mirepoix for some years now and should have been there now, in fact, staying with our friends who live there. Such a breathtaking square. Will definitely go to Vals next time, thanks to you!
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Thanks for the nice comments…. much appreciated. Vals was such a surprise and I would have missed it totally if I hadn’t been told about it. I hope it will be open when you get to visit.
I like the cascading water fall covered with mosses!
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