For our third walk (without yet paying or providing any documentation – shh!), Tom and I joined the group for a full-day Monday outing, this time further afield, starting from the small village of Montferrand, to the northwest of Castelnaudary.
Our walk today was one out of the Bear Grylls children’s book series, as we tracked the hooves and smells of sanglier (wild boar), who had passed ahead of us on the muddy and leaf-strewn tracks through the hills.
For the second time, we joined a Saturday afternoon walk under the auspice of the Haute Vallée Randonnée walking group, this time starting from the nearby village of St Ferriol, a short drive from Quillan.
With a long weekend ahead of us, Tom and I decided to take the opportunity for a night away in the wine-growing region to the South-East of Quillan.
Driving east on the D117 and not in any hurry, this was our chance to do some exploring along the way, so we planned a relaxed start, a leisurely walk up to one of the many neighbouring Cathar castles, a long auberge lunch, and a mid-afternoon wine tasting on the domaine where we’d booked to stay the night in a simple gite.
When the weather dawned cold, misty, wet and windy on the morning of our departure, we refused to be put off. But it did make for a more interesting and memorable experience.
I’ve been attempting to find a way of joining in the local walking group and this last weekend I had a perfect opportunity thanks to a special organised walk for Telethon, all welcome.
Tomos and I joined the easy two-hour walk, starting from Quillan and traversing small surrounding hills and fields in a loop below the Man’s Nose, and towards Brenac before returning to our start point via the rail line from Limoux and Carcassonne.
It was a gorgeous day, the walk was perfect, the company convivial and I would love to do more – but the degree of bureaucracy around joining the walking group may yet prevent us.
Most of my blog posts are fairly verbose, but sometimes words are superfluous.
So here are a few photos of Autumn in and around Quillan.
Considering the complexity of moving a family around the world, I’ve been remarkably sanguine about the whole thing.
Quitting my job, organising the house, making school arrangements in a foreign language. Solo parenting for two months in a foreign country while running a B&B. None of these big and life changing decisions have ever caused me a moment’s hesitation or the slightest concern.
Instead, I find myself paralysed at the thought of changing a light bulb. What is this phenomenon that has me sweating the little things?
I had been wondering what would happen to the market when the bad weather hits but recent experience proves that the market stops for nothing.
Last week, the rain was teeming down all night and it was blowing a gale, but the vans started rolling in to the square as usual, and were setting up in the dark, after 6am. Farmers and market gardeners in this part of the world are clearly made of stern stuff, even if the punters aren’t.
The history and fortunes of French villages are inextricably linked to their local water sources – at least in popular folklore – and this region is no different.
Writers like Marcel Pagnol in ‘Jean de Florette’ and ‘Manon des Sources’ have created something of a mystique and a romantic ideology around the important of village springs to community and livelihood, true or otherwise.
We have certainly heard many stories since arriving in Quillan, of the various local springs, and advice on which to sample depending on what you are looking for. The practice here does seem to be to prefer water direct from a source, than from a tap, or even from bought spring water.
Opinion has generally been unanimous that that the source at Axat is the one to go for, so we have been keen to test the theory. There was the just the small matter of navigating the narrowest piece of gorge road in the Haute Vallee de l’Aude to contend with.
The Sunday market at Esperaza is a much larger and altogether more bohemian affair than the weekly ones in Quillan, and attracts a large crowd of locals, travellers and tourists for its wide variety of produce, clothing, homeware, artisan and craft stalls.
There’s a definite spiritual and alternative lifestyle dimension to this market, and with the riverside location, and the gypsy entertainment, you could be fooled for thinking you were on the set of the movie ‘Chocolat’.
Back in New Zealand there are lots of things that we miss about France. But what I will miss most about Quillan when I return home, as last time, is the Place de la République – ‘our’ square – which gives us an incomparable outlook on the comings and goings of daily life.