Saturday, April 29, 2006


Caught the bus to nearby Tavascon this morning as it had looked very pretty when we drove through it the other day. Equipped with map from Tourist Office I began exploring. Went briefly into church of Collegiale Sainte-Marthe, which had been beautifully restored, but people were arriving for a funeral so left. Thought about going into the nearby Chateau but decided to cross the river Rhone instead (feeling like a traitor to the Tourist Office Map!) Good choice as it turned out.

Bells started tolling from the church, the first bells I had heard in France after so many in Ticino. They were very mournful and were obviously funeral tolls. I started crossing the river though and soon could no longer hear the bells as the sound of the Mistral rang in my ears on the bridge.

I reached Beaucaire about which I knew nothing. I could see it had a Chateau and a church, just like on the other side of the Rhone. I followed the river for a bit then dived into the streets. I was in a real maze of narrow streets with houses several storeys high. There were low gates between sections and it all had a very medieval feel. The twisting shapes of the streets seemed to protect against most effects of the Mistral. The streets were quiet and about all I saw at first were boys who seemed to be of Algerian origin, playing soccer in the streets.

Suddenly I stumbled into a square with all manner of interesting buildings. No surprise then to see an artist sketching in a chair at a cafe. I am no artist but needed a toilet so stopped at the cafe for a hot chocolate French style, my favourite way. Given the medieval feel of the place, I guess it was no surprise that the toilet was squat style. But it was very clean and smelt only of disinfectant! Lovely service from the cafe, sets you up to sit like Lady Muck and relax and enjoy the hot chocolate.

I was soon wandering past a whole lot of listed buildings that were very well restored. I wondered who came to see them as there were very few tourists around. Maybe in summer the Michelin guide car travellers come here.

I then headed up to the ruined Chateau, little knowing I was about to stumble into a place of some Cathar history. (Thank you Marina for the book you gave me some years back.) I was soon reading a plaque to Raimond, local hero, who had regained this place from Simon de Montfort. I cannot remember the details now and will need to reread the book, but I have a feeling that one of these men was responsible for an especially bloody massacre in one town. The Chateau was destroyed later for another offense to a king.

Tomorrow hope to get to the Camargue and see some horses and flamingoes.

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