Thursday, August 14, 2014

Cucugnan - where I'll end my days

Trip to Aude: Day 4 (Evening)
After checking out Bugarach from all angles (except top and bottom), we headed for the last stop of the day, the finest Cathar Castle of them all, the exceedingly romantic Château de Quéribus. It was a longish drive, and by the time we got there it was dusk. Too late to mount the hill to the castle. So we looked around for a place to stay at the village of Cucugnan, at the foot of the castle. Cucugnan and Quéribus are bound in till-death-do-us-part ties. Most castles have a village in their shadow, and Cucugnan is in that of Quéribus. When Quéribus was a fine young castle, Cucugnan supplied it with men and material. Now that Quéribus is in its dotage, it supplies it with tourists.

It wasn't love at first sight. When I first saw village Cucugnan, I said to myself, What Ho! A village!

It looked the sort of village that exists for the sake of tourists. And partly, that is true. It is chock full from one end to the other with restaurants and B&Bs, all catering to tourists headed for Quéribus. But there are people who live there. And with good reason. As I was to find out later.

This is what Cucugnan looks like, at first glance.

We found a lovely B&B, Les Santolines.

The proprietors of this B&B also own the only bakery in town, one of the eight best bakers in France. But more on that in a later post. It was a low-rush day, and we had the entire B&B to ourselves. It had an enormous sitting room and a well-appointed kitchen. All for us for a day. We were shown up to our room; a wide, generous room.
(The bed wasn't mussed up when we got the room!)
I took a look out the window. THEN I fell in love.

Cucugnan really is all about Quéribus. Wherever you go, there is always that castle looking down upon you. Every window in every house in that tiny village looks expectantly up at the castle, as if waiting for a sign. I looked long and deep at that sight. I found me saying to myself: I can look at this forever. And then I had the sudden realization. I DID want to look at it for ever.

But Blandine had other plans. After we'd unpacked, we shuffled out to forage for food. We were told to check out the local church, which had a statue of the pregnant Virgin Mary, carrying Jesus in her womb. It is one of the only handful of churches in the world that have a statue like this. We dutifully went there and took pictures.

We checked out the restaurants. They seemed a shade too pricey. We ended up buying frozen pizzas at a small grocery store and bringing it back to the hotel to heat in the microwave.

And then I went back to looking at Quéribus.

Night fell, Blandine told me to stop being an idiot and come to bed. I complied. But at 2 AM, I woke up. Blandine was fast asleep. I seated myself afresh on the window ledge to look at Quéribus in the moonlight.

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