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Chris Sayer’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 02 Sep 2007

Location: Mirepoix, France

MapWeek beginning September 1st.
Life in Mirepoix is very easy to take. In fact, we could get quite used to this lifestyle. A leisurely breakfast followed by café in the Village Square (just three minutes walk around the corner). Businesses shut for lunch for about two hours every day (the Post Office shuts from 12 til 4pm), and it seems that everyone ends up spending their lunchtime sitting in one of the many cafes, bars and restaurants in the Village Square. They then go back to work til 7pm, then back to the Square for an aperitif before a late evening meal at 9 or 10pm. Of course, we are following the local custom.
They’re not kidding when they describe this as a “Medieval Village” … and it ain’t Disneyland make-believe stuff – this is a town that recognizes its historical significance and tries very hard to maintain the history. You feel privileged to share the town with the people who live here.
Sunday we drove a short way out of Mirepoix to a little village called Camon, and like every other village in France, it is dominated by narrow streets, shuttered windows, and a large castle in the middle of the town. So many of these striking structures starts to make you blasé about the human effort that went into building these castles so many centuries ago. A short drive on and we come across Chateau Lagard – this time a castle in ruins sitting high on top of a hill, with the magnificent Pyrenees (and Spain) easily within sight to the south. Although currently being restored, the entire castle was succumbing to gravity and falling to the ground, but it took little imagination to marvel at its grandeur in its heyday.
Monday is market day in the Square. Dozens of stalls selling every type of fruit and vegetable you could imagine. And so cheap. And fresh. The butchers have kindly kept the heads on the rabbits, chickens and ducks (with eyes intact), and have parts of animals on offer that you dare not question their origin. Clothes, crafts, books, herbs, souvenirs – you could buy anything here. By midday, they’ve finished their selling, and they pack everything up, leaving the Square for the cafes and bars to provide the weary shoppers with comfortable tables and chairs to start their aperitifs early. Monday evenings must be an extravaganza of gastronomic delights in Mirepoix.