Wednesday, August 26, 2015

To Najac and Back, part 2

It was just an hour to go from Cordes-sur-Ciel to Najac. We crossed the 13th century bridge, St. Blaise and watched a group of kids who had stopped for a swim and a few kayakers trying to get the feel of the kayaks as they fought the current. (Very little current and the river is very low in spite of the recent rain. In fact, they were going with the current and still had trouble.)
This bridge is already part of Najac. The hotel is just the next bridge upstream, within walking distance. We got to the hotel early enough to just rest. Having spent three days driving, we were ready to just settle a bit and have dinner at the hotel. This was our third stay at the Belle Rive and this time we were treated to a big room. Well, two rooms since we had our friends with us: a double and a triple. Each room also had a sofa and a desk or coffee table and plenty of closed space. This was nice for a four-day stay. We had dinner there the first evening and two other dinners -- the menu doesn't change enough for a really long stay. Everything was well-prepared and well-served, but a longer stay would have been monotonous, I think. The asparagus omelet from April has become a mushroom omelet in summer. I've posted a view of the fortress from the hotel before, so here is one of the hotel from the fortress. Click on the photo to enlarge it. You can see the hotel, the swimming pool and the tennis court. Since it had rained, the pool was a bit too chilly. We had another day of relaxation our last day there and I dipped, but didn't swim.
On Sunday, we went to Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val after a brief walk in Najac, up on the crest of the hill. The whole idea of going to St. Antonin on a Sunday was to see the town on a market day, except we couldn't see the market or the town (medieval) for all the people! The place has become more and more popular as they exploit the filming of The Hundred Foot Journey (La Recette du Bonheur) a couple of years ago. It was released in 2014. I had asked Emma to reserve a table at La Festin de Babette for an excellent lunch and meeting up with them. It was a long, leisurely, Sunday lunch along the river. After lunch, we went up to Le Pède to see the new kittens and show off the site.
We spent the rest of the afternoon in conversation, walking around, admiring the views, the work done, the work still coming up, the kittens, the vegetable garden, the kittens. There are three, but I only dared put up a photo of one. I'm a sucker for kittens and I'm not alone.
We got back to Najac just in time to see the austere church and climb up to the fortress for one of the last tours of the day. It's really very interesting. The site was inhabited before the 10th century because the area was rich in copper, silver, iron and more. All those trees we see around were not there; it was almost entirely vineyard.
By the 10th century, there was a château. The difference between a château, a château-fort, and a fortress is a château is inhabited by the lord; a château-fort is a fortified château, and a fortress is occupied by troops, only. Najac was in the Comte de Toulouse's territory, with a strong Cathare population. It was also the administrative capital of the Rouergue region. After the victory of Alphonse de Poitiers, King Louis IX (St. Louis)'s brother, in 1229, the city of 6000 lost it's status. Alphonse de Poitiers created the new town of Villefranche-de-Rouergue, upstream on the river, tempted the population with a tax-free incentive and that was the end of Najac's wealth. The château was mostly destroyed (there's still a square tower) and replaced by the military fortress, with a drawbridge, an offset main door, the longest archer slots in the world (where have we heard that before?) and more.
In spite of the climb up to there, we were still stuffed from our lunch and picked up something for dinner from the bakery in Najac.
I had promised M that we'd see dolmens. Monday, we went looking for dolmens near Martiel and finally found them. I had printed out the map and we only did a little of the walk, points 1to 5.
At the end, 5, there was a depression, maybe the quarry where they got the stones in about 1500 BC. There was also a cave. Paul and I did not go into the cave; we left to go back to the car thinking the others were just behind us. After telling us they'd follow, they went into the cave and explored and took pictures. They lost track of time and when they came out they lost track of the track. We were worried, having waited an hour by the car. They had the keys, so we couldn't go for help and there was no phone reception. Big, big sigh of relief when they came down the trail, at last.
It was already past noon and we sped to Villefranche for lunch, followed by a short visit of the town and then on to the potter in Saint-André-de-Najac. Since our very first visit, when we noticed his window display in Najac, we'd been wanting to go to his place.
The original plan was to go to Toulouse on Tuesday, but we were all spent and decided on a day of rest before heading back to Nogent on Wednesday.

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