Monday, December 24, 2012

Rocking up to Roquebrune

view from Kenny's farmhouseLate this morning I drove towards Mirande to drop off a surprise gift of an armagnac prune cake I’d made for friends Kenny & Zamira who have a farm a few minutes north of the town. With the clear views to the south, it’s awesome weather to be driving towards the Pyrenées.
over the wire at Kenny's  Saint-Arailles
As it turned out they weren’t home, but I stepped out to enjoy the southwest prospect they enjoy from their front door. I wandered over to one of the barns to take the picture over the hay-feeder below and brushed up against the gate-rope, which I now know to have electrified wire in the rope. Oh for Munson’s furry insulation!

Turning north again we passed through Montesquiou where we’d viewed the Tour de France in July, and a little later I saw the church spire of a bastide village off the road to our right. Following a narrow avenue and then a brief ascent and entry through the town gate, we arrived outside the mairie of Saint-Arailles. While quite tiny, the row houses behind the mayoral office seemed to be in very good condition, the most recent renovations in the commune’s seven centuries. The town’s name derives from the third century virgin martyr Saint Eulalie of Barcelona who was murdered by the Roman governor Dacen by being placed in a barrel of broken glass and rolled down an alley.
Saint-Arailles mairie

Castet dous aousets e de las flous


A phrase engraved on a gatepost caught my attention

Castet dous aousets e de las flous

It seems to be somewhere between Latin and modern French, Occitan or even Catalan.
Ten kilometres further north another bastide beckoned. This was the even tinier hamlet of Caillavet with an old chapel bearing a frame of four bells. There was barely room to turn the car outside the (locked) chapel and I stayed only for a few minutes as nothing else caught my eye within the commune or on the horizon.Caillavet (apologies for windscreen reflection)
Our last stop was to be the  commune of Roquebrune  which lies between the two roads running south of our closest market town, Vic-Fezensac. The word “roque” appears in many place names in this part of France, and is etymologically more Spanish in its meaning of “rock (formation)” or Italian rocca rather than the French “pierre” which also shows up in many variant spellings. Roque  is variously fused with French words and particles to give us Larroque, Roques or Roquebrune (brown rock), rocca gives us Rocamadour. With the Portuguese roca for cliff, you can see how the various usages often assemble in one site that has has rock formations, cliffs and (subsequently) a fortification or castle. Roquer survives in French as the verb “to castle” in the game of chess.

This was the most developed and spacious of the three communes we stopped at. Walking with Munson up the main street towards the well and half-timbered house shown, I saw a sign announcing a “point de vue” , which led us around the edge of the rock roque rocca promontory on which the village sat towards a little grassy area which managed to seem both secluded and spectacular with more than a three compass-point sweep across the countryside.
Munson @ Roquebrune point de vue
Not a bad day, and we have a spare cake to eat….

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