Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bastide Rambling

It seems that there was a time before France was France that there was a bucket load of English roaming about the countryside in the the Land of the Franks and things were looking a bit bleak for the local barons and other similar powerbrokers. The solution to this sticky situation was to re-settle the peasants into large, well-planned towns, which they called 'new towns'. These towns are called 'bastides'. All this happened during the Hundred Years War, which lasted for about 100 years. That's almost a century.

Mirepoix is a fabulous example of a bastide. It has wide-ish, well-planned streets set out in a rectangular geometric pattern, a wall right around its perimeter and a town square and church. In times of great trooble, all the people rush into the town and chuck yonnies and arrows at the marauding English. Another example we saw near Beynac was Monpazier. Have a look on Google Earth and see what I mean.

'Bastides' like Mirepoix dot the French countryside. KC commented that they look like indusrial towns built in the eighteenth century and you have to give your head a really good shake and remind yourself that they were built in the 12th and 13th! It can give you quite a headache. These 'bastides' function quite well here in the 21st century and are living, breathing communities (unlike cute villages like Beynac which thrive only on tourism and are really only museum pieces). [By the way, if you would like a squizz at Beynac, have a look at the movie 'Chocolate'. While not shot entirely in Beynac, the scene at the beginning where the mum and the little girl are walking up the hill in the snow is shot in our very street. Also later when the Johnny Depp character pulls up in his boat. We watched it last night with a GCR omlette on our laps - being Sunday night, and all.]

in a later blog I am going to tell you all about the Cathars, but only if you eat all your veggies! Yes, including those brussels sprouts!

Your extraordinarily good pals,

The Ramblers!

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