Sunday, 7 July 2013

Meeting some old friends plus a visit to Rennes-le-Château

The view from our friends' house near Carcassonne. Imagine looking out on such tranquil scenery every day!

A typical French tree-lined provincial road. The flickering effect generated by a low sun shining between the trees when driving along these long, very straight, roads in early morning or late afternoon can be disconcerting, as we can testify!

The hill-top village of Rennes le Chateau is featured in Dan Brown's blockbuster novel "The Da Vinci Code" and its extensive and fascinating history goes back to the 10th century and beyond, into pre-history and Roman occupation (far too much to relate here - I suggest you use the search engine on your computer if you want to know more!!). The history includes rumours and fanciful theories of hidden underground chambers, buried treasure, links to Mary Magdalene, lost religious artefacts and a host of other mystic conjecture! Why did important political figures like former French presidents Chirac and Mitterand, plus former German chancellor Schroeder all make a point of coming here? Is there really something of substance behind the rumours???!!!

The first  of the two restaurants we came across in the village, Le dragon de Rhedae,  was closed. Perhaps too early in their season to bother opening?  We picked a quiet day, and were thankful that we were able to look round the village before the main holiday season, when hordes of  tourists will arrive! When the Da Vinci novel was very popular, upwards of 100,000 people visited the village every year, and it's only a very small  place!

Detail of the restaurant sign. "Rhedae" is the name for Rennes le Chateau in Oc, which is the regional language . Not at all being an expert, the written words of this separate language look like a mixture of French and Spanish. Oc speakers are spread around the south-west of France, not just close to Spain. In fact, our neighbours up here in the Charente speak it at home, but it's hard enough learning French, without taking on Oc as well!

Simple but effective sundial used by the populace long before more complicated timepieces injected time constraints and deadlines into our lives!

Above and below, four shots of the last, and now ruined, chateau Hautpoul, built in the 17th or 18th century. Nothing remains above ground of all the earlier structures built during the preceding 800 years.The village was originally called plain Rennes (or Rhedae in Oc)  and castles were built there from the year 1002, but the "le Chateau" suffix was only added to the name at some later time. The French are fond of long village names!


 You can judge the height of the walls by the size of the people walking below! Lots of stone and lots of people needed to construct this monolith! Impressive!



This spooky Devil sculpture, standing about 3 feet high, is just inside the entrance to what has been described as the "garish" interior of the village church, dedicated to Saint Mary Magdalene.

This strikingly elaborate, decorative (and very expensive) alcove in the church is an example of the "money no object" interior. It seems inappropriate to spend so much money in a humble village church on top of a mountain, but this is another puzzle in Rennes le Chateau. To make a long story short, the humble and low paid 33 year old parish priest named  Berenger Sauniere, arranged renovations to the church between 1887 and 1897,  the cost of which amounted to 660,000 francs - €2,500,000 in today's money. Sauniere earned only 900 francs per YEAR! His bosses, the parish bishops, demanded that Sauniere  reveal, at trial, the source of the funds. He refused to reveal this information and the secret is buried with him! Some say he discovered buried treasure! You can read more HERE (many other sites are available!!) but all conclusions drawn are  merely possibilities!

Nice mural at the other restaurant in the village - the Queen of the Castle; fortunately it was not only open but had plenty of empty tables!


Above two photos, the spectacular views we were privileged to enjoy from the terrace of our "elevated eating eyrie". You can see snow on the Pyrenees on the horizon - and that was May. There was still some to be seen in the TV coverage of a Tour de France mountain stage held there yesterday!

Walking back to the car after lunch, we gained a distant view of  the 4,000 feet high Bugarach mountain, the so-called "Mountain of God". It is very unusual in that the rock strata at its top are OLDER than those at the bottom! It's  also France's answer to the Bermuda triangle - UFO sightings reported, unexplained happenings, disappearance of climbers, planes are not allowed to overfly it, etc. When the "end of the World" was said to be predicted by the Mayan calendar last December, this mountain was reported to be the only place to survive! The French police had to close all the roads leading to Bugarach village (population 179) and keep many anxious travellers away until the deadline had passed!! The only restaurant there was advertising a 4 course "end of the World" dinner at €30 a head. What marketing!

Finally, the cute little stone marker we saw when driving out of this spell-binding place.

My thanks to Nigel for all his research and writing this post for me to go with my photos.



56 comments:

  1. The Mayan calendar predictions sure get around. What a clever marketing idea. That's amazing that the rocks on the top are older than the ones on the bottom. Stunning views everywhere. Thanks for taking us along.
    Sam

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    1. Sam any way of making money I guess is a good idea :-) It is a beautiful area. Keep well Diane

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  2. now i really found this interesting because guess what my last name is? renne!

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    1. Jaz sounds like you had better do some research :-)))) Have a good week Diane.

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  3. Great Images and information Diane ... it must be an exhilarating feeling to be amongst so much human history ... just love the stone buildings, Dragon sign and Stone Marker ...

    ... your friends are fortunate indeed to live in such a lovely spot.

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    1. Graham it is an amazing part of the country, but of course prices are higher there!! We have the history around us but not the mountain scenery. The friend is one I was at school with in Rhodesian days and we have not seen each other since we parted company at 16 years old!! Lots of catching up to do. Hope you are feeling more like yourself, Diane

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  4. Hi Diane ... how lovely to be able to visit friends with a home just there - stunning views and history ... quite delightful ..

    I love the language aspect too - the norsemen to the north ... while the Italian-Moorish-Spanish influence to the south .. I'm glad they're keeping Oc going ... Cornish has really died out ...

    Beautiful photos - gorgeous tour for us ... cheers Hilary

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    1. Hilary it was great meeting up with friends that we have not seen for many years. The area is quite stunning.

      Most of our older neighbours speak Oc all the time, they have to adapt when talking to us, at least it makes it easier all round. Glad you enjoyed the photos. Take care Diane.

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  5. Great post - so much to see - so little time.
    That's why we need to enjoy every moment as you both do.
    Love the Languedoc as it brings back lots of memories.
    How about Froome and Port last night in Le Tour.

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  6. The sign with the dragon and the sundial had me going back to look again! Beautiful, my friend! Thanks to you both for a lovely post. Enjoy your day!

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    1. Lavender Dreamer there really are some beautiful things around in France, the more I see the more I love the place :-) Keep well Diane

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  7. I was quite taken with the scenery around Carcassonne when we visited there. I think it would be a lovely place to live despite the hot summers. Your photos certainly add to that arguement - gorgeous!

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    1. Craig the hot weather is the very least of our problems, we lived in S.Africa for too long! It is an amazing area with so much going for it, we loved it, but prices are of course much higher around there. Keep well Diane

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  8. Those photographs are just superb...I hadn't been to that part of France for years and they brought back all the memories.

    The trees made me laugh...Leo has to have regular tests on the speed of reaction of his retina and he says it always makes him think of driving on the tree lined roads of France on a sunny day...flickering from bright light to deep shade at speed.

    Did you drink any Blanquette de Limoux? I used to like that very much!

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    1. Thanks Fly, glad I brought back some good memories, it certainly is a stunning area.

      Driving through those trees does not worry me as much as it does N, but it is not nice when the sun is at certain angles.

      No we did not try Blanquette de Limoux, on the list now for the next visit :-) Keep well Diane

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  9. Thanks for taking us along! I love encountering these places and read about their secrets and charms.

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    1. Rosaria this place seems to have more secrets and history than any place we have been. Glad you enjoyed the photos. Have a good day. Diane

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  10. Beautiful old buildings and details! Also like the lovely road in the second pic.

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    1. JM this was one of the most interesting places we have been to; so many secrets and so much history. Have a good week Diane

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  11. always enjoy your tours of beautiful villages so pretty :-) thanks

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the tour Rebecca, the villages in this area are particularly beautiful. Take care Diane

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  12. Wow, that is one beautiful view and visit. How delightful to have friends to stay there with.

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    1. Gaelyn a beautiful area, and so great meeting up with a friend that I have not seen since school days in Rhodesia! Take care, Diane

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  13. Well done Nigel and Diane on a very interesting post. What a great way to learn about France by reading your posts. The story about the church renovation was interesting and the views breathtaking.

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    1. Thanks Diane for the kind comments. It is always great to hear that people enjoy our posts. have a wonderful week. Diane

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  14. A very interesting post and pictures about a village I had never heard about before. No, I never read the book. I am fascinated about where the priest got the money for the church. Have a good day.

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    1. Michel I also wonder, guess we will never find out! It is certainly a place worth visiting if you should go that way. It is very beautiful as are most of the towns around this area. Keep well Diane

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  15. The area you visited is out of this world. Definitely, very far from London landscape.
    It looks like you have really enjoyed your visit to friends.

    Red

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    1. Boye By Red, ha ha you are so right, an entirely different landscape but so beautiful. Have a good day. Diane

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  16. I think one of my favourite views is of distant mountains and the Pyrenees are just perfect for that purpose. I can remember making a lengthy diversion to go to a supermarket with a superb view of the Pyrenees rather than one much nearer. I love the idea of an end of the world dinner. (I've had a few terrible dinners in my time where I thought the world must be ending soon.)

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    1. Phil the snow capped Pyrenees are a magnificent site and we had some great views of them at different time on our holiday. I would be very happy to wake up each morning seeing them in the distance :-) Yes I have had a few of those dinners as well, fortunately not too many! Have a great day. Diane

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  17. I love these out-of-the-way French towns and villages which have a very interesting history. actually, that’s probably all of them!
    You can’t miss, can you. Wherever you go you trip over history, wonderful scenery and canny French people who know how to attract tourists even though they show little obvious effort.

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    1. Friko I have to agree, almost every town and village in France has masses of history and interesting items about it. This one had more than most! Have a good day Diane

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  18. What a wonderful visit this must have been! The scenery is fantastic and the village is beyond belief. If the food wine and company matched the stellar surrounds you must have been in 7th heaven. I should hate to leave. Have a wonderful day, Diane. Blessings...Mary

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    1. Mary the more I see of France the more I love it. So much beauty, history and interest. We had a fantastic meal at the restaurant, and that was all four of us with different meals. I could have sat there all day just looking at the view. Take care, Diane

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  19. So interesting. My daughter and I just enjoyed this post very much. Great pictures Diane.

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    1. Pam I am glad that your daughter enjoyed it as much as you did. Comments like that are what keep me going, thanks. Maybe one day you will be able to visit and see it for yourself. Have a good day Diane

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  20. I am always amazed that these old buildings are still standing after all these hundreds of years. What beautiful countryside Diane. I dont think I want that little devil at my door thank you. LOL!!

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    1. Joan I could not agree more, can you imagine how well built they must have been to last so long. The countryside there was just stunning, snow capped mountains have so much beauty about them as well. Hope that all is well with you, take care Diane

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  21. Good day Diane, this is such a beautiful place to visit. And the church is gorgeous. Thanks again for another wonderful post.
    Hope you're having a lovely day.
    Blessings, Kristy

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    1. Hi Kristy good to hear from you. Glad that you enjoyed the post. Have a great weekend Diane

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  22. Wow! That is a very interesting village. I did read "The Da Vinci Code" and enjoyed the intrigue very much. And...that mountain, Bugarach has fascinated me ever since I learned about it. Thanks for the beautiful photos.

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    1. Caterina there is so much to read about this village and the surrounding area, it is full of great stories, true or not and so much history. Thanks for the visit and the comment. Diane

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  23. Stunning photos and stunning scenery,the views are just amazing x

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    1. Thanks Kerry an area well worth a visit, it is quite beautiful around there. Take care Diane.xx

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  24. What a beautiful place to live and to visit. The views are so beautiful. I also love the church and the stone buildings. Thank you for sharing

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    1. Riet there are some amazing places in this area, well worth a visit if you come this way. Diane

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  25. What a beautiful scenery. Whenever I see your photos I feel like those fairy tales I watched with my kids on TV becomes a reality, virtually-wise..

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    1. Rose many of the places in this area are like fairy tales but they are real :-) Hope you are well Diane

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  26. Rennes le Chateau is a very interesting place, full of mysteries and stories about a treasure!
    That devil.... how weird it is to find it inside a church, but it adds to mystery, I guess!
    I couldn't believe my eyes when I discovered the first time we were there!
    The "Tour Magdala" also is quite something!
    Happy you had a ball in this beautiful region, quite close to ours!
    Cheers Diane!

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    1. Noushka this really is a magical area to view. I knew that you must be somewhere close by but I did not mention it to you as I knew you were going to be away while we were there. We would like to return sometime, but I hope for your sake by then you will have found a buyer!
      Keep well Diane

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  27. Thanks for the history lesson, Diane! It's all interesting and the unique language was a surprise to me. This definitely was a good area to visit, with the Da Vinci and all. And the Mayan calendar. Love the restaurant mural and gorgeous landscapes!

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    1. Thanks Pam for the comments seeing you are taking a break :-) Have a good day. Diane

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  28. I once read a book called "The Narrow Dog to Carcassonne" and have dreamed of going there ever since! Just found your blog and this entry caught my eye right away. Enjoying the pictures and descriptions very much.

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    1. Hi Lynda, thanks for the visit and the comment. We also read "The Narrow Dog to Carcassonne" and we loved it. Carcassone is an amazing town. Take care and have a good week. Diane

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    2. Lynda I am sorry I cannot respond on your lovely blog. You are on Google plus and there are a few blogs, yours being one of them,that will not let me comment unless I join G+. I did and than cancelled it because I has so many problems with it and our slow connection. Sorry but your photos are great. D.

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