Medieval Mirepoix, Occitanie
Through a Friend's New Eyes
October 12th 2020
The October road to Mirepoix is a bucolic three-course meal.
The starter features a bendy journey through a multicoloured patchwork of red/gold vineyards.
The Main Course arrives as a switchback set of a hundred gear-changes, rising high up and out of the vineyards, into the hills of the Razès. Only the passengers can really take the time to look back through misty fields and copses to the Valley of the Aude.
Dessert arrives in Moulin-Neuf, a village close to Mirepoix, in the form of a startling, smack-in-your-face view of the frosted Pyrenées, 60 Km away, as we drive on to the 12th Century heart of Mirepoix itself.
All of this, to my passenger friend Richard, would have been a cubist blur two months before.
Over a glass or two, Richard had told me about his having nerve damage that affected his eyes. Misdiagnosis led to operations that worsened the problem, and his life closed in on him, visually.
Then he moved to France, where an opthalmologist in Limoux said, “I can help, here.” A painless, two-minute procedure brought Richard back, not to perfect sight but to a state, in his words, “Almost miraculous, to me.”
Then came the market area itself. Mostly, the photos tell the story of a 12th century wonder with collonades hosting an abundance of boutiques, art galleries, cafés and restaurants.
The cathedral of St. Maurice (Second largest single-naved Gothic cathedral in Europe) stands beside a street-food section and a Victorian covered ‘halle’.
The ‘Maison des Couverts’ with its amazing 103 carvings in the ancient woodwork, home to Coffee Houses, Restaurants and a variety of stores and galleries, graces the North side .
In the corner near the East Collonade, there's a guy with a pedal-drive knife-sharpening contraption...
...at the market's centre, a carousel for the kids
And, of course, there's food...
Places to stay...
And more food
Antiques, Art Galleries and Ateliers...
And more food...
I have been to this market at least thirty times and was almost getting ‘used to it’. So it was was a privilege and a delight to travel with Richard.
His childlike joy at all he saw with his new eyes reanimated mine… plus he’s very good company.
On the way back to Limoux, I drove very slowly down the switchbacks, both of us quietly taking in the loveliness. At the bottom of the hilly section, our thoughts turned to anticipation of a few glasses of wine in the Place de la République. After all, Covid lockdown seemed imminent and, as the poet should have said, “Gather ye rosé buds while ye may.”
Okay, full disclosure, we drank red… but ‘merde alors’, that simply doesn’t read as well.