Today was a rest day for us from the TDF….they are just too far away to drive to the course and back to Carcassonne. We had a leisurely morning and left about 10 am for the Route of the Cathars. Heading north of the city on country roads and then on very narrow “cow paths” we arrived at the Chateux of Lastours about 11 am. I think we must have taken the long way as we came home much faster and never on the tiny roads that we traveled on the way to Lastours. We followed the signs to: “Le Pays Cathare: Sites Chateaux Cities Medievales”….
Cathars refers to a religious group that existed before and during the thirteenth century and had dualistic Gnostic belief:
“The Cathar religion has its roots in eastern religions of 2500 years ago, with the ideas of Zoroastre (Zarathoustra) that the world consisted of two opposing forces, representing good and evil. Many subsequent religions take this starting point, and the Cathar religion that arrive in Europe via the Balkans in the 11th century is one of these.
The fundamental difference between a 'dualist' religion like the Cathars, and a religion like Christianity, is the importance given to the evil forces. Cathars and other dualists believe that these are of equal importance, whereas Christians believe that the forces of good are superior.
The Cathars in France were based largely in the Languedoc region, near Toulouse, and Albi and Carcassonne, with a popularity arising at least in part as a reaction to the over-excesses of the Roman Catholic Church. The Cathar religion was supported by many in the region, both peasants and nobles alike - perhaps 10% of the population was supporters.
Early in the 13th Century the Roman Catholic Pope created a crusade to destroy the Cathars and they also destroyed their castles so that they would not be able to regain their power with the people.” (Internet Sites are wonderful sources of information)
The four Cathar castles that we visited in Lastours are somewhat reconstructed remains from the medieval times. We paid our fees and started hiking about 11 am. It took us an hour to get to the upper most castle ruins. Lots of stone steps, steep rocky paths and uneven terrain made the going slow but we both managed and reach the top. Near the bottom of the slopes there was a research group marking off a dig; we stopped to watch them for a minute each way. Had some nice Belgium boys take our photo from one of the ruins. We were very glad we’d come early and brought our water bottles. It was getting very warm by the time we descended to the parking area just before 1 pm.
We were amazed how fast and easy the trip back to Carcassonne was; must have been the navigator reading the map incorrectly on the way out. But then it was a much more interesting road on the way there. Our first stop was at the grocery store….actually a mall…near the hotel for some food supplies before settling in to watch the TDF on television in our room as we did some laundry. We’ve discovered that if we wash a few things out by hand every day we haven’t had to visit the Laundromat yet!
The Tour de France today is from Pau to Col du Tourmalet. Lance Armstrong is having his day in that he’s been in the front break away most of the day. But, there is one rider out in front right now that they need to bring back. It sure would be nice to see Lance win a stage in the Pyrenees. It’s a tough course of three major climbs during the 174 kilometers. By the way….a friend who was also in France for the 2004 TDF reminded me by email that it was in 2004 that Tommy Voeckler wore the Yellow Jersey for so many days. Thanks Sam…we have lots of good memories from that trip and one of the best was meeting up with you and your friends for an afternoon!
Lance crossed the finish line in the first group…having caught the one rider it was a sprint to the finish and he came in 6th but with the same time as the French rider Pierrick Fedrigo of the French team Bbox (yes…same team as yesterday) who crossed the finish line first. That makes six stage wins for French Teams in the 2010 TDF….the most since 1997. The tour leaders Contador and Schleck came in over six minutes later with the peloton; so overall things remain the same for the TDF except that this should bring Lance up higher in the standings overall.
We’re having dinner in our room….cold tuna salads, bread and a bottle of wine. We found the crooked bottles of wine in the market today and purchased three bottles. One for dinner tonight and two to take home in remembrance of the 1999 trip when we found them in a tiny little shop along the Canal du Midi. In 2002 we attempted to find the little shop with no luck; in 2004 we brought detailed information on how to find it and took several bottles home. The last one we opened a month before leaving….wasn’t very drinkable but we saved the bottle. Many of the wines in France are designed to be consumed within the year…table wines.
Tomorrow the Tour de France has an official day of rest and we will spend the day driving to Tarbes to our new hotel. Back to the Formule 1; or as the new ones are known: HotelF1. We will be able to see more stages of the TDF from this location.