Monday, February 5, 2007

Intro to Leran

Click on the photos to enlarge.

We took a walk this morning with the purpose of getting some pictures of Leran before the weather changed. A couple of days of clouds and rain are expected. The sun was barely up and it was still frosty.
Leran may not be the most beautiful village in France, but in our time here in May and now it has grown on us. With a village about every 3.5 km there is some mighty stiff competition, Leran has some features that set it apart from the ordinary. Most obviously, the people we have met here have been warm, receptive and gracious. There are several Brit couples residing, either part-time or permanently. They are all in various stages of learning French. The native French on our Rue du Four always acknowledge us very politely coming and going. We engage in minimalist conversations with the owners of the local bar, Thierry and Nellie, over glasses of pays d'oc.

The main architectural feature in Leran is the Chateau. It is being broken up into luxury apartments right now and I think work is going on. The attached gardens are reminiscent of Versailles. Leran is too small to support many businesses. The main street has only a few shops, a chambres d'hotes, and a bar. Around the corners there are a restaurant and an epicerie. I can only assume most people work in Chalabre, Mirepoix, Limoux or Lavalanet, which are all just a short drive away. It is quiet execept for the Friday evening fete held in July and August---the gourmand marchand---when tables are lining the street and vendors are cooking your hand-picked dinner.

The surrounding landscape is spectacular. Leran is nestled in the foothills in the foreground of the photo and the Pryrenees are off in the distance. Nearby is the largest reservoir in Europe, Lac du Montbel, which attracts a lot of visitors in the summer, and the ski areas of the Pyrenees, and in particular Andorra, a destination ski resort and a country all rolled into one. The Tour de France routes its way nearby on one of its stages in the Pyrenees.

I won't touch on the history here because it would require a book but in later posts we'll try to give a hint of the history of the Cathars who were massacred near here 800 years ago.

And to top it off, there are caves with paintings that rival Lascaux. All in all, a great little village and an intriguing region.

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