Monday, October 4, 2010

Rick Steves Has Been There Before Us

Nancy and I were wandering around Minerve, over in the Herault, and we decided it had to be in some popular guidebook or another. We heard plenty of North American voices, Canadian or US, I couldn't say. The village of Minerve is in a gorgeous setting, situated as it is, along some limestone bluffs carved out by the River Cesse. Obviously, it was constructed there for defensive purposes, because it was sure hard to get to, even by car. The bridge you see in the picture was constructed in the years just before WWI, and it is intended for use only by the residents.
It was a town of narrow streets winding through archways and cobblestone pavements everywhere. People had found places to put gardens and terraces where they could get a little bit of air and sun.

If you walk through the village and down into the gorge, you can walk under the bridge and back up into the other side of town. Meanwhile, when down in the gorge you can see the two natural bridges. During the wet season, water flows out of the cavern pictured below. This is the smaller of the two natural bridges. The informational signs explained that just a little while ago (in geological time) there was a minor uplift in the Minerve region, and the river then had to carve it's way through the rock and over time created the gorge (and some natural bridges). Just like the Grand Canyon, only quicker.

I thought that this house on the rim of the gorge and sitting on top of the natural bridge would have been an incredible setting for a house. You would probably want a very good insurance policy paid up at all times, and wild drunken parties would be a very bad idea.
A few days later, our friends arrived from Montana and they brought along a copy of Rick Steve's guidebook to all of France. There are entire guidebooks on the Languedoc alone, and deservedly so. But, among the very few places in Languedoc that Steves recommends is Minerve, hence all the familiar voices.
And of course, Minerve has a colorful history. Once again, I briefly quote from Wikipedia: In 1210 a group of Cathars sought refuge in the village after the massacre of B├ęziers during the Albigensian Crusade. The village was besieged by Simon de Montfort, 5th Earl of Leicester. The attacking army besieged the village for six weeks before it capitulated. They set up four catapults around the fortification: three to attack the village, and the largest, Malevoisine, to attack the town's water supply. Eventually the commander of the 200-strong garrison, Viscount Guilhem of Minerve, gave in and negotiated a surrender which saved the villagers and himself after the destruction of the town's main well. However, 140 Cathars refused to give up their faith and were burned to death at the stake on 22 July.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This village is so incredibly beautiful! The one area in which we cannot compete with Europe is the length of their history...so much was going on before anyone even knew the Americas were there!

As always, thanks for sharing.

Luke