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Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Through France to the Pyrenees Six: Cat sculptures and Bastides

A stone cat sculpture in La Romieu
We dragged ourselves away from the mountains and the second-to-very-few showers and started to head reluctantly north.  We made it as far as La Romieu, a perfectly formed village that was too pretty for even the best chocolate box.  La Romieu has a local legend about the woodman’s daughter, Angeline and her cats that saved the village.  Angeline loved her cats; however, in 1342 a terrible famine hit the village for many years and the locals were desperate enough to eat the local moggies with the exception of two that Angeline was allowed to hide in the attic.  When the famine ended and the crops again started to grow, these were quickly eaten by the rat population that had multiplied unchecked with the lack of cats.  Fortunately, Angeline’s two cats had had kittens and these cats were able to chase and kill the rats, thus saving the village from further starvation.  Now stone sculptures of cats can be found on window ledges and walls, charmingly sleeping and creeping around the village.

Brantome on the river Drome
The countryside around La Romieu is undulating and dotted with large farmhouses and rural villas but is mostly fields of cereals and fruit trees and woodland.  We followed one of the local way-marked walks and after meeting a couple of groups of pilgrims on their way to Santiago Compostela near to La Romieu we didn’t meet anyone else for over 10kms.  The Collegiate Church in La Romieu is on the pilgrim route and is a World Heritage Site.

Heading even further north we crossed the rivers we had met in the Massif Central; we crossed the Garonne in Agen, the Lot in the pretty market town of Villeneuve-sur-Lot and the Dordogne in wine soaked Bergerac.  We crossed Bastide country; these fortified towns generally from around the 13th Century all originally followed a similar design with a fortified rampart and a central square surrounded by arcades.  Some of these Bastides have survived more complete than others.

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