Walled in

Today I would like to take you on an outing to Villefranche-de-Conflent.  I hope you have the time to join me!  img_2225

Villefranche sits on the confluence of the Tet and Cady rivers, at the foot of the Pyrenees.  Because of its strategic location, the town was heavily fortified from the Middle Ages onwards.  In the 18th century, the fortifications were reinforced by Vauban, who was Louis XIV’s military engineer and advisor.

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Vauban added an extra layer to the fortifications, creating a vaulted gallery on top of the mediaeval ramparts, and topped this with another gallery which was covered with a slate roof!  So much more space for soldiers who could aim at the enemy from two different levels.

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The shape of the town was very much dictated by the rivers and the mountains – have a look at an aerial view on the internet here.  Its appearance has not much changed since Vauban’s major work in the 17th century …

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… except that there is now a new road to one side of the town, which takes traffic past the town and up into the mountains.  And there is now a railway line, which allows the famous ‘Canary’, the yellow train, to take travellers from Villefranche to the highest railway station in France, at Mont Louis, and beyond.

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The layout of the town has remained pretty much the same since mediaeval times – there are two main streets, Rue Saint Jacques and Rue Saint Jean.

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Because space was restricted, the houses were built tall.  On the ground floor, most houses would have large arched doors, which could be the entrances to shops or stables, or for storing carts.  The rooms on the first floor were usually reserved for workshops of artisans, and living accommodations were on the second floor.

img_2203 Many doors still sport beautiful door knockers – one of my particular passions!  Can you tell which of them are more recent than others?  Here’s a selection of them:

This side street leads to a gate in the fortifications, from where there is access to Fort Liberia, a citadel which was built by Vauban, high above the town!

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Statue of a saint above the gate to Fort Liberia – perhaps Saint Peter?

Here’s a picture of Fort Liberia, as seen from down below:

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Here is another statue – it sits in a niche high up on a facade.  It probably depicts another saint, but with the missing arm it’s difficult to figure out which saint.  I have a hunch that it could be Saint Barbara, but I’m not certain.

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No trip is complete without something to eat!  My travelling companions and I went to a restaurant called Le Patio on rue Saint Jean.  Some of the houses had internal patios – as did this restaurant – and that’s where we had lunch.

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None of us were overly hungry, so we decided to skip the starter and to have a main course, followed by dessert.  I don’t know about you, but for me dessert is a must!! 😀

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Tagliatelle with pesto

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Tagliatelle with smoked salmon sauce

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Octopus with potatoes

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Grilled sausages with country fries and garlic mayonnaise

The main courses were perfect for each of us – and the desserts were even better!  The Cafe Gourmand was a particular hit!!

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Tiramisu

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Chocolate pudding with a melting interior

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“Cafe Gourmand” – coffee with eight mini desserts!!

On the way back to the car, I noticed a few more details from Villefranche’s past:

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If you want to visit Villefranche-de-Conflent, and want to tie in your trip with a ride on the yellow train, be sure to visit the SNCF website for a timetable.

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17 thoughts on “Walled in

  1. Love this post! I have always wanted to travel on le train jaune. Now that we have a home in Castelnaudary, I might be able to so, sooner rather than later. Like you, I find French doors and door knockers fascinating. I especially like the ones shaped like hands. Café gourmand…yummy!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh yes, I enjoyed this post very much. We first saw Villefranche-le-conflent from le train jaune on its descent from Mont Louis to Perpignan many years ago. Mont Louis – now there’s another little town we enjoyed exploring, twice: once while filling in time between arriving from Andorra by bus and leaving on the train, then again several years later when we drove there in the winter. On that winter visit we were staying at Laroque des Alberes and drove to Villefranche, enjoying delicious hot chocolate at the station cafe and then some delights from a bakery/patisserie in the town itself. Sadly, time has dulled my memory of exactly what those baked delights were! It was then that we drove up to Mont Louis to revisit because we’d loved it so much the first time. We continued into the Cerdagne, over the border into Spain, and down down down to complete a giant loop back to Laroque des Alberes. After our two weeks stay there we moved on to St Chinian for the next fortnight; Anthony and Andreas, you might remember passing on greetings from Sue and Leon when we arrived! We have fond memories of all the time we have spent in Languedoc-Roussillon. Merci beaucoup pour votre blog!

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  3. Villefranche-le-Conflent looks my kind of place – full of mystery and magic from the past and into the present with lunch at Le Patio! The rustic quality of the dishes appeals and, in particular, the octopus with potatoes. I would probably have chosen a starter instead of a dessert, and I am sure they are delectable too. Many of us seem to have a penchant for doors and door-knockers! I adore the ‘hand’ ones, and had one on a front door of mine some time ago, and did not think it a good idea to take it with me!! xx

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  4. If you can appreciate less maintained sites, about 50 miles north you’ll find my favourite French beauties . I’m a fan of the Cathars epic and at the limit with the Aude department are my three prefered Cathar fortresses : Puilaurens, Peyrepertuse and Queribus . I love these far more than the Loire castles . Nearby, near Saint-Paul-de-Fenouillet there is a wonderful place, the Hermitage of Galamus . It is inside a gorge, but near the top, and the church was dug in the cliff ..Watch your feet though .
    BTW, this village of your post is called Villefranche-DE-Conflent, not -LE- .

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Phildange, thanks so much for your tips! I’ve read about the Hermitage of Galamus, it sounds like a great day out!! And I will get to your favourite Cathar castles one day, the only one I’ve been able to visit so far is Lastours. These fortresses have a very special beauty and atmosphere! And thank you for letting me know about the mistake, it’s corrected in the post now!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I couldn’t refrain from commenting. Very well written! I’ve been surfing online more than 4 hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. Personally, if alll website owners and bloggers wrote good content as you did, the web would be much more useful.

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