Up in the air

For some time I’ve been thinking of visiting the Passerelle de Mazamet, a footbridge across a gorge above Mazamet.  The footbridge allows pedestrian access to the mediaeval village of Hautpoul, which is also on my list of places to visit!!

Here is a map of the location:

Since I’m not going to be able to visit any time soon – and even if I did visit, I might not be able to walk across the bridge because of my fear of heights – I thought I would share the post below with you.  It was published recently on www.francetaste.wordpress.com.  A big thank you to the author for allowing me to re-post the article!


IMG_5111What is it about humans that we love to look down on everything? To get up high, for a better view? The chill of vertige with the thrill of omniscience.IMG_5092On a balmy February day, a friend and I went to the Passerelle of Mazamet, which has been on my bucket list for a moment. One of those things that’s too nearby to miss, but far enough that I never got around to it. The drive from Carcassonne to Mazamet takes nearly an hour. Longer if a nervous retiree from a distant department is ahead of you and slowing to a crawl around the curves but, with a bigger engine, speeding like an idiot on the rare straightaways, as if that makes up for anything. IMG_5151The $*%&ing driver ahead of us aside, the route was absolutely gorgeous. It goes up and up and up, and the vegetation changes to dense forest. There were signs about the pass being open, snow markers on the sides of the road, but we were in fleece jackets and during our hike had to take those off. A weird winter. It was 70 F here yesterday.IMG_5129

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Lush February forest.

IMG_5117The passerelle was inaugurated in 2018. It’s 140 meters (460 feet) long over the Arnette river and 70 meters (230 feet) above the ground. It’s free and open 24/7, but you’d be crazy to go after dark. We were glad to be there in February–plus it was lunch time and the French do one thing during lunch time: eat. So we had the place almost to ourselves. It would be much less fun in the heat of summer with a gazillion people on the narrow path. Even worse, a gazillion people on the passerelle. It can hold 42 tons, which is a lot of people, but even a couple of other people walking made it bounce such that I was glad I hadn’t eaten.

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Into the void.

The only other people were grandparents with three girls. One was maybe two or three years old, and she galloped up and down the passerelle fearlessly. One was maybe 12 and she clung to her grandmother for dear life. We passed them in the middle of the passerelle on their way back. And we discovered another girl, maybe 7 or 8, on the other side, steadfastly refusing to budge.

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Looking down.

We saw the grandfather start back and figured he was coming to the aid of the middle girl. He stopped and took photos. Lots of photos. The littlest girl came tearing down toward him. She passed him, then turned around and came back to him. He never stopped taking photos.

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Going back.

We started back and were about halfway when the grandmother and the oldest girl, still clinging and looking like she was going to puke, came back. Grandpa wanted to film them. As if the granddaughter would want to remember this moment. Who was the middle girl supposed to hold onto? Grandma was taken, and grandpa was filming. Nobody seemed worried about the middle girl or even the little one. Yes, the passerelle had no holes where the little one could fall through, but she was at that nimble age where she could climb the chain link side, which came up to my armpit, and be over it in a flash, and grandpa still wouldn’t stop filming. His obliviousness reminded me of a type: “I’m doing this for you! You’re going to do it and enjoy it whether you like it or not!”

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Mazamet.

On the way down, we passed other grandparents out with the grandkids, starting to show up once it was 2 p.m. And more retirees. A lady with very inappropriate shoes (ballerinas with wedge heels…what are those called?).

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La Voie Romaine.

To go up, we took the steep route, called the Voie Romaine, or Roman Way, which was the ancient salt route, and partly paved with stones. It had a heart-pounding 19% grade, but I’d rather take that going up than down.

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Stone walls of the former gardens.
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This seems to have been a protohistoric home, naturally protected from the wind and rain on the south side of the slope. But I’m not sure. The gardens also had little towers.
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On the wall of the circular structure. Looks like a donkey to me.

IMG_5124IMG_5142IMG_5138The descent, on a path with an 8% grade, was via the Jardins Cormouls Houlès, which date to the middle of the 19th century, with interesting towers and stone walls. First we checked out the ruins of the church of Saint-Saveur, which dates to the 1100s. IMG_5099IMG_5101IMG_5098IMG_5113The church was built on a hilltop, for views. Up in the air. Like life right now, waiting to see where things will land, trying not to fall.

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A little shrine at the start of the path.
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Interesting plastic bottle for holy water. What will they think of next?
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Another bustling shrine.
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Am haunted by the possible meaning of that doll.

I’m leaving you with these ghostly images. I couldn’t pick one, so you get three.IMG_5130IMG_5131IMG_5132

Trick or treat?

There’s definitely a treat in this post – whichever way you look at it!  On October 31, I visited Mazamet with friends.  The town is not all that far from St Chinian,  just under an hour by car  along the D612, which connects Beziers to Albi.  The drive is a beautiful one, especially at this time of year with the fall colours.

We drove to Mazamet to have lunch at Mets & Plaisirs, a hotel-restaurant which my friends discovered a little while back.  The restaurant is close to the centre of the town, just across the road from a nice public park.

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We were welcomed at the door by Mr Blancard, the owner, and shown to our table in the cozy dining room.  Nice linen tablecloth and napkins, silver cutlery, quality glasses – all lovely!!

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Soon we had made our choices and were happily chatting away whilst sipping an aperitif.  These are the nibbles which came with the aperitif:  black olive tapenade, roquefort and walnut mousse, crispy bacon pieces and croutons.

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The “amuse bouche”, a kind of pre-starter, consisted of slices of salmon fillet, marinated with lemon juice and olive oil – very tasty!

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I couldn’t resist the foie-gras on the menu, and I’m glad I chose it – it really was very good!!

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My dining companions all opted for gravad-lax style salmon, which was incredibly tender and tasty.  I’ll order that next time :)!!

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I was very pleased with my choice of main course!  I had ordered veal, which was cooked to perfection, and served on a bed of chestnut puree.

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My dining companions all opted for the wild sea bass, which they pronounced excellent!

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I had to pass on cheese, but the cheese selection was very good (sorry about the blurry picture 😦 ), and the servings generous.

Desserts were heavenly, and this time we almost managed to have one of each amongst the four of us:  quince tarte tatin, roasted figs, and rum baba with pineapple.  I had the rum baba, and I tasted some of the quince tarte tatin – both were very good – the whole meal was a real treat!!

After all that wonderful food we needed to go for a bit of a walk, to exercise off some of the calories! 🙂

I had often driven through Mazamet, but only once stopped for a brief visit.  There is much to discover in the town, as I found out.  Mazamet had its heyday between the 1880s and 1950s, and its prime source of wealth was the processing of wool and leather.  The wealthy bourgeoisie built themselves beautiful mansions, often very close to their storehouses and factories, and there are many stunning buildings to be discovered!

Today Mazamet is still a lively town of some 10,000 inhabitants, and there are many interesting shops, such as this chocolate and pastry shop!

… or this cheese shop:

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There were several florist shops, but the one in the picture had a particularly appealing display:

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The public spaces in Mazamet are well-kept and nicely planted, and I can imagine that the town is very busy on market days (Tuesdays and Saturdays).  I’ll definitely go back for another exploration of the town!

 

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