Backstreet discoveries

Writing this blog every week has allowed me to discover so much, and I am very pleased to be able to share these discoveries with you.  I’ve been to some wonderful restaurants, found hidden architectural gems, and visited incredible historical sites, to name just a few things.  I’ve also learnt to look at things a little differently, such as looking up when walking through a village or town.  And I’ve learnt never to leave the house without a camera! 🙂

Narbonne is a town which richly rewards a little exploring.  The town has a very long history, dating back to Roman times.  I’ve written about some of the Roman finds in Narbonne here, and there are still more Roman finds & monuments in Narbonne to be visited and written about!  Some traces of Narbonne’s history can be discovered by simply taking a stroll around the town – please join me for a little meander down the streets of Narbonne!

Le’s start in the main square of Narbonne, where the former archbishop’s palace used to face the castle or palace of the viscount of Narbonne.  The viscount’s castle has long disappeared, to be replaced in the 19th century by a palace of commerce, an early department store called Aux Dames de France.

The former archbishop’s palace in Narbonne

Aux Dames de France, 19th century department store building in Narbonne

The facade of Aux Dames de France is richly decorated with all kinds of sculpted motifs!

The archbishop’s palace became municipal property after the French revolution, and today it houses the town hall, as well as several municipal museums.  Just behind the archbishop’s palace is the impressive cathedral!

Narbonne cathedral

Building work on the cathedral started in the 13th century, and only the choir was ever finished!  What was built is very impressive, with a footprint that is 40 x 60 metres and vaulting that soars to a height of 41 metres!!  There are only three cathedrals in France which are higher: the cathedrals in Beauvais, Amiens and Metz.

Interior of Narbonne cathedral

Like most churches, the cathedral “decorations” were modified through the ages, to suit the prevailing tastes.  A “storybook” altar was found some years ago, walled up behind a Victorian era marble altar.  The carvings are remarkably detailed

On the west wall of the cathedral is an immense pipe organ – I always wonder how they managed to fix that to the wall!!

Leaving the church via the cloisters and the archbishop’s garden brings you to outside the western end of the church, where building work halted and re-started several times.

Continue walking randomly through the streets of Narbonne – there is so much to discover – such as the amazing decorations on this building – you can see the pain and boredom in the faces of the atlantes!!

There are faces in many unexpected places – sometimes high up on a wall!

Sometimes the effect is a little unnerving, such as when you look at the tower below, and realise that there is someone at the window.

Other faces are tiny, and you need to look closely:

Then there are doors – all shapes and sizes – where do they lead to??

Decorative stonework has always been a sign of wealth – the bigger your wallet, the more you could decorate the outside of your house!

The building below has recently been given a new lease of life – for many years before that it was shut up, with the oriel tower supported by props, looking as though it could collapse at any moment.

Some of the decorations on the roofs are very ornate – is that a dragon?  The whole thing sits a little askew, it’s not the angle of the camera, I promise!!

The walls in the pictures below are the remnants of a church – it was probably repurposed a long time ago!

As Narbonne expanded, more modern architecture styles made their presence felt.  This is a beautiful example of art deco architecture:

This is just a tiny selection of all there is to admire in Narbonne – you could spend days walking and exploring!!

P.S.  If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Narbonne, have a look at Villa Java!

Advertisements

Food, glorious food

Of late I have neglected writing about restaurants.  It’s true that I’ve not been getting out all that much recently, but nonetheless I have a few meals to share with you, from restaurants that I have visited over the past few months, and whose delicious food is worth writing about!

First on is Les Cuisiniers Cavistes in Narbonne. If you have been reading this blog for a little while, you may remember the gourmet walk in Saint-Jean-de-Minervois last year.  Les Cuisiniers Cavistes provided the excellent food for that event.  The restaurant sits on a little square, just across the road from the Musee Lapidaire, where all the bits of Roman carved stone are exhibited (something for another blog post).  I visited on a beautifully sunny day last October.

P1000624

The lunchtime prix fixe menu was not extensive but offered a good choice.  Since it was autumn, I opted for the pumpkin soup with wild porcini mushrooms and foie gras.

P1000631 My dining companion chose an autumnal salad (Meli Melo), which contained celeriac, brussels sprouts, wild mushrooms, caramelized onions and Spanish ham.P1000629

There were two dishes to choose from for the main course – easy – we had one of each!! 🙂

Here is the filet of cod, served with haricot bean puree and whole haricot beans, veal gravy, and thin strips of cured lard:

P1000637

I went for the carnivore option and had the duck breast, on a bed of roasted vegetables:

P1000635

There were two desserts to choose from.  I opted for profiteroles, which were filled with vanilla ice cream:

P1000639

My dining companion chose the chestnut tiramisu, which was served with chocolate sorbet and gingerbread crumbs.

P1000638

The entire meal was very delicious, and as you can see, the portions were not on the small side.  On top of that, the autumn weather was glorious, so it was a pretty perfect lunch!

Another memorable meal happened more or less by coincidence, on the way back from visiting an art exhibition in Serignan (see post here).  It was getting late, and we were getting hungry.  I remembered that friends had mentioned a place by the marina at Port Chichoulet in Vendres, and since we were close by, we thought we’d have a look.

P1160737

There’s really not very much going on at Port Chichoulet, unless you have a sailing boat in the marina, or want to go birdwatching in the nearby marshland.  There is a large building at the end of the quay, and three buildings, which, for want of a better word, I will call shacks.  The shacks all serve food, and our friends had recommended that we try the one in the middle, which is called L’Etal du bateau Joel et Valerie III.

P1160725

Since it was a little chilly outside we opted for eating inside.  The restaurant was very charmingly decorated with all kinds of things maritime.

But we’d come for the food – the fish!!  Joel Rodriguez, the owner of the restaurant, also has a fishing boat, which is called Joel et Valerie III.  I am assuming that Valerie is his wife? All of the fish served at the restaurant is his catch.

P1160735

The razor clams looked very tempting, but I’ll have to try them another time…

P1160736

On the menu there is fish and only fish!  The way it works is that the diners select the fish they want at the counter, and then it’s freshly cooked for them on a plancha, a cast iron grill plate.

We opted to share a portion of grilled squid to start with, which came to the table perfectly cooked:

P1160727

With the food there were no accompaniments, no vegetables, no french fries!!  But there is plenty of good crusty bread, and some aioli and garlic and parsley dressing.

For our main course we ordered a duo of dorade – dorade grise (black bream) and dorade royale (regular bream).  Our waitress recommended that we start with the black bream. Again, the fish was absolutely perfectly cooked.  I got a little carried away and almost forgot to take a picture!! 🙂

P1160729

To compensate, I took some shots of the food for some of the other tables, just before it was taken to the tables:

So if you enjoy good fish, think about visiting Port Chichoulet in Vendres – it might be an idea to telephone ahead (+33 628 350 590), to make sure that Joel et Valerie will be open.

Out with the ashes

By the time you read this post, the Carnival season will be officially over – Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday will have been and gone, and it’s time to put the glittery costumes away for another year!  Southern France is not as strong on Carnival traditions as Venice or some regions of Germany, but nevertheless it does get celebrated.  I went to record one such recent celebration for you – the Carnival in Narbonne.

There was a lot of expectation in the air before the parade started!  Children all around were getting quite excited!

And then it all started.  First came a traditional brass band and some majorettes:

IMG_3837

Next came a drum band, whose members had elaborately painted faces:

They were followed by a group dressed in the most beautiful costumes and wearing masks such as you would see in Venice:

Then there was an enormous green frog:

IMG_3860

followed by a group of ‘ragged’ children, their parents and another traditional band:

Hot on the heels was a ‘Disco’ float!!  The sparkly wigs could be seen from miles away! 🙂

The driver of the float was beautifully dressed in a silver suit, great wig and sparkly earrings!!  He put the guys on the float in the shade – totally!

There were a number of comic strip characters:

And then came a band called Les Yeyettes – they played really well and had made a great effort with their costumes!!

Then some new Minions came along, different from the ones we had seen before. This time the figures on the floats were totally covered in flowers

The theme for this year’s carnival was “King of Pop”.

P1010285

When I saw that poster, the penny dropped for me – that’s why I was seeing so many afro wigs in the parade!!

I caught sight of these two little old ladies a little too late – they didn’t seem to be connected to any of the floats, but they were having a great time!!

The next two floats had a reggae theme.  I was amazed at the creativity and the ideas people had come up with.  The rasta wig is made with parts of a curtain designed to keep flies out!!

By now most of the bystanders were covered with confetti in various degrees!!  Some peoples’ haircuts seemed to be prefect confetti collectors 🙂

The “guingette” float was one of my favourites.  They’d gone to a lot of trouble creating the impression of a garden cafe!

The ladies in red preceeded the carnival queen and the two runners-up.  See how the carnival queen is getting ready to confetti-bomb the bystanders??

The parade ended with a representation of a king and some musical instruments – a different king of of pop??

And then it was over – everyone had had a great deal of fun!!

IMG_3971

 

Cracking the whip!

The town of Narbonne has been twinned with Weilheim in Germany (Bavaria to be precise) since 1974.  Ever since then, there has been a regular exchange of culture, and delegations from one town have visited the other.  As part of these activities, Narbonne hosts a Bavarian festival every other year.  This year was the 13th edition of the festival!  You can find the programme of the event here.

flyer_semaine_bavaroise_Page_1

The contingent from Weilheim arrive in several buses, and there are a few trucks laden with food and beer!  For entertainment there is the brass band and the Trachtenverein, a group performing traditional dances.  Of course there are also various vendors selling traditional Bavarian specialities, including beer brewed in Weilheim.

I went one evening to enjoy the atmosphere – and the food and drink, of course!! 🙂  In front of the town hall, large tents had been set up around three sides of the square: one tent for the stage and the musicians, and the other two for the public, with trestle tables and benches.  The tents were all open sided, protecting the performers and revellers from the sun and perhaps a drop of rain or two.  The fourth side of the square was lined with booths for the vendors.  The booths are normally used for the Christmas market and still had some fake snow stuck to them. 🙂

Fetes like these are more fun if they can be shared, so I went with friends.  We arrived early enough to catch the “warm-up” band, playing French chansons.  We had planned to have our dinner there, so we started off with some large pretzels, and some beer.

P1160840

The brewery from Weilheim, Dachsbräu, had three beers on offer: lager, white beer, and dark beer – all of them served well chilled!!  The pretzels were perfect too!

After a little break we went to get some more food 🙂

There were stuffed cabbage leaves with roasted potatoes, meatloaf with potato salad, and grilled sausages with sauerkraut or potato salad.  All very yummy!!

We had another break, and then we hit the food stalls once more for dessert!! 🙂

P1160822

Apple fritters, apple strudel, plum streusel cake, cheese cake AND a doughnut!!  We went a little over the top, but we did manage to eat it all!

While we were stuffing our faces, the Bavarian musicians were getting ready to entertain us.

Soon they had started playing – there’s a video of the brass band after the picture below (e-mail subscribers, please visit the blog website to see the videos in this post).  YouTube tells me that the piece the band is playing is called Riviera and that you may see advertising before or after the video.

P1160886

Next came some traditional Bavarian dancing: a Schuhplattler, a dance where the men slap the soles of their shoes and various parts of their legs with the palms of their hands.  The women watch them intently and get to have a bit of a dance with the guys when they take a break from the slapping.

Then there was a Bankerltanz – literally translated, a bench dance.  It originated in the days long before radio and television, when people had to make their own entertainment with whatever was handy!!

By now it was getting quite dark, and the atmosphere in the square was magical.

You have probably been wondering about the title of the post for some time now.  Well, that has to do with the Goasslschnalzer, the guys who crack the whips.  The whips were used by carters in the olden days, much in the way that we would hoot the horn on a car these days.  The custom appears to be particular to upper Bavaria, and a competition is held each year, to see who can do the whip-cracking best. 🙂  The stick is made from glass fibre, the rope is braided hemp, about 110 cm long, and the tip is made from polyamide fibre.

The cracking noise is made when the tip reaches the speed of sound – it takes a great deal of skill to get the whips to crack in time to the music!

We all agreed that this was a great evening out!!  The next Bavarian festival will take place in Narbonne in August 2017, so make a note in your diary now!  If you’re looking for somewhere to stay, please visit the midihideaways website.

 

A feast of colour

On a recent trip to Narbonne I made two discoveries, both prompted by a friend who had recently told me about them.  The first was a restaurant I had never before visited:  L’Ecailler Gourmet, which is just behind the law courts in Narbonne.
P1130098 
It is a restaurant which specialises in fish, and there is literally nothing else on the menu.  If you don’t like fish and shellfish, don’t go there!!  On the other hand, if you enjoy fish, you’ll be in heaven there!  I went on a Saturday lunchtime, when the prix-fixe menus are not in operation (on weekdays the lunchtime menus are 16 and 18 Euro). Out in front there is a very nice courtyard dining area, with sun sails and umbrellas, and very comfortable outdoor furniture. Inside looked good too;  I just have to tell you about the WC – it’s got the perfect decor, totally in tune with the theme of the restaurant.  I won’t tell you any more, you’ll have to go and see for yourself 🙂 !  L’Ecailler Gourmet also has a shop, where you can buy fresh fish and shellfish.

For starters, my dining companion and I ordered a selection of four different Tapas:  marinated smoked herring, octopus, sesame prawns, and marinated anchovies.

P1130117

I am not sure which was the most delicious of the four – I wasn’t sure at the time and I can’t make up my mind now.  The flavour of the herring was sublime and the fish beautifully tender.  The anchovies were perfect, nicely spiced without being too acid.  The prawns were juicy with a lovely sesame flavour.  And the octopus?  Firm, but without being rubbery, as octopus can so often be, and delicately flavoured with chives and peppers.

For the main course my dining companion had chosen the Parillade, a combo of three different fish fillets, plus scallops and king prawns, and I had ordered a Brochette de Saumon, Lotte et Gambas, in other words salmon, monk fish and king prawns on a skewer.  Before it was cooked, the fish was presented at the table – I don’t remember that ever happening before in a restaurant!  The first picture shows the Parillade, and the ingredients for my Brochette are shown on the other half of the plate.  Having eaten all the tapas I was not sure I would be able to manage all the fish, but I figured that it would shrink somewhat during cooking.

When the fish reappeared, this time beautifully cooked and plated, it still looked just as big, AND there were vegetables on the plate too!!

We both managed just fine – the fish was perfectly cooked, juicy and tender!  Monk fish can be a bit tricky to prepare.  It can have a strange kind of texture, which I don’t find all that pleasant, but in this case it was just a pleasure to eat.  Cooking fish is all about timing, and the chefs at L’Ecailler Gourmet have it down to a fine art.

After all that gorgeous fish, I felt that dessert was out of the question, but then came the blackboard with the choices:

P1130130

I think you’ll agree that the choices were just too tempting :)!!  I opted for the millefeuille with fresh mango and Chantilly cream – pure delight – whilst my dining companion ordered the tartar of strawberries with black olives and basil.  The latter was a revelation – the flavour of the strawberries was very much enhanced by the basil, and the olives added a nice kick to it.

So all in all a wonderful lunch, and definitely a restaurant to recommend.  If you want to visit, please call ahead to make a reservation, as it can get very busy.

P1130145

After this amount of food we definitely needed a walk, so we decided to spend some time exploring Narbonne.  Here’s where my friend’s second tip came in handy:  Narbonne is hosting the 2nd International Biennale of Watercolour during October.  The exhibitions are spread over eight different locations in the town centre.  We started with the exhibit of pictures by Henri Zuber in the hemispherical chamber at the bottom of the keep, part of the archbishop’s palace (now the town hall) on Place de l’Hotel de Ville. The room is amazing (you can climb to the top of the keep for a great view over the town), and the exhibition was delightful.  The acoustics of the room are also amazing – you can clearly hear what people across the other side of the room are whispering about!!

The next stop was in the Salle des Consuls, also in the archbishop’s palace.  This is an impressive hall with a timber beamed ceiling, where the town nobles met to decide on the running of Narbonne.  The pictures on show here were the finalists of the worldwide competition organised by the international magazine, The Art of Watercolour.

There were several pictures which caught my eye, and on finding out that all the works on display were for sale, I asked the price for this picture:

P1130184

It is called Smoking old man, and painted by Weixing Guan.  The young man at the desk had to make a phone call, as he did not have a price list.  He was visibly embarrassed when he told me that the picture was valued at $50,000 – just like me to go for one of the most expensive pictures in the whole show!! 😀 .

We went on to the next venue, the Chapelle des Penitents Bleus, the former chapel of one of the poor orders.  Looking at some of the decorations in the chapel I wonder…

The pictures here were by a group of painters who had been specially invited to the Biennale.  Among the pictures on show was the one which was used for the posters of this year’s exhibition, a very atmospheric piece by Uruguayan artist Alvaro Castagnet

Our next stop was at La Poudriere, a former gunpowder store!  Painters selected by the organising committee were showing their pictures here.

On to our final stop that day:  the Ancienne Chapelle des Jacobins – the old chapel of the former Jacobin monastery.  The chapel is an incredibly lofty space, with some amazing stonework!

The pictures by the Belgian painter Martine Vanparijs caught my eye, and they were very much more affordable than the painting which had so attracted me earlier in the afternoon. You could probably buy every single picture in the Ancienne Chapelle des Jacobins for the price of that one!

P1130234

The Biennale runs until October 26, 2014 and most of the venues are open every day.  If you are in the area, do go and have a look – I am sure you will enjoy the visit!

Romans and ruins

The Journees du Patrimoine took place for the 31st time in France this past weekend.  The event was started in 1984 by the then French minister for culture, Jack Lang.  The aim was to allow the French public to visit their national heritage monuments and buildings, which were usually closed to the public or rarely visited.  Following the success of the French initiative, several European countries started their own “heritage weekends” in 1985, and in 1991 the European Union officially instituted the European Heritage Days, to be held on the third weekend of September each year.

So it was that I found myself in Narbonne last Sunday afternoon, to visit the Clos de la Lombarde excavation site.

IMG_8773

Narbonne was founded in 118 BC and became the capital of Roman Gaul.  The museums in Narbonne have an important collection of finds from the Roman period of the town,  and I wanted to see where some of these pieces had come from.  The excavation site is right in Narbonne, next to the cemetery, and it had miraculously survived without being built over until our times.  In 1973 the treasury decided to build a tax office on the site, and initial surveys were carried out by local archaeologists.  What they found was spectacular, and in 1974 excavations started.  In the intervening years, the site has been pretty much excavated all over.

P1120988

 

Sunday afternoon was hot and humid, but that did not deter any of the many visitors.  When I arrived at the site I felt a little disappointed – it looked just like a lot of dust and rubble at first glance.  BUT there were guided visits, and after a brief wait, during which I tried my hand at assembling a piece of fresco, we were off with our guide.  A word on the fresco puzzle – they were not pieces of real Roman wall paintings, but recreated with plasterboard (sheetrock) and paint.

Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable – she had been part of the excavation team for a long time, and knew the history of the site as well as anybody.  What we had in front of us were the remains of a block of houses, with roads visible on three sides. Our guide was wonderful at bringing life to the dust and rubble all around us.  Here is a map:

P1120932

The green areas are the roads, with the two running north/south on the map being major roads, with a well-made surface.  The roads at a right angle were narrower and not as much used.  The first house we looked at is called Maison a Portiques, the house of the porches, so-called because it had a porch running along two sides of it.  The one along the main road was wide enough for pedestrians to walk under and perhaps for merchants to set up stalls.  The Maison a Portiques dates from the 1st and 2nd centuries AD.  In the picture below you are looking along the road, and you’d be standing under the roof of the porch.  The square block would have been the base for one of the columns holding up the roof of the porch.  The chains mark out the wall of the house, and on the left of the picture they mark out the edge of the road.

P1120945

The door on the main street led into a spacious hallway, and beyond the hallway was the interior garden of the house.

P1120946

The members of the association Les Amis du Clos de la Lombarde have tried to recreate some feel of the garden.  Right ahead is the well – the stone surround is cut from one single piece of rock.  Behind it is a basin, which was filled with water on the previous day.  The floor of the basin is covered in opus spicatum, flat bricks laid on their sides in a herringbone pattern.  The Romans used a lime mortar mixed with crushed brick to create a watertight finish.  2000 years later it is still watertight – isn’t that astonishing??

Behind the round basin was a square basin.  Unfortunately part of that basin had been destroyed when an early Christian basilica had been built in the 4th century AD.  You can see the the herringbone pattern brickwork and the slightly pink render on the walls of the basin.  In the top right hand corner is a lead plate, which allowed the basin to be drained.

P1120959

All around the edge of the garden was a channel which could be flooded, perhaps to cool the air, or to water the plants?  The house was connected to “mains” water by a lead pipe – and in those days not every house had that convenience.  If you look very careful at the picture with the channel you can just about make out a raised round area which would have been where a column would have stood.

Some of the rooms still had their original floors in place, although to see the beautiful mosaic floors you’ll have to visit the archaeological museum in Narbonne, where they are preserved.

Part-way through our visit we had a little interruption.   A group of local amateur actors had prepared a sketch after a story by Seneca.  Lucilius, the owner of the house of the porches, had invited Marcus Clodius, his neighbour, and Sagaristio, a friend, for a house-warming party.  Unfortunately the construction works were running late (some things never change 🙂 ).  The triclinium, the dining room, was not yet finished, so Lucilius offered his friends some of his fine wines.  Lemniselenis, the wife of Marcus Clodius, had not been invited, but told us bits of the story from the sidelines.  There was a little incident with one of the servants, which required some audience participation :)!  All of the dialogue was spoken in Latin, but I confess that I did not remember very much from my school days!!

P1120955

I took a video of some of it for you – unfortunately my camera decided to stop halfway through, so you will have to imagine Lemniselenis’ cook, Paulus Bocus, coming past the house and tempting the hungry visitors with this menu:

Pepones et Melones (melon and watermelon with pepper)
Ostreae (oysters)
Perna (pork roasted in a crust, with figs)
Pulum frontonianum (chicken in a pot)
Patina ex lacte (dessert with milk baked in the oven – flan?)
Patina de piris (pears cooked with honey and spices)
Dulcia domestica (dates stuffed with pine nuts and honey)
Mustea et panis mellitus (pancakes and honeyed bread)

I guess we’d have all gone over to Marcus Clodius’ house for that feast!  Come to think of it, perhaps that’s a menu I could cook with my friends at one of our cookery get-togethers?  Here’s the video (e-mail subscribers please visit the WordPress site to see the video):

After that lovely diversion we continued our visit.  Here’s an interesting item, which is still in its original position:

P1120966 

P1120967

 

It is located under what could have been stairs up to a first floor.  Its use?  A kind of emergency toilet!  The Roman houses did not have their own toilets – if you had to go, you went to the neighbourhood therme, the baths, to relieve yourself.  This emergency toilet was or is still linked to the drain which is in the road outside the house.

At some point in the 3rd century AD the houses were abandoned, for reasons unknown.  It is supposed that, because of unrest and the threat of invasion, the inhabitants moved to safer quarters inside the town. Bit by bit the houses fell apart, and lucky for us, they were not pillaged too badly at the time.  A lot of the plaster murals fell to the floor, and the archaeologists were able to piece some of them together.  The reconstituted frescoes are on display in the archaeological museum in Narbonne, along with the mosaic floors.  Here is our guide, holding up illustrations of some of the murals:

To give you an idea of size, the Maison a Portiques occupies 975 square metres (8775 square feet).  It must have been a large house, even in its day.  The adjoining house on the block is called Maison III, and is slightly smaller;  it “only” occupies 700 square metres (6300 square feet)!  Maison III is known the way it was in the 2nd century AD. Fashions had changed, and the garden of this property was surrounded by the house in a U-shape.  The basin in the garden was entirely lined with white marble. And amazingly, this basin also still holds the water!

P1120983

P1120984

 

Maison III also held a real puzzle for the archaeologists!  In one of the rooms the floor was badly cracked and subsiding.  When they probed underneath, they found that something had been filled in.  And when that something had been fully excavated, it appeared to have been a giant fish tank – a living larder.  This pool could be filled by a lead pipe from the well, and there was also a drain to the street.  On one side there were steps into the water, so the fish could be caught easily.  The holes at the bottom are the mouths of amphorae.  Perhaps they were there to allow smaller fish to shelter from larger predatory fish?

P1120978

Here is another picture of the garden of Maison III, along with a model reconstitution, showing what the house might have looked like:

Beyond Maison III lay the neighbourhood baths.  Our guide explained that a large part of the baths were below the cemetery next door, but for obvious reasons they had not been given permission to explore there :(.  Since the cemetery was first built it has been well known that the land had previously been occupied – several of the tombs have mosaic floors…

The final part of our guided visit covered the early Christian basilica, which was built towards the end of the 4th century AD.  Some of the cut stones from the earlier constructions were reclaimed for the building of the basilica, which was built over the remains of the Roman houses.

I think I’ll leave you here – there’s so much to discover, so much to see, so much historical context!  It would be beyond the scope of this blog to give you much more information – I leave that to the experts, who will be only too happy to show you everything there is to see at Clos de la Lombarde, when you visit yourself!