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December 7, 2013

Of Castles, Cathars, Christians, & Christmas

By Maryanna Gabriel 

Myself With French Guides
It was not a good thing to defy the pope of the day and when the Cathars refused to pay tax to Rome they were hunted down and, er, killed. They were a virtuous sect with high morals and from what I can gather, a bit similar to the Quakers, living how they thought was in accord with the teachings of the Nazarene. We no longer have to tremble in our sleep if somebody randomly decides we are a heretic, or worse still maybe they want our house, our animals, our land. A clergyman conveniently arranges for our death based on lies. No this is not a worry today. Easy to take for granted. Queribus was a fortress-like castle where the Cathars hid, not very successfully, it’s virtue being it’s remoteness but clearly visible throughout the valley and possibly it’s thick walls which were three feet thick. It was a haunting place, with sweeping valley views. I was unprepared for the scope and beauty of it all. Our guide told me that someone was recently killed in Queribus. A fork of lightening had come right through a three foot thick window and zap. Not really something one would expect at the outset of one’s day as one munched pain au chocolat. 

Sant Pere De Rhodes
We finished in Sant Pere de Rhodes, a monastery in Spain a few kilometers from the French border. It was also high up and overlooking the Mediterranean, the misty blues of sky and sea a soft and luscious sensation to the eye. This place was very old, the earliest Christians fled for refuge here from Rome. Around 300 AD, some body parts made their way to boost business, the scapula of St. Peter, the baby finger of Mary Magdalene, means of acquiring alms and a vehicle for petitioning through prayer, kind of early church must haves. I saw a fresco that was worn and not even protected from the public leaning on it.

I feel I have inadequately covered some astonishing geography. This is a blog after all. But perhaps a sense of it has been conveyed in spite of my misgivings. Those of you who write so encouragingly to me, I thank you. It means so much to me. To all, a Bon Noel and may voyages of discovery in your own way and in your own time, fill your hearts desire. Thank you so much for joining me here. 

December 6, 2013


Les Templiers
By Maryanna Gabriel

Collioure, the famous seaside town in Languedoc is where we went to on the next leg of our journey. Languedoc is a word derived from the “language of the Occitans”. Here we are moving into a more Spanish or Catalan influence, the food has red peppers, and there is a more fiery and colourful aspect to the culture. Matisse painted in Collioure which is very pretty with boats, beach, and many visiting European tourists enjoying the scene, the light fairly bouncing off of the Mediterranean. I found myself in a famous historic cafe “Les
Cote Vermeille 
Templiers”. I parked myself in a corner and read international newspapers, then perused the art which covered every square inch of wall, up the stairwell, along all hallways. Some of the names I recognized. I fought off a cold and braced myself weakly as we prepared to walk the “Cote Vermeille” to the west.