San Ferriol and Montsegur, France, September 2016

‘Bring them to me,’ ordered the chatelaine majestically as I listened to her describe the day’s work. ‘I have special plans for their demise,’ she continued and laughed an evil laugh. It was S and though she was referring to mortal enemies, they were weeds rather than people. The crusades had been here, true, but that was centuries ago. We were gardening.  For us, St. Ferriol was beautiful views, iron tools, and hazelnuts right off the tree! And the beautiful garden of course.

So, we were back for more at the chateau! The kids settled back into their room, happy to be somewhere familiar and happy to see the family again. There were other volunteers that week and also S’s brother in London who came to visit and we really enjoyed their company. We were back in the great room for meals and back in the unfinished part of the castle doing cleaning and organizing. I did some garden work, too, and S had the kids picking apples, hazelnuts, and lavender. G, the eight-year-old, was in school now so wasn’t around as much as last time. He did join the kids in building a nice fort and generally running around. The weather again was sunny and clear, cool at night and just perfect. The kids cleaned ancient glass bottles and the twins went kayaking with G at a creek in Quillan:

One evening, S and J invited us to see a guide they were considering as a partner. We drove about an hour to Montsegur where we met the guide (who, as it happens, is an interesting guy and filmmaker of some note) and hiked to the castle ruin up a somewhat treacherous uphill path. The Cathar religion was a 12-14th century movement targeted by the Crusades that included beliefs in pacifism, vegetarianism, reincarnation, and the idea of co-existing good and evil gods. Chateau Montsegur was built on an historic Cathar site where trace stonework of actual Cathar structures remain. J is an expert in the Cathars and many people come to the region to learn from him and study this religious history. The ruins were grey and offered fascinating stories and wonderful views.

Another thing we did this week was hike nearby Chateau St. Ferriol to see another view of the countryside. This was only a few minutes walk from the chateau:

Beautiful! I also climbed out a skylight on the top floor and sat on the chateau roof with Fiercely.

Some other events of that week: a fancy gathering of academics in the great room, which felt very Downton Abbey as I was polishing the silverware then hiding with the kids so as not to disrupt the evening. Kids making bouquets for the great room and also picking lavender and making sachets. Watching “Cool Running” movie on the wall of the great hall one night with the kids. Hanging laundry on the line and watching it flap in the breeze. S bringing us pain de chocolate one morning by surprise. And our last day, lining up our backpacks outside the little yellow house as we got ready to leave:

But it wasn’t goodbye- not yet! We were coming back in a few days- this time with grandparents! 


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