7 January 2000
Le Temps Brumeaux
Being in the mountains this time of year means more fog, clouds, mist. When we drive to Limoux on a cloudy morning and pass through the gorges after Alet-les-Bains, the sky ahead will be clear, or just a few thin, high streaks of white, giving the sky a marbled look. The land is rolling down to the river—the higher ridges are not high enough to hold the clouds. The roadsides and fields are still a little damp from early morning drizzle.
Here, in the Haute Vallée de l’Aude, the sky is “heavy” in the morning. A drizzle off and on and the air is moist and clings to the skin. It feels colder than it really is.
From our vantage here on the southern slope of Mont Sec, we can see up and down the Aude valley, from Pech Cardou to the east all the way up to the mountains that encircle Quillan to the west. In the crevices are low, misty clouds that lie close to the river—the upper peaks appear almost to be floating like dark blue-purple ships on a pale gray foam.
Wispy clouds twine around Pech Cardou—the chateau at Coustaussa is barely visible, a ruin wearing a shawl of smoke.
We take a walk at midday. The sun has reached its high point in the southern sky over Rennes-le-Chateau, and its pale illumination remains blocked by the layers of heavy clouds. This is the brightest moment of the day.
We walk the cemetery-Antugnac Road circle. Later, the mist-cloud fills the valley. Rennes and the hills vanish. Then a break in the cloud and there is Rennes, visible through the mist, like a legend floating in the clouds.
Journal © R Young
You’re making me want to travel to France. How long have you lived there?
We settled in France exactly at the turning of l’An Deux Mille. Our origins are Kentucky & the Gulf Coast, New Orleans mainly. We lived in the Pyrenees on the Aude for five years then moved to Catalan France, first in Perpignan, briefly in Le Boulou, and now (for good) St. Paul de Fenouillet on the banks of the Agly, a river of pure water flowing from subterranean rivers under Bugarach, a mysterious mountain . . . well, you get the picture. St. Paul is on the site of a Roman villa. Roman irrigation canals and barrages on the river. Sanglier roaming free in the dense forests. Our humble abode is just outside the medieval walled gate and we have a manger on the ground floor and the bar on the corner sells bio wine produced by a vigneron who tends his vines with a white mule. Etc. Mostly socialist, a haven for refugees—30 percent Maghreb. Pretty cosmopolitan for a town in the arriere pays. It isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty cool.
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Just Googled and it looks fucking gorgeous. Pretty close to Arles too. Van Gogh is a god to me & I’ve been fantasizing about going to Arles for ages.
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Do it. Arles & La Camargue are another world, the rest of Provence, too, but the lower Rhône’s the best. Enduring memories!