Back to the Middle Ages

Trip Start Apr 12, 2011
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14
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Trip End May 01, 2011


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Where I stayed
Hotel Campanile

Flag of France  , Languedoc-Roussillon,
Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Pierre and Guy did come by about 5:00 pm and we walked up to the second floor terrace to enjoy the evening breeze and watch the sun set. We talked about plans for church activities in Togo, what we could do the preach gospel, how we could help the local church stay connected and involved in the life of the larger group, what technology might be useful in those goals. We talked about the political situation in Africa and the Middle East, how each region affected the other, and what current events might mean for the future of West Africa.

As we got close to my departure time, I went up to my room to close the bags, bring them down and pay the bill. Didier Massart, the owner of the hotel and I also chatted a little as I paid the bill. He's been in West Africa, Benin and Togo for almost 20 years and has led the life of an adventurer. He has interesting stories to tell of his time here, I wished we had more time to talk. I’ll try to set aside some time during my next stay here.

At 19:30, we loaded up into Guy’s pickup and drove to the airport. We said our goodbyes and I went in passed the various police controls to check in and take care of formalities. The flight began boarding on time, though we again had to go through the ridiculous rigmarole of boarding a bus, waiting for 15 minutes until it was crammed full, then drive 15 seconds to the plane that was only 100 meters away. I wonder who thinks up these procedures; perhaps the companies that sell the busses….

The flight, that was to last six hours, left on time and I slept almost immediately. I woke for dinner, an hour after takeoff, and then went back to sleep until they woke us for breakfast an hour before landing. Upon landing in Paris, we again boarded a bus, this time for a long drive to the terminal building. We cleared formalities and I picked up my suitcase and rushed from terminal 2C to 2B for my next flight. I had arranged to take a low-cost airline called Easy Jet to Toulouse for the visit I needed to make. It was a fairly efficient operation overall. Easy Jet and Ryan Air have shaken the airline industry in Europe with their approach similar to South West Airlines in the US. My ticket was about half the price of a similar Air France ticket. There are no frills of course, one pays for everything including coffee, and one must be careful not to bring a suitcase heavier than 20 kg without making prior arrangements (they charge heavily for such things) but with care and forethought it is definitely worth it for some flights.

The only down side was inexperienced security people. When I went thought the security check, I took out the usual things: laptop and video camera. They called me back and said there were more electronics; I had to take everything out that had a wire in it. Then they still called me back and emptied every single thing in my roller bag. In the end after 15 minutes they decided it was a few disposable ink pens I had in the front pocket!

The one hour flight left and arrived on time. I picked up my rental car, which received a big upgrade, from the tiniest VW I had reserved to the largest VW van they had. All the small ones were already rented. I drove east out of Toulouse about 90 minutes to Carcassonne not far from my visit, and where I had gotten a very good deal on a hotel over the Internet.

It was too early to check in, so I stopped at a supermarket, and bought lunch: a fresh French baguette, a Camembert, a favorite garlic cheese, and a small bottle of Côte du Rhone. I parked the car on the street near the medieval city and walked inside for my picnic. Carcassonne is an amazing medieval city with double concentric walls around it still It was an important strongpoint going back to the Catholic crusade against the Albigensians (yes, a Catholic crusade against other Christians…) in the early 1200s. We have postulated that the Albigenian area might have been a place of refuge for Sabbath-keeping Christians during that time – they were very tolerant. So this is quite an interesting place to visit.

The ruins were repaired in the 1800s by a somewhat-controversial French architect named Viollet-le-Duc, so the city is very impressive today. It looks like a relatively new 800 year-old fortified city. I walked through the narrow, stone streets full of parents and children on their school break, and found a bench near the ducal castle, which has figures in several period films, like Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood of a few years back.  I enjoyed my bread and cheese and glass of wine and walked around the old streets to take photos and drink in the atmosphere.

By early afternoon, I could go check in to the hotel which I did and then promptly took a nap for three hours to try to catch up on my sleep.

In the evening I drove to the area of Castelnaudary, about half an hour from Carcassone to visit David and Céline Eugénie. We had a very nice visit together, sharing news of a personal natures as well as about the church. I finally left about 8:30 and drove by the Foreign Legion barracks located in Castelnaudary. I wanted to take a photo of the front gate for old time’s sake for a friend who was based here during his years in the Legion (you know who you are).  Then I drove back through the twilight to Carcassonne where I am very ready for a good night’s sleep.
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Comments

hervedubois
hervedubois on

Hi Mr. Meeker,
Now I know that you are a true Frenchman as well. Not only you do speak a better French than the natives but also you appreciate the very true French "casse-croûte" of any farmer, hunter or fisherman. You passed the test! And I can imagine that you appreciated the fresh baguette after the Days of Unleavenbread. That is nice to have news from the Eugenies from this very charming corner of France. I am eager to follow your visit there.

maryhendren
maryhendren on

Hi Joel,
Perhaps Easy Jet and Southwest are the way all will fly in the future. We're happy you had a safe trip and that you enjoyed a fantastic picnic at Carcassonne. We looked longingly at the picture of your backpack with the bread, cheese, and wine. Thanks for all the great photos. The scene from inside Carcassonne appeared pleasant and inviting. What a contrast to the medieval bleakness when Christians sought refuge there.

Regards,
Mary

Ted Franek on

Thanks Mr Meeker,
Great photos ! Love being able to travel along on your many trips. It is an education in itself.
Best Wishes on all your trips.

TESS WASHINGTON on

Thank you Mr. Meeker...sounds like a very pleasant trip to places you've known before...which I would love to visit myself someday...sigh...don't know when but it is a dream...

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