Places that I Love

I present you with an extensive overview of my favorite places. Places that I love to show my friends and customers. And places they love as well. 

Aix-en-Provence

A story to show you to what lengths I sometimes go. Two lovely American ladies, sisters, were staying in Aix-en-Provence. They had visited the Cave of Mary Magdalene in the Baume Massif and the basilica dedicated to Mary Magdalene in St-Maximin-la-Ste-Baume. And now they wanted to go to Rennes-le-Château. But how to get there? That proved too much for them. After several mails and telephone conversations I finally offered to pick them up in Aix, after all it is only 350 kilometres from Les Labadous. We could then on the way back visit Les-Stes-Maries-de-la-Mer with the beautiful Sarah {PIC 01} and the church where Maria Salome and Maria Jacoba are buried {PIC 01a} and also the walled city of Aigues Mortes. And it worked. We were home in time for dinner!

Collioure

It has been very hot in September. Look at how warm and peaceful it was in the lovely harbour of Collioure {PIC 02}, where also this strange composition was photographed {PIC 03}. Fortunately for us, but not for some of our guests, it finally started to rain during the last few days of the month. Not much but just enough for the River of Colours to flow again {PIC 04}. However the next week it will be sunny, warm and dry again.

Fontaine des Amours

This lovely place in the River Salz, between Rennes-les-Bains and Sougraigne, has become one of our absolute favourites {PIC 05}. It is a place where they say that Mary Magdalene baptized people. And it is a place where lovers can be found. Or beautiful girls who just can’t resist lying in the salty water {PIC 06} or being immersed by the waterfall {PIC 06a}.

Labyrinth of Nebias

Another favourite is the natural labyrinth in Nebias. Although it is more of a maze than a labyrinth. It is a place where people really can get lost. A lot of work has been done the last two years in closing off wrong passages and painting green stripes, yellow stripes or red hands on the correct routes. When you enter the place you can feel its special energy, like entering an enchanted forest {PIC 07}. It is quiet, the trees are welcoming you, the rays of the sun make beautiful patterns and the rocks want to be touched {PIC 08}. Some even want you to sing for them. Look at the following pictures, with the ray of Light {PIC 09}, the purple cloud {PIC 10} and the strange orange coloured objects on this standing rock {PIC 11}. And who would not envy this rock exchanging energy with this beautiful woman {PIC 12}. And the trees, full of moss, bending themselves in  curves to catch the rays of the sun {PIC 13}.

Campagne-les-Bains

Another favourite. The Source of the Mother Goddess, also called the Source of Isis. A place where it is said that Mary Magdalene also baptized people. A place where wonderful ceremonies are held. And where beautiful pictures can be taken. See the water full of iron spurting out of the rocks {PIC 14}. This source is often compared with the famous Red Spring in the Chalice Well Gardens in Glastonbury. Walking back into the cave, you can see two large tunnels, disappearing inside the mountain, like the ovaries in a womb. Looking forward towards the waterfalls, strange pictures can be taken. With beautiful light effects. Sometimes it even looks as if the people standing in the light are surrounded by an angel {PIC 15}.

Montsegur

Another favourite, although for this place, the word “favourite’ is a bit out of place. It is not so much a place where people love to go, as where people have to go. Climbing to the top is something of a pilgrimage. But it can be dangerous, for the stones are slippery, becoming often even more so when it has rained and the stones are covered with mud and wet leaves. Often we go no further then the monument, placed in 1960 at the top of the meadow where 225 Cathars where burned alive on March 16th 1244 {PIC 16}. When we stop there and have placed a rose at the base of the monument, I often tell my friends the story of the Cathars. Which sometimes leads to very emotional situations. But then I have a feeling that more and more people come to this place, and the same applies for the whole Pays Cathar, to solve things from the past. To clear their ‘Karma.’

Baulou

Let’s continue with our favourites places, places that have been visited during the past month. Sometimes more than once. Baulou, just 10 kilometers north west of Foix, is such a place. Here, in the 19th century, a monastery was built, the monastery of Carol. On a beautiful spot between gently sloping hills {PIC 17}. When the people who built the monastery passed away and few people lived there, the property was acquired by the bishop of Pamiers. In 1956 the property was sold, under the express condition that everything ‘religious’ must be destroyed. Nobody knows why. Maybe because the monastery was considered, by the Church, to be a bit heretical, like the church in Rennes-le-Château. Anyway the whole monastery was destroyed. Only one place was spared. A cave, some 100 metres away from the monastery, with the statue of Mary Magdalene. A beautiful statue {PIC 18}. Not many people go there, it is private property and the place is hard to find. But all who went to that cave, were very emotional. Because of the beautiful statue, because of the strange story, because of the energy of the place. I don’t know why, but it is wonderful to see the reactions of the people when they enter the cave. “Oh my God” is what I hear most. Here my American friends Keryn and Becky keeping Mary Magdalene company for a while {PIC 19}. And my other American friends Lisa and Kathy, keeping me company for a very short while {PIC 20}.

Carcassonne

Carcassonne is another favourite, or rather a ‘must.’ One cannot visit this area without having been to at least Rennes-le-Château and Carcassonne. The Cité is a Unesco World Heritage Site. It is a magnificent walled town, with many towers and passages, with lots of beautiful shops, numerous restaurants and several museums. Extra special is the basilica of St Nazaire and St Celse where this month again the Russian choir ‘Doros’ was singing {PIC 21}. Very powerful, four men, singing a capello and filling the basilica with their beautiful voices.  And the castle, of course, with in one of the halls on the first flour this statue of the crucifixion. With the Virgin Mary on the left, St John on the right and a tiny Mary Magdalene at the foot of the cross {PIC 22}. But the town itself is also worth a visit. With its cathedral, it’s many churches with beautiful pictures of Mary Magdalene like in the church of St Vincent and the l’Eveche church {PIC 23} and with its famous Canal du Midi.

Gorges de Galamus

One more favourite. A spectacular site. A road hacked out of the rocks in the 19th century. With sheer cliffs rising up on one side and a deep valley on the other side. And in the middle the Hermitage of St Antoine, the cave of Mary Magdalene, a huge plane tree growing out of the rock without any sign of water and a beautiful church built into the rock. Here a picture from within the church with the light from outside shining over the head of St Antoine {PIC 24}.

Perillos

Driving further east we come to several more favourites. First of all the village of St Paul de Fenouillet with its cosy square, its Chapitre, its many Caves Cooperatives (AOC Roussillon), Maury, with even more Caves Cooperatives, the Cathar castles of Queribus {PIC 25} and Peyrepertuse, the town of Cucugnan with its Marie Enceinte (pregnant Mary) and the Moulin of St Omer. Then further west the castle of Padern, the castle of Aguilar, and the fortress of Salses. Finally we come to a deserted area with the majestic Chateau Opoul and the magnificent cave of Perillos. An excellent place for contemplation, meditation and ceremonies {PIC 26}.

Cave of Mary Magdalene

Again an absolute favourite. The cave of Mary Magdalene close to our domain La Source in the valley of Les Labadous. We can  easily walk up to the cave, starting at our place and return through the valley of the Ruisseau des Couleurs. A trip of 2,5 hours, not counting the time spent in the caves. Through truly unspoilt nature. A wonderful experience. Or, if you don’t want to walk that far, I can take you up halfway in my 4WD, a Nissan X-trail {PIC 27}. But there is more. At that location there is not one cave, but three. The cave of Mary Magdalene, with its guardians {PIC 28}. The birthing cave, which has been discussed in previous newsletters. And a new, or recently discovered cave, with no name yet. But with a powerful energy. A cave that I would like to name the ‘Cave of Jesus’ {PIC 29} and {PIC 30}. The place now is like a Holy Trinity. A place where many ceremonies are held {PIC 31}. Easily recognizable from the other side of the valley because of this spill of chalk. funny, for now it looks as if these lovely ladies from Australia are walking on snow {PIC 32}.

Alet-les-Bains, Rennes-les-Bains, Arques, Couiza, Bugarach

There is of course more to be seen. Much more. All favourites. And all located within a circle of 10 kilometres around Rennes-le-Château. Much has been said about these places in previous newsletters, so I will just mention a few highlights.

First of all Alet-les-Bains. With its beautiful abbey ruins, its spring with the famous water from Alet, the house of the grandparents of Nostradamus, with their strange woodcarvings {PIC 33} The church with its beautiful statues and its enigmatic wall paintings. L’Eveche, the former palace of the bishop and now a Chambres d’Hotes with a restaurant, in a garden full of magnificent trees. The statue of Diana and the lovely Galery of Angels opposite the isle in the Aude river {PIC 34}. And to the east of Alet, high on the hill, the magic church of St Salvayre, a place full of mysteries.

In Rennes-les-Bains we have the famous hot water springs. Well ‘hot’, the water coming out of the rock is 27 degrees Celsius. We have the Fauteuil du Diable, with next to it a source called Le Cercle. And high on the high plateau the Roches Tremblantes, the Trembling Rocks {PIC 35}. A place that could very well be a sacred site of the Druids, with the remnants of a dolmen still visible {PIC 36}. And of course the Fontaine des Amours.

On the way to Arques we pass the beautiful bridge of Serres, where you have a magnificent view on the Pech Cardou. And north of Serres is Peyrolles, with the ‘Snake’ in the landscape and the Land of the Red Earth. Further east is the rock where once the Tomb of Poussin stood. And between the Pech Cardou and the Berco Grande and Berco Petito a magic valley opens up. With two huge rocks at the entrance, called the gates of Atlantis. In Arques itself we have of course the famous castle, the Dungeon of Arques, the Cathar museum and a lovely lake with nice pick-nick places.

In Couiza itself is not much to be seen. Some restaurants, the castle of the Ducs de Joyeuse and a tourist office. But along the road, the high road, between Couiza and Coustaussa is the Camp Grand {PIC 37}. On this mountain slope stood once 200 capitelles, little stone huts. Nobody knows what they were used for. But there are many theories

Finally the Bugarach. Much has been said in previous newsletters about the magic, male mountain and about its enigmatic church. The mountain that looks different from every angle {PIC 38}. And the church with its strange stained glass windows {PIC 39}.

Rennes-le-Château

Don’t worry. Of course I am not forgetting one of the most, if not the most interesting place. An absolute must. Rennes-le-Château. Its church with the statue of Mary Magdalene in the Porch {PIC 40}. The Tour Magdala against a stark black and white sky {PIC 41}. The little round stone in the ground outside the church, near the Sacristy, right above an underground sepulchre. The stone that looks like a Yin and Yang symbol {PIC 42}. The magic walk along the Tour Magdala, the Orangerie, the Cemetary and the castle of Hautpoul {PIC 43}. The statue of Isis in the Jardin du Marie, with our gracious hosts Tobi and Gerda {PIC 44}. And La Porte de Rennes, the bookshop opposite the church, where many of the women in the groups that I have been guiding, love to shop. Often spending more time in the shop than in the church {PIC 45}.

Other places to visit

To conclude this overview of the favourites of the Pays Cathar, let me mention the last, but not the least places to visit. First of all, of course, our own place. The domain La Source in the valley of Les Labadous. Some people feel so good at this site that they don’t want to go anywhere else. They just stay here, inside in the big hall {PIC 46}, or outside under the black poplar trees, or in the rose garden {PIC 47}. Or swaying softly in our hammocks. Reading, dozing, meditating. Wonderful.

Then there is Joke’s shop “Renaissance” in Quillan. A lovely shop with inspiring, nostalgic items. Well worth a visit {PIC 48}.

And the market on Sunday morning in Esperaza is also becoming a tourist attraction. It is a lovely, old-fashioned market. Where people sell their home made products, where they exchange news, where they drink a cup of coffee or pastis and where life is thriving {PIC 49}.

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