|Puilaurens from a distance.|
|And with the zoom lens.|
|Quéribus. Keep in mind that by now we've already climbed hundreds of metres up a switchback road.|
|Peyrepetuse from the car park--again after talking a twisting climbing road.|
|Peyrepetuse from the top. The fields in the distance give you some idea of how high up this is.|
Even though we've driven it dozens of times, this route through limestone chasms into wine country still knocks me sideways.
First stop was so we could take a look--and photos of--the chateau of Puilaurens. And here I bring out the guidebook to be sure I've got all the facts right. Built as a fortress, it eventually became a prison before beginning its long slide into ruin in the 17th century. As Cathar castles go, it's still in fairly good condition. One we've yet to climb...
Further along the road, beyond the Aude gorge, where the land widens into a broad vine-filled valley, Quéribus seems impossibly high. You can't begin to imagine how anyone could climb that crag, let alone conquer it. Not surprisingly, this was the last Cathar fortress to fall to the crusaders in 1255. I've ascended it before and, wearing flimsy sandals, wasn't about to do it again.
Not far away, Peyrepetuse looks massive, even from a distance but it had surrendered in 1240. I didn't climb that one either but hung around at the base, as I had at Quéribus, looking at all the wild flowers (post to come).