Since we don’t have a car and use the sidewalks in town extensively, we’re always peering into shop windows to see what’s new. Last month it was pretty easy to tell when the semi-annual country-wide sales were finished since the big and splashy SALE! signs were replaced with merchandise promoting fall fashions and back to school supplies. Ugh, I still get a pit in my stomach at this time of year when that threat of the end of summer vacation and the beginning of a new school year looms in the air. The other day when I averted my eyes from one more display of pencil boxes and backpacks, something got my attention.
As I looked away and up from the shop window I saw a colorful harlequin decorating the corner building on the next street up. Thanks to the blog called Music and Heritage of Carcassonne I found out that this mosaic was created in the 1960’s to draw attention to a store with this jester’s name. So what else were we missing by looking just straight ahead? It didn’t take long to find a few more mosaics including this former bath and shower house from the 1800’s, the elementary school just around the corner from there, a butcher shop called Miquel, and a building supplies store.
Although colored stones appear to have been popular for store fronts in the 19th century, monotone but no less impressive statues and carved faces adorn other buildings from the era. For example, the Virgin protects 2 cherubs above the entrance to the gourmet store La Ferme while inquisitive faces peer down at shoppers on the pedestrian street. Even downspouts and shutter holders are part of the wall art we find in town.
Now comes the real motivation for why we learned to look up. We had lived in Carcassonne for several months often looking without success for Bill’s favorite gin. Here he is standing in front of the shop window of the gourmet grocery mentioned earlier. If you look at the top of the window you’ll be able to see a prized green gin bottle just above his head. When I was learning to read in 1st grade, the book we used included the line: Look up. Look up, up, up. Who knew that Dick and Jane were so wise?