Earlier this month we wrote about an order for a marble column that King Louis XIV had placed in 1670 that was finally being filled. It was/is destined for the Palace of Versailles where the majority of the red marble already in place there came from a quarry about 30 minutes northeast of Carcassonne. Inspired by that story, our friends Sally and Larry, who had already been to that area suggested that they take us there to see just how beautiful the mountaintop views are. Sally said, “In half an hour you will be amazed at how different the landscape becomes.” and she was right.
In the center of Caunes-Minervois is the abbey of Saints Peter and Paul that was founded in 780. Although the building we saw at street level was begun in the 11th century, it’s possible to descend into the crypt to see vestiges of that first abbey from 3 centuries earlier. The town spreads out from there so it was easy to ramble up and down narrow, curved lanes all having one thing in common—being paved with marble cobblestones. Of course it’s not just the streets but there are steps, door frames, fountains, and monuments all made from the beautiful red stone that has brought wealth to this area since Roman times.
Getting to the outskirts of town to see the marble in place would have to wait because we were hungry and we had a (necessary) reservation at La Table d’Emilie. It’s exactly the kind of cozy restaurant we like where they limit their menu to only a few choices for each course in order to excel on each one. I’ll attach the menu below and even if you don’t read a lot of French you can probably guess at most of the items except Pissaladière which is a type of pizza from Nice. We took this photo when deciding upon dessert so you’ll see
Seiche à la rouille (cuttlefish/squid in red sauce) because it was already sold out.
Now it was time to see the quarry and although I read that some people walk there from town, we took the car since we wanted to make another picturesque stop as well. The photos here will speak for themselves since the red marble surrounds you and makes no effort to hide itself even on distant cliffs. Some wonderfully carved pieces of art and many more abandoned works cover the ground. In one spot an unfinished column must have been there a very long time based on its weathered appearance and the moss around it. It did make me wonder if that’s where King Louis XIV’s column was once carved.
The last stop, down the mountain from there was the chapel of Notre-Dame du Cros which gave us close up views of the valley we had observed from above. Because it had rained earlier in the day, everything was fresh and sparkling from the spring flowers to, of course, the red marble. In just a few hours we had completed all but one of what the tourist information site describes as “Our favorite moments”: walking with donkeys. When Sally said that we’d be amazed at how different it is just half an hour from Carcassonne, that certainly qualifies. Maybe we’ll have to return in the height of the tourist season to take a different kind of walk.
La Table d’Emilie: https://www.latabledemiliecaunes.com
Tourist brochure with map: https://fr.calameo.com/read/00488258348adbba00b4d