When our friends with a car, Sally and Larry, asked us if we’d like to go with them to the village of Monze, the first thing I had to do was look up its location. That’s when the good news started. First off, it was only going to be about a 20-minute ride and then I looked closely at the map to see some of the street names: rue du Cabernet, rue du Merlot, rue du Chardonnay…. Sounds like our kind of place! Sally went on to say that the restaurant she thought we’d enjoy featured wine from the local area and there were 3 vineyards in the vicinity offering tastings. Naturally we said, “yes, thank you” and we were off on another nearby adventure.
Monze was founded in the 10th century as a fortified village and an outpost from Carcassonne. Parts of the original fort are still visible today in the middle of town which is no surprise since the walls were built 2 meters (6.5 feet) thick.
Next to that is the parish church Saint-Félix-de-Valois that was first mentioned in historical documents from 1215. Two hundred years later when a chapel was added it was connected directly to the fort by a door, the outline of which is supposed to be apparent today. This would have facilitated escape from the fort via a tunnel that went under the church and out to the river, our next stop.
Perhaps the most striking feature of Monze is its stone bridge that was built in 1265. It’s known as a Roman bridge because of its architecture of 3 arches, the smallest of which was designed to direct water to a mill and/or to irrigate crops. We crossed that bridge ourselves like someone might have done 600 years prior fleeing capture at the fort to seek refuge at our final viewing point on this walking tour.
The Maltelbine tower was built around 1200 as a symbol of power for the lord who oversaw Monze. It would have been a reminder to all of the villagers, who could have easily seen it soaring in the distance, of the status of the ruling family. It was a fortress in its own right and also served as a watch tower to warn nearby Carcassonne of any invasions.
Having walked by numerous vineyards it was time for lunch and to taste some of the wine that came from those grapes. Right in the village is Domaine La Louse, a true family operation where the husband and wife team do everything including handpicking the grapes and making the wine. Also there is an old favorite, Les Jamelles, that always tempts us to bring home cases of their finest. Restaurant le M’11, across the road from this winery, was the perfect place to sit outdoors enjoying the view, the meal from their wood-fired grill, and of course the wine that came from the surrounding fields.
When we were first considering where in France we might want to live, a “village” came to mind. Monze has that charm of ancient stone buildings, a Medieval arched bridge, and winding narrow lanes. Its population hasn’t varied by more than a few people since the census of 1793 when there were 171 inhabitants. Unfortunately to live there we would have to have a car since the only businesses we saw within walking distance were the restaurant and several wineries. Hmm, on second thought….
Monze town hall: https://mairie-monze.fr/
Restaurant M’11: http://www.restaurantm11.com/
Les Jamelles: http://m.les-jamelles.com/fr/