Looking for Johnny Depp: More Adventures in the Wilds of France


Chateau de Queribus

So, those of you who know me best understand about the search for Johnny Depp.  I confess; that’s the real reason I’m here.  But it’s not entirely selfish.  It’s for Ronnie and Erin, Mary and Trish and Jan, Lisa and Kristi, Julie, Jill, Ann, my French class, and even my Mom.  And, the rest of you.  You know who you are.  I have been searching high and low.  I’ve gone to Rodez, Cordes, Mosset and LaGrasse, Montilieu, Arles, Paris, Mirepoix, Narbonne, Uzes, and St. Hillaire.  I’ve hiked through woods and braved so many foreign cities.  What?!  You think this is easy?! I’ve even kept my eye out while in museums; I figure eventually I might bump into him when he’s there with his cute French wife and his cute kids. 

I still haven’t found him.  But on the 15th of January, Mac and I set out to look high again.  Off we went on a crystal clear day, temps near 60 degrees, picnic in our day pack, and hiking boots afoot.  Two of the best Cathar castles are an hour’s drive away.  They’re both on the top of the world, a good vantage point.  You may recall a bit about the Cathars from a previous blog of Mac’s.  In brief, the Cathars were a bunch of renegades who were trying to stay as far away from the Pope and his boys for as long as they could. Ultimately, the Cathars lost, but in this part of France they left lots of history and legend and ruined old castles built in the 10th through the 12th centuries.

First stop, Chateau de Queribus.  We drove up a road on the face of a mountain that literally had me almost fainting from my fear of heights.  Perched on a ledge before us, at an unbelievable height, overlooking an enormous valley that stretches to the Mediterranean Sea, was the Chateau. Far across the valley are the Pyrenees.  Once up the road and on the grounds of the Chateau, we left the car and hiked up to the structure.  Here’s our view on the way up. 

As always when I see these places, I am awed by the very fact that they were built at all, about 1,000 years ago at that.  Built of stone.  Way up high.  These were determined and committed people, the ones who built the place, and the ones who lived there.  In the ruins, we could look out of windows on the world, it seemed.  We ate our lunch, talking excitedly about the fact that we were there, that it was such a beautiful day, and that the place and the view was truly awesome.   How could those people have ever paid attention to business when distracted by the views all the time?  As we descended, Mac and I talked some more about the people who lived there, trying to imagine what their lives must have been like.  I couldn’t help but think of the women and how hard they must have worked to prepare each meal.  Where in the world did they get their veggies, perched up there on that rocky ledge as they were?  We imagined the men, going off to hunt for the day, or to fight off their enemies, or dragons, or something.  We were sure they kept a big pile of boulders up there to push over the edge and down upon any offenders who tried to invade. 

We wanted to stay, but on to our next stop, just five miles or so up the road which was curvy but fairly flat at this point.  Chateau de Peyrepertuse,  comprised of many structures including a church, a chateau, and the ruins of a little village.  As we approached by car, seeing the rock wall that was part of the Chateau on the very high ridge in front of us, we couldn’t stop our eyes from watching the structure because it was so dreamlike.  It seemed one blink would make it go away and we would have awakened.  Once again, from the parking lot, we hiked up and up and up, emerging from woods and rock, in the courtyard of the church; we assumed this space was probably a cemetery at one time.  The ruined church itself was the highest structure at that point.  From there, we hiked about 50 yards up and along the ridge, through old foundations and partial walls until we came to an ancient staircase, with a rope banister, that took us to the highest point on the entire ridge, the location of the chateau itself.  We giggled about the uneven stone trail at the top, with its rope banister, and mused that no guards, no prohibited areas, no Plexiglas barriers exist, and apparently, no fears of litigation either.  That’s just the way it should be for a treasure like this; let’s allow people set their own limits about what they can and cannot handle.  The only security was a device that would pick up sounds, we guessed from wild teenagers who might decide to have a party up there. 

I haven’t even told you about the Gorge of Galamus, through which we drove early in the day.  A beautiful limestone chasm with a tiny, narrow, no bigger than a driveway road, that clings to the edge and is canopied by rock ledges that are no more than 10 feet above your car.  Having grown up in limestone country, I know how fragile limestone can be.  I didn’t even notice so much that we were clinging to the edge of this steep gorge; I was so freaked out about the limestone canopy that could have crushed one or both of us in an instant.  They warned us.  Yes, there was a sign at the beginning of this long stretch.  I’m glad I experienced the ride, but it is one of those once in a lifetime experiences, to be sure.  I do not intend to volunteer again.

The day went by so quickly and we returned home around 6:30 feeling that good kind of tired you feel after a day outdoors in the sun, climbing around. 

 Johnny who?


(If you'd like to see my photos from the day, see Adventures in the Wilds in the Image galleries.)

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