Sacred France: Alet-les-Bains


We leave Saint Maries-del-le-Mer after breakfast…our first stop is Tarascon. The patron saint of Tarascon is St Martha. Legend says St Martha of Judea landed at Tarascon and helped the townspeople to tame an amphibious dragon, which was destroying the river traffic and butchering the people of the village.

A beautiful church, St Martha’s was built in her honour. This sanctuary contains a crypt that holds the relics and tomb of St Martha. A steel gate blocks our path. While we are inside, the church keeper asks if we want to visit the crypt…another amazing opportunity given to us, on this sacred trip.



We spend some time in the presence of St Martha then walk to a local restaurant for lunch.

Time gets away from us and it is late when we arrived in Alet-les-Bains…time to put our bags in our rooms and have dinner.

Madame, the Hotel owner is not happy with our tardiness, although she very graciously helps to take the bags to our rooms. As I followed her up the stairs she asked if I had a body in my suitcase. One thing I am still learning is the art of packing lightly.



Madame may at times have a face of thunder, but she has a heart of gold at all times. Looking after twenty-six women and three men with varying dietary requirements and only a smattering of English could not have been easy. Her croissants were legendary.

The Hotel L’Eveche sits on the River Aude close to the Upper Aude Valley…a lovely hotel in beautiful grounds. We spend the rest of our tour here.

Day eight arrives and we are fast running out of days. Breakfast over we leave for our visit to Carcassonne. A stunning walled city in the Region of Languedoc-Roussillon, Carcassonne is the largest city in Europe with its walls still intact.

The city has a long history dating back to 100BC. In the 13th Century the medieval city was a Cathar stronghold during the Albigensian Crusades. Simon De Montfort, the French warlord who was responsible for the burning of many Cathars became Viscount of Carcassonne after its surrender in 1209.



Today we will visit the Basilica of St Nazaire. Although I have visited Carcassonne before, I had missed this beautiful church. Here I find another statue of Jeanne d ‘Arc and a north and south facing rose window. Stunning in their colour, they date back to the 13th and 14th Century.

A group of artisans begin to sing as we walk about the church. Their voices resonate off the ancient stonewalls…sacred music working together with the acoustics of this medieval Basilica. We sit in the coolness of our surrounds and listened.

After our visit to the church we are free to roam. We walk the city, check out the shops and meet for lunch in a little restaurant in the old city. The wine flows, the food is plentiful and hanging from the walls are the Unicorn tapestries…more mystery, more stories.



We leave Carcassonne early afternoon and drive to Brenac a small village in the Aude department. Here Devayani – a pianist prodigy entertains us. Devayani began composing at the age of thirteen. Her style of music is vibrant, passionate, healing and transformational. We sit in the lounge of her parent’s home; all twenty-nine of us, on chairs borrowed from neighbours and are taken into an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity.

Sometime later we extract ourselves from the tiny home and walk to the bus. It is time to head back to our hotel.

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