Well, we woke up to a horrendous rain and wind storm today. It's just as well we were packing up to leave for our next base location at Carcasonne about three hours west of Sauve. Fortunately, after driving for over an hour we were rewarded with blue skies although the wind was still gusty. We stopped at the archaeological site of a Celtic oppidum (hill fort) named Enserune.
Enserune was settled in the sixth century BCE and eventually became an active trading hub with other cultures like the Greeks. It is situated high on a hilltop with a commanding view of the surrounding valley. Of course this meant more steps but the view was certainly worth the effort. We could see all the way to the snow capped Pyranees Mountains about 80 miles away.
The site was originally excavated in the early 20th century and has yielded a wealth of artifacts including both black and red Attic kraters (wine jars), Italic amphoras of different shapes (storage containers for such things as olive oil), funerary urns and grave goods including a variety of Roman centurion buckles and swords from different periods. The swords and scabbards appeared to be ritually "killed" by being folded in half or maybe they were just folded to fit in the burial pit as most tombs found there contained either cinerary urns from a cremation burial or ossuary jars (bone jars). The extant remains of the site include partial walls, large storage jars embedded in the ground and a cistern used to catch rain water.
The small museum on site is well organized and has a very well stocked gift shop. I bought a small Celtic cross and a pair of Celtic patterned earrings as well as a book on the site itself and another on the Cathars as we are now in the heart of Cathar country.
We climbed down from the hilltop and headed west once again. Strangely, when we had turned off the main motorway onto secondary roads to find Enserune, we started seeing young women who appeared to be those with "negotiable affections" sort of lurking on the edge of the road every quarter mile or so. As we were not really near a village of any particular size I thought this was a bit odd. Perhaps they have an understanding with the local gendarme that if they solicit outside the city limits the gendarmes won't bother them. They must have a regular clientele because I don't think male tourists would think to look for those kinds of services along country roads.
We decided to stop for lunch in Bezier. This medieval city is also built high on a hilltop. We spotted it from the motorway because it appeared to have a large fortress dominating the city. In fact, it turned out to be the local cathedral. We had a not particularly noteworthy lunch (I thought my breaded veal with penne pasta and rather bland marinara sauce was overpriced for the quality) then we wandered around until we found the cathedral. There was a wedding party out front so we couldn't go into the main sanctuary but we were able to explore the cloister area and the archbishop's garden. I'm afraid time has taken quite a toll on the sculptures outside with several of them having suffered decapitation. Whether this was modern vandalism or an act of medieval marauders I'm not sure. The courtyards had marvelous views of the surrounding countryside though.
We got back to the car park and headed west again toward Carcasonne. We found our new guest house with relative ease and what a beautiful country home it is. The house is decorated with brightly colored ceramics and we have a comfortable living space and kitchen. The bedrooms are roomy and I have an ensuite shower in mine. The other bath has a deep tub (which Richard and Cecelia actually prefer) and the most beautiful blue patterned tiles. Cecelia's room even has a terrace.
Tomorrow, we will be exploring the walled city of Carcasonne.