Monday, February 10, 2014

Into the Mountains and La Muse Inn: Via Paris and Carcassonne.

After a wonderful day strolling around Dol I returned to the railway station to catch my train to Paris.  
Despite  Paul explaining the way back to the station I managed to get lost and a vey kind lady thankfully pointed me in the right direction.
This journey involved changing staitions at Paris.  When I realized this was the case, I did some research about the options and decided to go the totally stress free route and to get a taxi.  This was one of those times that the cost was not a consideration.  I needed to make my connection and it would be late in the evening when I arrived in Paris.  This was not the time to choose the cheapest way to do it and then get lost on the metro. lol  I arrived at the Montparnasse station on time and walked out into the Paris evening. It was a clear night. 
I paused to take in the scene for a moment and then started searching for the taxi rank. Eventuallly I came across the line of waiting taxis and began my journey across Paris.
It was kind of exciting to think I was in Paris, driving down its framous streets in a taxi. I was thinking it would have been nice to suddenly spy the Eiffel Tower out of my window, but no such luck. lol
 I really had no desire to stay in Paris at this time, as I plan to visit it one day with a friend and to be able to share the experiences with whoever that may be. 
The streets were alive and the cafes were buzzing.
I got a few pictures out of the taxi window as we drive along, just for memories sake.
It didn't take too long to get to Paris Austerlitz and it wasn't too expensive, around 12 Euros, I can't remember exactly.
The train from Austerlitz to Carcassonne was an overnight train.  We left at nearly 10:00 pm and arrived in Caecassonne at 5:30 in the morning.
This was the same train my daughter Beth had taken when she travelled to Carcassonne years ago.  She was alone at the time too, and she told me she went for a coffee in a cafe just up the road and to the left of the station.
 When I arrived in Carcassonne it was a chilly January morning and I walked up to the cafe for a coffee. I thought of Beth doing the same thing and it was a comforting thought. A shared experience.
I had a cafe au lait and a croissant.  
This was my first experience of the European concept of a bar and coffee shop being one and the same place. 
It was nice to sit in the warmth of this fancy establishment.  Soon I wandered back to the station and was interested in the canal that was in front of the station.  I later discovered it was Le Canal Du Midi, that travels across France and is a national treasure.
I had to wait until 9:00 before I got picked up by John from La Muse Inn.  I was grateful for my warm scarf and gloves as I sat in the station waiting room.
As 9:00 approached, a woman came up to me and asked if I was going to La Muse Inn.   There seemed to be an instant connection.  I was delighted to meet Jena, who was from Australia, and of a similar age to me. I felt reassured that I would not be the odd one out at the writers retreat, :-)  I didn't realize this had been on my mind, but I suppose it had, as I had no idea of the ages etc of the participants.
While we waited for John I got a great picture of the hotel near the station. 
John arrived and we drove round and picked up Jena's luggage from her hotel, as she had arrived the day before.
Next we went to the grocery store and got our food supplies for the next week.  I had signed up for the ride package, which meant there would be weekly tips into Carcassonne for sight seeing and grocery shopping.  The last week would be a trip to Lastours.
As we drove into the mountains we passed through some lovely villages.
John pointed out the charteaux on top of the mountain in the village of Lastours and gave a brief history of the Cathar people who were persecuted by the Catholic Church.

Lastours also had this amazing chimney.  I would find out more about that later.
I was fascinated by the towers on the hilltop and couldn't wait till we paid them a visit later in my stay.

It  was an exciting moment when we drove into Labastide Esparbairenque, as it would be my home for the next four weeks.
It was amazing to see the houses all perched on the side of such steep hills.
As we came round the corner to where La Muse was, there was a van parked right in the middle of the road.  It was the Epicier, the man who comes to sell food and groceries to the village residents. 
We just had to be patient and wait. :-)
When everyone had completed their shopping, we reversed in order to let the van out.
 Then we continued on our way. We were finally at La Muse.
John pulled up in front of the chapel, right beside La Muse Inn, and unloaded our luggage.  
Once inside he assigned us our cupboard space and a shelf in the fridge so we could unload our groceries.  Then we got to see our rooms and I was ecstatic as soon as I walked into my space.
It was beyond my wildest expectations.
I loved everything about it; the embroidered Indian coverlet on the bed,  the floor to ceiling drapes and the tall windows as well as the beamed ceiling,  It was exquisite.

Even the door handle captured my imagination,  How old must it be? I had never seen a door with a handle in the middle before.
The ceilings were so high.

After taking in the room, I checked out the view.  I was overlooking the river valley with the heavily treed mountainside right across the way.  Looking down you could see houses sitting nestled in the hillside.

I had arrived.  It had been a long journey from Dol in Brittany to a tiny village in the Black Mountains of Southern France.   It was somewhere I had dreamt of being for many years.  It was hard to believe I had made it.
Little did I think when I found La Muse on the internet so many years ago that I would actually be here in the flesh, attending a four  week writiers retreat.  Powerful visualizations apparently bring results and what you can dream can come can to be!
There was the introductory tour of the village to look forward to, as well as our crepe luncheon where we would share out hopes for the time spent at La Muse.  But that my friends, is another story.

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