We've decided to leave Marquixanes a day earlier than planned in order to get some time in Montpellier so we could see the city's great art museum Musée Fabre.
The museum holds very diverse and representatives collections of paintings from around 1480 and until today.
by Giovanni di Ser Giovanni, 1480
by Pieter Breughel the Younger, 1616

by Achille Laugé, 1896
by Jean Bessil, 1964
However, the museum may be most famous for its grand collection of black paintings by the French artist Pierre Soulages (*1919 and still going strong).

That's it then!
No more art museums during this holiday.
Montpellier is a very lively city filled with young people. 
Lots of things are happening in the streets.

Tomorrow, we will be heading north to Denmark.
Merci pour nous!



Today we attacked Mount Canigou from the west side, but we didn't conquer the mountain. 
We stopped at the monastery of Saint Martin.
The ascent was steep and took almost an hour but we were rewarded with a most wonderful location of the 1000-year-old abbey perched like an eagle's nest in the Canigou massive.
Although we were high up, the weather was warm and completely calm. No town-sounds, just the birds singing and water trickling in the brooks. 
In the village far below the abbey we had a late lunch next to a warm wall where lizards were running around.
Drove home through yet another valley with this magnificent view of Canigou, that had a lot of new snow yesterday.


Made in France

A cloudy, calm and wet day, – all day. Tuesday is market day in Prades, so we set off early to beat the crowd. However, the crowd had already arrived and P-spaces had become an endangered species when we showed up. We aborted the mission and after noon we dragged ourselves out on a much needed walk to view our village from yet a new angle.
After that outing we felt a pressing need to shop some dairy products.

It's truly awesome what a supermarket like Super U has to offer in types and varieties of fromages and yaourts, ...

... and all are Fabriqué en France by French happy cows and goats. [:-) Merci ]:-)

Our favourite artisan baker was then paid a visit 'cause we had an urge to bring some cakes home for indoor consumption.
An almond bread, a fragilité, a cream-n-coffee cube, a chausson au pommes, and a holy cross (i.e. croissant).
– Lots of puff pastry and lots of butter vitamins, ... and lots of good taste.


Los Masos – and back

We've been as close to the peak of Mount Canigou as we could go. Driving south from Marquixanes we encountered extensive cherry plantations where the trees were in full bloom. 

After a looong stretch of narrow and winding road through two valleys we eventually reached Los Masos, that are four houses at the very end of the road, literally. 
From there we hiked a bit farther up in the birch and pine forest along a wild creek. It was very windy with light rain now and then but also blue sky and fast moving clouds of various types and form. 
Unfortunately, the peak was veiled in clouds, but we certainly felt the proximity of the magical mountain, 
– and enjoyed our picnic on the rocks, where a monster was walking around.
There was a giant velvet mite on the loose
During WW2, Los Masos was a hide-away for the marquisards (guerilla fighters) and from here the secret paths lead into the very high Pyrénées and the marquisards guided people across the border to Spain to escape the German forces.
En route to Los Masos, we passed two tiny villages, Vallestávia and Vallmanya, both situated very beautifully in the landscape.
Vallmanya, the smallest of the two, is about 1100 years old as a village. Today is has only 40 inhabitants but it manages to survive, probably due to tourist activities in summer. – A truly amazing little settlement!
Near Vallestávia we saw these two old and abandoned lime kilns
that looked like this from the inside.


Château de Puilaurens

On this absolutely beautiful and warm Sunday we got started in the early morning and headed north into Cathar country again. Already at sunrise, the sky over Marquixanes promised something special.
Today, the destination was the very old fortified château of Puilaurens. 

It is perched on an almost inaccessible mountain top and dates back at least to around 950. It is still very impressive 1066 later. The château may be best known as a Cathar stronghold in the 1200s but later it has also been a border fortress.
Accessing the castle demanded quite a bit of goat-like climbing but the exercise was certainly worth it. 

The view from the top is awesome and it is incomprehensible how the folks managed to build this massive and extensive building, live in it, and get their provisions and water; – defending it against an ascending enemy seems more straightforward.

The road to and from the castle took us through many isolated, romantic and tiny villages with very strange names deep down in narrow gorges and on top of mountain passes among grazing fields for cows, sheep and goats above tree line.

The different environments also provided a variety of spring flowers to enjoy.