IMG_0540France, and especially this region of France profonde, has no shortage of adorable villages. A while ago, I took a detour home to stop and gawk in Rustiques, home to a whopping 513 residents about nine kilometers (5.5 miles) from Carcassonne. Surrounded by vineyards and pine forests, it lives up to its name, and, amazingly, it’s supposed to be the only community in France to have such an obvious name.IMG_0554Rustiques dates back to about 100 B.C., when the Volques Tectosages, a Gallic tribe, settled in the forest. Then the Romans came through and possibly gave it its name, from villa rustica. Around 700 A.D., the Visigoths arrived, then the Sarrasins, then the Francs. In the 1400s, the growing lawlessness of roving bandits prompted locals to band together in a walled community around the seigneur’s château, which was at the highest point. I took so many photos that I’ll do a separate post on the château, even though it was closed when I visited.

Town hall. Note the loudspeakers on the roof–modern town crier system.
Spotlessly clean.

In fact, it was so quiet I barely saw a soul. Il n’y avait pas un chat–there wasn’t a cat–as the French say.

Except that there actually were TWO cats. With no fear of cars passing.

I never get tired of wandering in these little places. IMG_0545IMG_0530IMG_0537IMG_0525A sign told me the four banal, or the seigneur/lord’s oven, was down a little street in a house belonging to the lord, but I didn’t find any marker for it. I am a little obsessed with fours banals. In Rustiques, bread was baked twice a week, and for every 24 loaves, the people had to give one to the lord.

The communal oven was somewhere around here.

The four banal was to keep villages from burning down, but floods were as much of a problem as fire. Two streams join at the village and overflowed, sometimes disastrously. The village detoured one stream in 1912. There also was a lavoir, in use into the 1960s, and a big improvement from what came before–From 1899 to 1906, the town rented eight benches for washing laundry on the Canal du Midi in Trèbes, about a mile away. How convenient, eh? Not to mention clean…NOT.

The stream la Chapelle. 
An old fountain.
Another fountain, from 1850.

There also was an impressive clock tower, built in 1897, so all the inhabitants, known as Rustiquois, would known the time of the republique.

On the grandly named Avenue of Europe.
The rooster is a symbol of France and atop most churches.

IMG_0510So many old, old details.IMG_0547IMG_0520

This was for latching a door!

The surrounding countryside was inviting in the winter sunshine. The bare vines, Mount Alaric in the distance.IMG_0516

Alaric looms.
Out for a walk. The right thing to do on such a fine day.

Villages like this are what make Carcassonne such a great base–they’re adorable, but you can walk around them leisurely three times and not have spent a whole hour. They’re perfect for an occasional diversion.

34 thoughts on “A Rustic French Village

  1. It’s amazing what a story these old walls and streets are telling. Reminiscent of times when people living in these tight knit, small communities were taking care of each other, protect one another and fare together whatever hardship would come their way : wars, floods, diseases…Rustiques seems so appropiate, almost organically emerged from that place. Thank you again for another petite morceaux de France profonde! You have a keen eye for uniqueness.

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  2. So many wonderful villages. I always want to peer inside the homes, and imagine what life would be like. I expect it would not be like the stylized life of Country French portrayed by shelter magazines.
    Another village to add to the collection.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 20 years ago it could have been my village except there were 185 inhabitants. And 7 children in the school. Now that tiny village has 700 inhabitants and housing estates, and the school has 92 children ! And lots more cats.

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    1. I don’t know. I think they are happier today. It’s the kind of place where people don’t lock their doors and everybody knows everybody. In the 1400s, there were marauders out plundering village to village, and people were much more exposed to the ups–and above all the downs–of good/bad harvests.


  3. Great to see what Rustiques looks like – I’ve driven past it countless times on the way to somewhere else!! Interesting what you say about the Canal du Midi and the laundry. I’m sure that the water in the canal wasn’t as dirty as it is today – no engines to stir up the mud and sediment, and nobody pooing into it either, except for a few people who might be on boats? The laundry might have been quite clean after all?

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    1. The water is more or less stagnant–it doesn’t flow anywhere, which is why it’s so murky. And I bet that back in the day there was a lot more poo than today!! All those men leading the horse/donkey teams that pulled the barges…
      In Trèbes, the Aude river is just steps from the canal and much cleaner, though sometimes deeper.

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      1. I agree with you – in the winter the water can be fairly stagnant (and clear/clean), but generally there is a lot of water flowing in the canal, even though it’s hardly visible. Every time a boat passes though a lock, the water goes downstream, and if you think about the number of pleasure boats on the canal in the summer, that’s a huge amount of water. A lot of it comes in at Narouze, but there are other places too where water is fed into the Canal du Midi… As for the poo, bear in mind that all of the canal boats today pump out their toilets directly into the canal – not a nice prospect!! 😦

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  4. Scenes like these are my favorite. And yes, always so clean – the old villages. Wish I would have known you were in Carcassonne when I was there in 2017. I would have loved to have met a fellow blogger. We stayed at the hotel right outside the bridge of the old town by the river. It was a nice hotel for the price and a great location. We enjoyed amazing night time views of the castle. Such history – so glad this has been preserved. And then the canal – just amazing to learn how this was built. Thank you for sharing.

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      1. Hotel Des Trois Couronnes. That was a great trip in 2017 – flew into Barcelona, train to Perpignan then rental car back down to Collioure then up to Carcassonne before heading to LaRochelle for our normal visit. Looks like a long drive on a map – but so short in comparison to how far we drive in the states to get places. One visit we went from La Rochelle France to Roses Spain in less than 7 hours. And there’s so much to see in that 7 hours. September ticket shopping this weekend.

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    1. There is ugly new stuff here, too, unfortunately. I love modern architecture, but this stuff doesn’t merit being called Architecture–the strip malls, the McMansion housing developments.


  6. I’ve just found your blog! And loved this post. Reminds me of a village I stayed in many, many years ago down near Montpellier. I was fascinated by the communal laundry area down by the river. I rather hope it is still there…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Some of the lavoirs, or covered laundries, are still used (especially for big things like carpets that would be hard to wash at home) but I can’t think of any that are actually IN a river. Certainly floods over the decades would have washed them away. The banks of the Aude, just under the citadel of la Cité, used to be the spot for washing and drying the draperies that the region was famous for. In fact there was a royal drapery right there.


      1. I’ve just been on google maps to see if I could find it after all these years and it seems the actual waterway has silted up now! I think it is somewhere under all the reeds and grasses. Time to go back to the photo album.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. I enjoyed that. It made me go back and find another one in Noyers – we went there a few years ago and I was delighted to see this one just down the road from where we were staying. I think they are a brilliant idea.

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