IMG_3282There are cute French villages and then there are REALLY CUTE French villages. Minerve is in the superlative category. Officially so: it’s on the list of les Plus Beaux Villages de France (the Most Beautiful French Villages). I know I just said I was a city girl, but I do love places like this.IMG_3330It has been a while since we’ve visited. Though it’s been on the to-do list for all of my recent visitors, we just never had the time for the 45-minute drive from Carcassonne. What a mistake. The drive is gorgeous. And the village…well, these photos were taken on a Sunday afternoon in August. Peak tourist. Yet you can see for yourself that Minerve was quiet. A secret. Now you know. Share wisely.IMG_3328The town is built at the confluence of the Cesse and Brian rivers. About 50 million years ago, the entire area was the bottom of a warm-water sea, as evidenced by the fossils in the limestone. The rivers carved deep gorges, which form a comma-shaped peninsula, kind of. Natural fortification. Unsurprisingly, it has been occupied since the Bronze Age.

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Aerial view.
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The work of water.

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It reminds me of Gaudí’s Casa Milà, aka la Pedrera, in Barcelona.

The Romans came along, too. The town appeared officially in writing around 873. Old. Stuff like that just boggles my mind. Obviously places fell down and were built over, but probably some of the same stones were used. And today those houses are still there, and they have Internet.IMG_3331

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The side of one street.
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Right across from the preceding photo. Traffic is not a problem in Minerve.
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What IS a problem: wise guys tossing rocks into the gorges. People hike down there. It is “Forbidden to throw rocks.” Clearly an age-old challenge.

There’s a charming bookstore and lots of artists’ shops and studios and many places to eat and drink. There are about 130 residents, down considerably from the boom years of the mid-1800s, when there were about 400. It’s clearly not an easy place to live. Imagine hauling your groceries–or worse, a new piece of furniture–down these “streets.” But vacationers provide some animation. Just enough to keep the place alive, without overrunning it. IMG_3326IMG_3316The rivers lie far below, bone dry at this time of year, but prone to flashes of rage. At least the town is high and dry.IMG_3336

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Can you imagine having to replace the tiles on that roof on the right? With a plunge I don’t know how far down but many times more than the house itself.
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Imagine how that bridge was built, before mechanical aide.

The Candela is all that remains of the viscount’s castle, which was built at the end of the 13th century. There once was a drawbridge nearby. The castle was dismantled in the 18th and 19th centuries. I wonder why.IMG_3305IMG_3298IMG_3294The church was closed, but the exterior was fascinating.IMG_3320IMG_3319

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Anything goes. N’importe quoi.

I took so many photos, I’m going to do another post. Come back for more on Friday.

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La mairie, or town hall.

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Residents of Minerve are called Minervois, which is also the name of this wine region. Very good wine!

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28 thoughts on “Utterly Adorable Minerve

  1. This is a charming little place, I think I could wander here for hours and never tire of the little nooks. A hidden gem to savor and to put on my ever growing list of interesting places that you have written about.

    I wonder city mouse how did you come to live in a village? How did you discover your little village? Perhaps you mentioned it in another post and you could send me the link.

    Good luck with the internet, phone and all other forms of communication. I am sure it is a pain especially for work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It started as a vacation house that we would rent when not using it (long before AirBnB). I was working in Brussels, and being in a little village was a nice change of pace. Then I was transferred to New York, had our kid there, and my husband absolutely hated living in the city. He wanted to move back to Europe but “to the sun, not the rain.” So we came here. I figured it would be for a year or two. Ha!

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  2. For decades, my husband and I watch Tour de France every summer not because we are big cyclists but because we can’t get enough of France’s beauty. In our dreams we’d follow the circuit one time for real so we could experience all that splendor first hand. Minerve looks like one of those places on our itinerary. It is morphed into the landscape. As always, your pictures depict interesting, unique details, like stacking stones without using any bonding material.
    What doesn’t cease to amaze me is how clever people really have been throughout our human history, how ordinary people leading ordinary lives managed to build those buildings and bridges back then. I’m pretty sure they didn’t have a lot of degrees in engineering or architecture (maybe very few, but those type of buildings were built by hundreds of people) , so that type of expertise was a collective accumulation of knowledge based on experimentation and trial/error which had been passed down from one generation to another. People back then instinctively knew how to work together without attending any team building sessions. Modern times gained some things (like internet for example) but lost the art of building together something that lasts thousands of years. It is always a trade off, isn’t it?

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    1. I recently found a reproduction of a vellum page showing the architect or engineer’s drawing for the Pont Valentre bridge in Cahors, built in the 14th century.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. How, indeed, were bridges like that built? Amazing! I’d love to know why the castle was torn down. Perhaps the residents of the village resented the owners and/or perhaps using the stones from the castle was easier than bringing them up from the bottom of the gorge. I’ve always hunted for arrowheads, minerals and crystals and Mayan artifacts and was kidnapped on my way to see an old Mayan ruin in Guatemala, so one in civilized France would be a must for me to see. Thanks for sharing! xoxox, Brenda

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They had security reasons to build in crazy places like this, but still, as someone not afraid of heights but not at ease with them either, I can’t imagine how they managed to mount walls atop the sheer drops, and then to put roofs on them.

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  4. What a picturesque little village! And so sleepy in the high season, it must be a veritable ghost town in winter … and no doubt just how the club of 130 like it! I also look at those walls built on the precipice and think only dark and alarming things.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for all the beautiful photographs of this lovely village. I love the up-close views of the brick/rock work, imagining the long-ago artisan pawing through a pile of rocks to chose each one to fit in specific places.

    Liked by 1 person

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