IMG_5111What is it about humans that we love to look down on everything? To get up high, for a better view? The chill of vertige with the thrill of omniscience.IMG_5092On a balmy February day, a friend and I went to the Passerelle of Mazamet, which has been on my bucket list for a moment. One of those things that’s too nearby to miss, but far enough that I never got around to it. The drive from Carcassonne to Mazamet takes nearly an hour. Longer if a nervous retiree from a distant department is ahead of you and slowing to a crawl around the curves but, with a bigger engine, speeding like an idiot on the rare straightaways, as if that makes up for anything. IMG_5151The $*%&ing driver ahead of us aside, the route was absolutely gorgeous. It goes up and up and up, and the vegetation changes to dense forest. There were signs about the pass being open, snow markers on the sides of the road, but we were in fleece jackets and during our hike had to take those off. A weird winter. It was 70 F here yesterday.IMG_5129

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Lush February forest.

IMG_5117The passerelle was inaugurated in 2018. It’s 140 meters (460 feet) long over the Arnette river and 70 meters (230 feet) above the ground. It’s free and open 24/7, but you’d be crazy to go after dark. We were glad to be there in February–plus it was lunch time and the French do one thing during lunch time: eat. So we had the place almost to ourselves. It would be much less fun in the heat of summer with a gazillion people on the narrow path. Even worse, a gazillion people on the passerelle. It can hold 42 tons, which is a lot of people, but even a couple of other people walking made it bounce such that I was glad I hadn’t eaten.

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Into the void.

The only other people were grandparents with three girls. One was maybe two or three years old, and she galloped up and down the passerelle fearlessly. One was maybe 12 and she clung to her grandmother for dear life. We passed them in the middle of the passerelle on their way back. And we discovered another girl, maybe 7 or 8, on the other side, steadfastly refusing to budge.

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Looking down.

We saw the grandfather start back and figured he was coming to the aid of the middle girl. He stopped and took photos. Lots of photos. The littlest girl came tearing down toward him. She passed him, then turned around and came back to him. He never stopped taking photos.

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Going back.

We started back and were about halfway when the grandmother and the oldest girl, still clinging and looking like she was going to puke, came back. Grandpa wanted to film them. As if the granddaughter would want to remember this moment. Who was the middle girl supposed to hold onto? Grandma was taken, and grandpa was filming. Nobody seemed worried about the middle girl or even the little one. Yes, the passerelle had no holes where the little one could fall through, but she was at that nimble age where she could climb the chain link side, which came up to my armpit, and be over it in a flash, and grandpa still wouldn’t stop filming. His obliviousness reminded me of a type: “I’m doing this for you! You’re going to do it and enjoy it whether you like it or not!”

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Mazamet.

On the way down, we passed other grandparents out with the grandkids, starting to show up once it was 2 p.m. And more retirees. A lady with very inappropriate shoes (ballerinas with wedge heels…what are those called?).

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La Voie Romaine.

To go up, we took the steep route, called the Voie Romaine, or Roman Way, which was the ancient salt route, and partly paved with stones. It had a heart-pounding 19% grade, but I’d rather take that going up than down.

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Stone walls of the former gardens.
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This seems to have been a protohistoric home, naturally protected from the wind and rain on the south side of the slope. But I’m not sure. The gardens also had little towers.
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On the wall of the circular structure. Looks like a donkey to me.

IMG_5124IMG_5142IMG_5138The descent, on a path with an 8% grade, was via the Jardins Cormouls Houlès, which date to the middle of the 19th century, with interesting towers and stone walls. First we checked out the ruins of the church of Saint-Saveur, which dates to the 1100s. IMG_5099IMG_5101IMG_5098IMG_5113The church was built on a hilltop, for views. Up in the air. Like life right now, waiting to see where things will land, trying not to fall.

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A little shrine at the start of the path.
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Interesting plastic bottle for holy water. What will they think of next?
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Another bustling shrine.
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Am haunted by the possible meaning of that doll.

I’m leaving you with these ghostly images. I couldn’t pick one, so you get three.IMG_5130IMG_5131IMG_5132

 

 

23 thoughts on “Up in the Air

  1. I love this post! As if I’m right there walking along with you. I so admire your part of the world, with it’s ancient history and structures still standing …. can you imagine all the people who laid their hands to those rocks to build… if they could only see them still standing all these years , centuries later.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Terrifying! If I had no choice in the matter, I would have crossed as quickly as I could and without looking anywhere but straight ahead. Too bad as the views look stunning but fear is a terrible thing! Nice to enjoy it vicariously through your lens. 🥶

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It reaffirmed that I am not suited to cross anything at all rickety. I considered crawling on my hands and knees, but the walkway had a kind of woven surface to let water run through (and air?), with sharp, non-skid edges.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Funny how our collective psyche works – I’ve been thinking about going to have a look at the passerelle in Mazamet this whole week!! 🙂 I’m not sure whether I would be able to go across, but I’ll definitely give it a go!!

    I think I’ve seen that ruined house from the road – did you see it from your hike? And where did you start your hike from?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As soon as you get to Mazamet, there are signs for the Passerelle. There’s a huge parking lot next to a disused factory, just at the base of the path. Easy to find.
      The ruined house (no roof! So sad!) was visible on the descent. Not sure exactly where it is or what that road is. I wish we’d had more time. I would have liked to visit the town, the medieval village of Hautpoul and the mountain lakes.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Amazing, I’m not sure if I could walk across. There is no way I could walk both ways.
    It certainly is worth a visit. I don’t think B would walk with me though…just take photos of my face in panic mode.
    Ali

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This looks both amazing and terrifying. I am not sure if I would be able to cross this bridge, I think I would be like the young girl you described, holding onto someone for dear life.

    I feel sad for the grandkids that you described, how sad that an adventure with the grands turned out to be like this. I guess the good news is that they all survived.

    I hope that you have a wonderful weekend. I have been thinking of you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Elizabeth.
      My friend and I were struck by how this outing with the grandkids was going south because the grandfather was oblivious to the girls’ needs. He was so wrapped up with getting video, he ignored them and clearly traumatized two of them. The grandparents had an idea for an outing, and they weren’t able to pivot when it didn’t please the kids, and I don’t mean to say the kids were being brats at all. Fear of heights, especially on a bouncy, thin bridge, is not the same as usual adolescent insolence.

      Like

  6. First of all the woman in the ballerina wedges… Those are called “stupid shoes” and the ghostly house…. Oooh! I like that! What an adventure you had. The passerelle looks perfect for a case of vertigo. I need to get out more… I’m tethered to my computer, writing this memoir, but oh! I had adventures. Some were stupid, but thankfully I’m still here. xoxox, Brenda

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Mazamet the town has been on my so-see list for a while now, but I didn’t know about the passerelle. Now I know about it, thank you, and since you’ve kindly shown us the pictures I don’t have to do it. OMG, vertigo city!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. THAT PHOTO OF THE HOUSE WITH NO ROOF reminds me so much of ITALY!
    I LOVE THESE RUINS!
    AS to a name for those shoes is it ESPADRILLES?Probably spelled that wrong but a BALLERINA shoe on a wedge………???
    Send me a photo of that next time you SPY one in town!
    I do not think I have seen these!
    XX

    Liked by 1 person

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