It is our final night in Cordes-sur-Ciel – one last night with the frogs – not the French, you understand (we would not be so insulting as to refer to the French as ‘Frogs’), but the hundreds of frogs that live in the lake near our pitch and who loudly sing their ‘frog chorus’ to us (and all the other happy campers) at around 2.00 a.m. every morning! To tell the truth, we have got quite used to it after two weeks here in our wonderful campsite at Moulin de Julien, and are no longer disturbed by it … or the birds’ dawn chorus, or the farmer next door driving his tractor at 4.00 a.m. One last night with the frogs it is then! Julia and I are both reminded of a sermon we heard several years ago based on Exodus 8 – the story of the plague of frogs that beset Egypt during Israel’s captivity there – and Pharaoh’s decision to endure ‘one last night with the frogs’ rather than let God’s people go! Neither of us can remember much about the sermon, but we will always remember the title!
Tomorrow we leave for another area deeply associated with the Cathars – Tarascon in the Pyrenees – and another campsite which will be very different from the delightfully rustic Moulin de Julien. The weather forecast suggests storms in the Pyrenees rather than the blistering hot sunshine of Cordes-sur-Ciel. We will miss this campsite and Cordes. We have met so many interesting people – some of them real ‘characters’ – and visited so many interesting places. Madame Betty – yes, we are now on first name terms – the delightful, elegant lady who runs our campsite, and her lovely family we will miss especially. She gives us a bottle of really nice wine as a parting gift – apparently she has really enjoyed having us here as well. Nothing is too much trouble for her and she is always whizzing around the campsite on her little scooter, showing newcomers to their pitches or sorting out problems. She is always elegantly dressed – nice clothes, high heels, makeup, earrings – I don’t think we have ever seen her in the same outfit two days running. Her daughters are equally delightful and on our last evening we have a long talk with her elder daughter about what she hopes to do in the future – her real interest in art history – and the fact that we are Christians and Pastors to boot!
We have met a lot of really nice French and Dutch fellow campers as well. With the French we manage to get by with our wonderful mixture of French and Franglais, and because we try to speak French they are always very friendly and helpful. All the Dutch speak good English and we always enjoy their company. We learn more about the impressive Dutch family – the family with the four teenage children – on the pitch behind ours. He is ex-army and a music teacher – all six of them play brass instruments apparently – thankfully they have left their instruments at home otherwise the frogs, birds, and farmer would probably have had accompaniment to their early morning musical renditions?! Tom and Sandi are another really nice Dutch family who we have got to know quite well. They have three young children including baby Vera who is almost three years of age. Vera is an absolute stunner already with amazing blonde hair – tourists actually stop to take photos of her in the street? It was so hot in Albi the other day that when Vera saw the pool by the Cathedral she immediately ran over, took all her clothes off, and jumped in to cool off! If she does that in 15 years time she will certainly attract the photographers?!
When we first walked into Cordes to have a serious look around, it was so hot that we stopped for a drink at the local bar. As we were leaving we offered our seats to a couple – all the other seats under the sunshades were taken – a couple who turned out to be Brits. We got into conversation and it turned out that they had actually lived here for 10 years or so. They introduced themselves as ‘Curly’ and ‘Baldy’ – their own names for themselves, not our names for them, honest! She had masses of curly hair, and he … well, you can guess? We met them again several days later – in the same bar – when we were on our way back to our campsite after the Medieval Torchlight Parade that is held annually in Cordes on the 13th July. The Torchlight Parade was wonderful with all the locals dressed up in medieval costume. There were priests, Cathars, knights on horseback, serving wenches, musicians, jugglers, stilt-walkers, and so on – all carrying flaming torches. The celebrations normally go on all night we were told – but this year the local Mayor had spent all the money on various projects and so there was none left to fund this extravaganza, much to the local people’s disappointment! We leave about 10.30 p.m. and stop off for a final drink – before the 20 minute walk back to our campsite – at our usual bar. Curly and Baldy are there and come over for a chat. We ask them what they do for a living, and apparently they don’t do anything – we wonder where they get the money to live on? Baldy is very talkative and tells us all about what goes on in and around Cordes. When he gets on to the subject of ‘wife swapping’ however, he gets a withering look from Julia – a ‘full optical’ we call it in the family – and we beat a hasty retreat. We tell Tom and Sandi about it the next day, and Tom thinks it is very funny!
On Bastille Day there is a ‘Medieval Spectacular’ being performed in Cordes. Apparently the Mayor has somehow managed to find enough money to hire a troop of professional performers who are to enact the Legend of the Round Table! Fortunately there is good cloud cover to protect us from the worst of the blazing sunshine since the performance is in the afternoon. It is a great show with musicians, jesters, fire eaters, knights in armour, magicians and sorceresses, sword fighting, jousting, trick horse riding – all used to good effect to tell the French version of the story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. In typical French fashion the heroine is Guinevere who finally wins the day and defeats the evil Mordred! Lancelot is played by a Willy Carson look-alike – presumably because he can ride a horse well – and invitations from Merlin to cheer King Arthur are met with good humoured cries of ‘ Vive la Revolution!’ from the crowd! We love every minute of it … and even manage to find a parking space right by the arena where the show is taking place!
We have lots of great memories of Cordes-sur-Ciel, and our lovely ‘shabby-chic’ campsite at Moulin de Julien, to take away with us … not least the frog chorus of course! We finally take down our tent, pack the car, and take a very pleasant drive across country (to avoid both paying the motorway tolls and the bust Saturday traffic) to our next campsite at Tarascon in the Pyrenees. We successfully set up camp again – the first time we have attempted to take down and set up again all in one day – and sit down for a rest. Our peace is disturbed by the sound of bells, cow bells, scores of them! We go to investigate! We are right next to a field of goats … and they are all wearing bells?! Oh well … it makes a change to the sound of frogs singing!?