Sunday, 8 November 2015

We stumble upon an amazing Salon des Metiers d'Art in St Mitre les Remparts

A roadsign for St Mitre les Remparts caught our attention on Friday as it
St Mitre windmill 
subtitled the town as dating from the fourteenth century. Considering the name includes the word 'ramparts' we hoped some of the original town walls might at least still be visible so Dave checked out the map for the best way to get there. St Mitre is only a couple of kilometres from Massane, along the Rue Leonardo da Vinci and we chose to walk. This turns out to be for the best as, although the road is practically vertical at times so we were left gasping for breath, the concrete surface has completely washed away for most of it so we would have needed a Land Rover to drive up there.

Views from the top of the road looking out over the lake are beautiful but we didn't pause for long as there are even more mosquitoes in the woods there than on our campsite. We are both nursing several insect bites - even Dave who almost never gets bitten.

The sixteenth century windmill pictured above was our first historic
Impressive gateway at St Mitre 
sighting with St Mitre. It is set on its own road island. The windmill was constructed in 1626 and we think its sign stated it was still operating until the nineteenth century when it fell into disuse. The sails were reinstalled in 1995 and are currently strung with lines of small lights - presumably for Christmas - that must look stunning after dark.

The top section of this original gateway is also strung with lights and also has a plaque commemorating the town's war dead. Only a short stretch of the thick walls still remain and the tiny area of narrow streets just through here must indicate the fourteenth century town area. It's certainly grown considerably since then! Another gateway, the Porte Des Esperettes, was cut through a little further along the wall in 1840 in order to increase fresh air circulation after a series of disease epidemics. Several houses are actually built into the stone walls and the old part of town is very picturesque, even on a grey day.

We got as close as we could to the fountain which is closed off behind an
St Mitre fontaine 
ornate metal grate. Water flows out of three spouts into a large shallow ground level pool, then along narrow gutters off down the street into the town. A high plaque indicated that the fountain is sixteenth century and presumably the spring itself is much older. I read online that there has been a settlement here since the ninth century, but this first occupation was completely destroyed in religious wars in the fourteenth century. The defensive walls and ramparts were constructed soon afterwards.

Several signs around town pointed us towards an Expo at La Manare and, intrigued, we went to take a look. La Manare is a new building which seems to function as a small theatre / concert hall and can also be set up, as it was this weekend, as an exhibition space. Le Salon des Metiers d'Art was a exhibition by (presumably local) artisans and craftspeople showing and selling their wares. Stalls included milliners and bag makers, jewellers, leatherworkers, potters, metal sculpture, clothing and painted art. I noticed that very few of the stalls had any promotional literature or business cards set out so I didn't find out who many of the artisans were, and we just don't have the space to have bought up everything I liked. To give you an idea though, three artisans were Betty Beck Houspic who makes gorgeous leather bags, Micheline Lettry creates intricate decorative housewares, and Francoise Joncas who, trading as Phenix, has the most incredible beaded jewellery. Francoise's work reminded me of the Native American beaded costumes we saw on Super Sunday in New Orleans. The quality and standard of workmanship was incredibly high, yet the prices were surprisingly reasonable. And the place was packed with browsers and shoppers. It looked like the whole town had turned out although, to be fair, we didn't see anything else going on anywhere other than one very noisy bar! 

A cat that wants to be a gatepost lion! 

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