Sunday, 4 December 2016

Limoux and the Automaton Museum

Elegant cat automaton 
Limoux is the nearest sizeable towm to our Alet les Bains campsite and is the location of the Super U (and Lidl if that's your preferred supermarket!). There's a tiny grocer's and a baker's in Alet, otherwise everyone goes to Limoux. We had a wander around on Friday afternoon.

The river Aude traverses Limoux and looked beautiful flowing under this old bridge (pictured below) which I think dates to the same era as the one at Alet les Bains, the early 1660s. They are both of very similar design and construction. Many buildings are timber framed, with the timbers on show, which together with their overhanging upper storeys and a multitude of narrow alleys give Limoux a strong sense of history. This was obviously a rich town at one time too because several houses are rather grand, particularly those along the river banks. There have been disasters here too as was shown by a shoulder-high plaque on one wall commemorating a terrible flood in October 1891. Water from the Aude rose some 8 metres above its normal level! I found further details and images in this interesting blog post.

Bridge over the Aude at Limoux 
Automation butterfly 
The highlight of our afternoon for me was a visit to the Musee des Automates which we had noticed advertised on a flyer at our campsite. The museum is signposted from Place de la Republique and is about a ten minute walk away. It is family owned and now run by the second generation of automaton makers, Martine and Remy, who between them complete every aspect of the process from imagining designs to moulding heads and limbs, from constructing the movements to sewing costumes. Their parents began the business about forty years ago and automata made here are sold far and wide for public displays and to private collectors. The museum itself displays dozens of automata, all fabulously attired in Venetian style costumes and masks, and eerily moving their heads and arms. A couple even appear to be breathing! My favourites included a pair of white cats (pictured above) and an ornate golden butterfly. There's a band too and any number of malevolent-looking sprites. After touring the museum, we watched a film about the history of automata since the 1700s. It was in French, but I was pleased at how much I could understand. We then got to nose about in the workshop too. All in all, good value for the €6 entry fee!

We were also given a free Le Guide TPPO card which is a regional initiative offering discounts off lots of attractions from Mazamet to Limoux, Toulouse to Narbonne. If you're staying around here a while it's definitely worth getting yourself one of these distinctive red cards!

Automaton 

Old door in Limoux 

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