I got my wonderful new bicycle and took it out for a maiden voyage. Also, a quick trip to Carcassonne, a nice outing to a café-théâtre, and a wonderful meal at a restaurant called "the dirty brts."

Quick trip to Carcassonne

I took the train for a quick day trip to the medieval town of Carcassonne.

* * * * * * * * *

I took the guided tour, which that day was the longer “conference” tour. It turned out to be five of us, lead by an archaeologist who does research on the 12th century. I followed about half – according to one of the native French speakers on the tour, “that was pretty dense.” On the two-hour tour, I leared a lot about the Cathars and the inquistion, including what a “Cathar” is.

But first the Roman origins. They probably built on top of something, but it's the Roman buildings of which there are still traces. The Romans fortified Carcassonne as part of their conquest of Gaul, where they extended the Pax Romana by killing about 2/3 of the Galois. Speaking of the Gauls resisting the Romans, the tour guide said to the couple from Brittany, “you guys know all about that. You're still resisting.” Hail, Cæsar!

Turning to the 13th century, I wasn't expecting a sort of Spanish Inquisition, and indeed, it turns out the first big inquisition originated not in Spain, but in Toulouse, in the 13th century. It of course targeted Jews and Sarassins (muslims), but it especially targeted Cathars. Cathars were Christian heretics in the Languedoc region - at the time, Cathars, Catholics, Sarasins and Jews lived together in the region. Many of the nobles where Cathars, who followed a perhaps stricter interpretation of Christianity. Many of the troubadours and trouvères were Cathars, and the chivalric code was a big deal. Now, the word “heritic” comes from a Greek word meaning “choice,” and one of the choices the Cathars made in their interpretation of scripture was to not follow the political leadership of the Pope in Rome.

As you might imagine, this didn't make them popular with the Pope. So in the beginning of the 13th century, he got the French to come down here and slaughter all the Cathars. There were two towns outside the walled castle/city of Carcassonne, “were” being the operative word. The medieval town of Carcassonne was built up and fortified by the French, as they brought the inquisition to the surrounding Cathars, in order to Make Catholicism Great Again.

Train trip back

For the trip back, the train was delayed by two hours (“suite a un incident technique”, that is, due to a technical incident). I ended up chatting with a nice couple from New Zealand. Later, an overbearing Australian came by; when the left, the guy from New Zealand said “you can see what we've been dealing with.”

Got my bicycle!

* * *

My new bike is great! In the end, it was €400, including the center stand. I wish there was a good way for me to get it to Senegal! It has front shock absorbers and a shock absorber on the seat, which is really nice on a slightly bumpy bike path. Plenty of speeds - 3 in front, 7 in back - and front and back luggage racks. It was a little weird at first not having the top bar, but now I'm glad I don't. It's still a little challenging for me to set over a bicycle's top bar, and it can't be easier when the bike is loaded with luggage.

Bumming around Toulouse

* * * * * *

The Dirty Brats

* * * *

My first really nice meal here, at a restaurant called “Les salles gosses” (the dirty brats). It turns out that the salles gosses aren't on the menu, they're the clientele. The placemats had lessons for us. As for the food, it was absolutely fantastic. I was seated next to a nice couple from Australia (what's up with Oceania on this trip?). They were getting ready for a hiking trip through the Pyrenées mountains.

At the end of the meal, we were given little candies. I said to the waiter, “but that's not what you give a dirty brat!” He replied, “oh, you were all obedient children.” “What happens to the dirty brats, then?” “We take them out back and whip them.” It's important for French restaurants to maintain a certain standard, after all.