Lounging in France 10: Renovations in Carcasssonne

Carcassonne tower Every old building in the world is either used, or not. If it’s not in use it tends to fall into ruin, its uses and history forgotten. If it’s in use, well, somebody is fixing it up. Not only to keep the roof from leaking, but to install flush toilets, WiFi, electricity — the stuff that you or I would want to have. I personally am not going to live like our ancestors in the Neolithic.

This is a picture of one of the restored towers of Carcassonne. I chose it because you can see the layers of work that have been done. Like a cake, the new stuff has been frosted on top of the old. The stonework at the bottom may date back to the Gauls under Rome — the site was in use then. But the king of France took charge in medieval times, doubling or trebling the height of the old work. Unclear how high that went, but when the Victorians swept through in the 19th century they decided it was higher yet, and yes there should be more arrow slits and a witch’s hat turret roof. They used slate, not a local roofing material, for no other reason than because it looked cooler than terra cotta tile. This roof is more solid and new-looking than many a 20th century split level in a US suburb.

All this costly stonework is worth doing because, now that it’s done, Carcassonne is an economic powerhouse. The castle is a UNICEF World Heritage site, which means that tourists will come forever and spend money. But what of lesser buildings? How about this one:

Vestaire 

This is also in Carcassonne around the corner from St. Sulpice’s cathedral (hence the vaguely Catholic name). Nobody builds this way deliberately now. It must be actually old, older than the United States. It’s been spiffed to within an inch of its life (that upper window) and surrounded with more modern bits. That covered passageway to the upper left is surely 19th or even 20th century. But the building’s leading a lucrative new life as a high-end clothing store. It’s not tourist tat in there, but spendy men’s trousering and chic jackets. There’s life in the old structure yet!

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About Brenda Clough

Brenda W. Clough spent much of her childhood overseas, courtesy of the U.S. government. Her first fantasy novel, The Crystal Crown, was published by DAW in 1984. She has also written The Dragon of Mishbil (1985), The Realm Beneath (1986), and The Name of the Sun (1988). Her children’s novel, An Impossumble Summer (1992), is set in her own house in Virginia, where she lives in a cottage at the edge of a forest. Her novel How Like a God, available from BVC, was published by Tor Books in 1997, and a sequel, Doors of Death and Life, was published in May 2000. Her latest novels from Book View Cafe include Revise the World (2009) and Speak to Our Desires. Her novel A Most Dangerous Woman is being serialized by Serial Box. Her novel The River Twice is newly available from BVC.

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