Thursday, October 13, 2011

Narbonne and the Ile de St Louis

The Cloister gardens at the Cathedral

Walt looks over the beautifully landscaped Canal through
Narbonne - our boat is just below.
Narbonne was the site of the first Roman settlement on the other side of the Alps. It was called Narbo Martius and founded in 118 BC. It was already a wine growing region and fifty years later posed enough of a threat to the Roman wine makers that many of the fields were destroyed. It became a major port and the capitol of the region. In 413 it was taken by the Visigoths, and then in 719 the Saracens took over until 759 when it became part of the Frankish Kingdom.

Dragon Gargoyles on the Cathedral

Looking up at the flying buttresses 

A section of the Domitian Way, the original Roman road,
uncovered in the main Plaza

Interesting monks line the walls

Work on the Gothic Cathedral began in 1272 and stopped in 1347 when the townspeople refused to remove city walls to finish the nave. They were right as the Hundred Year war made them later necessary. The Cathedral of Saint-Just is very beautiful but clearly truncated. It is the third highest in Europe.
The Archbishop's Palace is right next door and is a huge impressive complex of buildings some dating to the 13th and 14th centuries.
The harbor silted up and the river relocated finishing it as a port in the 14thC and it now lies miles from the sea. We came down with our boat on the Canal de Robine and tied up right in the center of the city for one free night (with electricity and water). The next day after touring the city, we continued down the canal to the Ile de Sainte-Lucie Nature Reserve. This is the beautiful flat delta marsh area where the Narbonne reaches the sea. The island was once a thriving port but is now deserted. Remains of old machines and habitations molder in the woods and there is a museum which hopefully once saw better days.
Beautiful Gothic interior of the Cathedral
The walking paths around the island are terrific. We didn't see a lot of bird life, but Brenda went out early in the morning and saw much more. It was a another spectacular night tied up along the banks of the canal.
We stopped again in Narbonne on our way back up to the Canal de Midi and enjoyed another free night plugged in and more exploration of the city. We saw hardly any tourists here, which was a nice change from Carcassonne.

Scott seems to be walking right into this lovely mural
The streets in the old quarter were very
narrow and almost deserted. Around the
canal it was very busy and cosmopolitan. The
old market place has been renovated and was
packed with lunch time shoppers and  people
having lunch. We had a nice conversation with
the butcher who was chopping up our chicken
for a chicken curry (it was a very complete
chicken to start!) 

Windswept trees heading down to the sea
As we approached the island only thin banks separated us
from the inland salt sea, called here an Etang. 

This view from the top of the island shows the canal winding it's way through the Etang - below are the only dwellings still in usable shape. The museum was open and dusty.

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